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Breastfeeding/Plugged duct LONG after weaning


My breast feeding history: 18 years breastfeeding my nine children. Weaned the youngest four years ago. Two weeks ago, I worked in a newborn nursery caring for brand new babies. Felt a slight "let down" reflex at their cries. Ignored it, thinking it was probably just psychological. Two days later, my right breast began to hurt a lot, like a plugged duct. Thought maybe it was just fibrocystic breast issues related to my period starting. It got worse so I decided to use the hot shower and massage it out just in case it was a plugged duct. I got milk out! (Not very clear milk, but milk, nonetheless!) now what? It's still there and I do not have a baby to nurse. I need it gone as it is painful and I'm running a low grade fever with it. Is there an herb that will help? Please advise!

Dear Heather,

First, congratulations for giving your children the best start in life by breastfeeding all of them! And for your present work caring for babies who need you.

As you realize, your situation is extremely unusual, and whenever someone experiences something so out of the ordinary, I recommend going to see your ob/gyn, who can check it out and determine whether there is a medical problem. Chances are, she or he will be able to reassure you that nothing is wrong, and may be able to help you alleviate the pain. The fever indicates that you may have an infection or another medical issue.

Meanwhile, until you see your doctor, I can suggest the following remedies that I mention in my book (see below):

  * Be sure your bra (or other clothing, like a tee shirt or sweater) is not so tight that it is pressing on the milk ducts. You may want to get a bra in the next larger size. Or try going without one, at least while you're nursing. Also check other items that may be putting too much pressure on your breasts, like a baby carrier or a shoulder bag.
  * If dried secretions seem to be covering your nipple openings, wash them off very gently after each nursing with a piece of cotton saturated with warm water.
  * Offer your sore breast first, so that your baby will drain it more thoroughly.
  * Apply moist heat several times a day (with a moist-heating pad, a hot water bottle, hot wet towel or wash cloth, or tub bath or shower). Follow this with gentle massage on the area of the clogged duct.
  * Get extra rest.
  * Do not sleep on your stomach, which puts pressure on your breast.
  * If the lump remains for more than three days, see your obstetrician. While the lump is most probably related to breastfeeding, it may not be and must be looked at promptly.

I would appreciate your letting me know what happens, so that I can better advise anyone else with this problem

Good luck!

Sally Wendkos Olds
Author, THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BREASTFEEDING: Olds & Marks, 4th edition, September 2010, published by Workman Publishing, and available in most public libraries, bookstores & La Leche League chapters.  


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Sally Wendkos Olds


What do you want to know about breastfeeding? I can tell you what`s good for the baby, what`s good for the mother -- and the father, how it`s related to a woman`s sexuality, how working moms can nurse, how to overcome obstacles, and lots more. As the author of THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BREASTFEEDING and author or coauthor of 8 other books and more than 200 articles about child and adult development, I can offer sound, sensible advice on breastfeeding, child care and family issues.


I nursed my 3 daughters and am the grandmother of 5 breastfed children. My book THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BREASTFEEDING (written in consultation with pediatrician Marvin S. Eiger, M.D.) was first published in 1972, and in 1999 came out in an updated 3rd Edition by Workman Publishing & Bantam Books. It is now a classic, with over 2 million copies in print. I am now revising this book for a fourth edition, consulting with pediatrician Laura M. Marks, M.D. This new edition will be published September 2009. I welcome any and all suggestions for the new edition. I coauthored college textbooks A CHILD'S WORLD: INFANCY THROUGH ADOLESCENCE, and HUMAN DEVELOPMENT; both are leading texts in their fields and have been read by 2 million students. I am the coauthor of HELPING YOUR CHILD FIND VALUES TO LIVE BY and RAISING A HYPERACTIVE CHILD, and author of THE WORKING PARENTS' SURVIVAL GUIDE & THE ETERNAL GARDEN: SEASONS OF OUR SEXUALITY. My newest book, A BALCONY IN NEPAL: GLIMPSES OF A HIMALAYAN VILLAGE, published in 2002, tells the story of the way of life in a remote village in Nepal, where all the women breastfeed! My book, SUPER GRANNY: COOL PROJECTS, ACTIVITIES, AND OTHER GREAT STUFF TO DO WITH YOUR GRANDKIDS, will be published March 2009. I speak often to professional, parent and general audiences and make many radio and TV appearances.

Credentials I received my B.A. in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, where I minored in Psychology, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated summa cum laude.

Other points of interest I have received national awards for my writing, and am a former president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. I am listed in the World Who's Who of Women, International Authors & Writers Who's Who, and Contemporary Authors, and am a member of several professional and civic organizations. I believe: that all parents are working parents; that parents employed outside the home need special support; that mothers' well-being is crucial to their children's welfare; and that the family is the best institution in the world and the one for which we are least prepared. My thrills come when parents or kids tell me they were helped by my writing or speaking or just understanding. To find out more about me, go to

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