One of my clients just returned to training after giving birth. She is breast feeding and has gotten a clogged milk duct from exercise. I haven't been able to find much on this and was wondering if anyone knew the physiology behind this and how to adjust the training program to prevent this from happening?
Blocked ducts, mastitis and engorgement are all part of the same condition, which is inflammation of the breast tissue. I think it is quite unlikely that exercise in itself caused the problem.
Mastitis and blocked ducts are often diagnosed as an infection, but that’s not necessarily the case. They can be caused by such apparently innocent situations as an over-tight bra or car seat belt. It could also be caused by pressure from a handbag strap or compression by the mother’s arm while she is asleep. The most common cause, however, is incomplete drainage of the ducts, which usually occurs when the baby isn’t positioned correctly. If one of the small milk carrying tubules becomes kinked, twisted or compressed (it’s a little like putting a kink in a hose), protein molecules will diffuse into the surrounding tissue, causing inflammation and the symptoms of a blocked duct.
These begin as a sore red patch and progress until the breast is exquisitely painful, hot to touch and as hard as a lump of concrete. As if that’s not enough, Mum will have a temperature, a headache and a bout of flu-like symptoms that will send her off to bed.
And that’s where she should stay, taking the baby with her and feeding him constantly and exclusively from the affected breast (too little feeding or incomplete drainage may well have caused the problem in the first place). If there is a particularly sore spot resulting from a blocked duck, she should get the baby to feed with his chin pointing towards it and always make sure he is correctly positioned and attached.
To avoid a recurrence of the condition, your client should avoid the situations that lead to tubules becoming blocked or compressed. A bra that fits poorly, or is too tight, sleeping or lying on an overly full breast and going too long between feeds can all lead to the development of blocked ducts.
In addition to getting the baby to drain the affected breast, there are lots of natural remedies that can alleviate the painful symptoms. For more information get my book The Natural Way to Better Breastfeeding available from www.naturalhi.com.