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Prevention and treatment of lactostasis
Prevention and treatment of lactostasis

You can often hear how nursing women are warned about the danger of hypothermia of the breast - they say, "if you catch a cold in your chest, and there is not far to mastitis." Is it really possible to catch a cold in the chest with hypothermia?

Let's try to understand the issue, which, unfortunately, is relevant for many young mothers.

Hypothermia can indeed cause some harm to women's health during the period of breastfeeding, but the point here is not a "cold", but in a state of lactostasis - stagnation of milk in the ducts of the mammary glands.

Each mammary gland consists of about 15-25 acini connected by ducts to the nipple: if at least one of the ducts is pinched for any reason, the acinus is not released from the milk it produces. A milk plug forms in the duct, and if it is not removed, a banal, but by no means safe stagnation of milk can turn into uninfected mastitis - inflammation of the mammary gland. Prolonged exposure to low temperatures often causes spasm of the milk ducts, causing them to become clogged.

Other factors can cause lactostasis:

  • Tight bra;
  • Predisposition to milk stagnation (narrowness of the ducts);
  • Insufficient or irregular emptying of the breast;
  • Severe trauma or bruises in the chest area;
  • Excessive milk production by the glands;
  • Dehydration of the body (milk becomes thicker and more quickly forms corks);
  • Lack of sleep and stress;
  • Strong physical activity.


  1. The main measure for the prevention of lactostasis is considered to provide a nursing woman with a normal temperature regime in combination with control of the emptying of the mammary glands and proper care for them. Choose comfortable underwear, avoid cracks in the nipples and monitor the amount of fluid you consume.
  2. When feeding, avoid grasping the breast with two fingers (“scissors”) so as not to mechanically pinch the ducts. A common cause of milk stagnation is improper attachment of the baby to the breast: the baby must take the correct posture when feeding, pressing his belly against the mother's belly and completely capturing the nipple with his mouth. It is better to feed the baby when he is in a good and cheerful mood: restless and lethargic babies are in no hurry to satisfy their hunger.

In this case, the mammary gland is poorly emptied, as in the case of rare irregular feeding. However, it is sometimes simply impossible to keep track of absolutely everything. What to do if a woman has a chest cold and she already hurts? To begin with - to understand that we are talking about lactostasis, and not about any other condition or disease. To determine what to deal with, familiarize yourself with and remember the key signs of a chest cold.

The main signs of lactostasis

  • The characteristic symptoms of this condition are painful sensations in the mammary gland, combined with pronounced discomfort during its emptying. Sometimes it hurts a lot, redness may appear on it (mainly on the areas of the skin located above the affected milk ducts).
  • An increase in body temperature is not always noted, just as it is not always possible to feel small seals in the chest (although many women find them almost immediately after the onset of painful sensations). To clarify the diagnosis, you should immediately consult a doctor, especially if the painful condition is accompanied by chills, weakness, temperature jumps and severe pain. Perhaps we are talking not about simple stagnation of milk, but about the onset of mastitis, which in 86% of cases begins with lactostasis.

Breastfeeding with lactostasis

  1. A woman who has a “cold” breast has a hard time feeding, but it cannot be stopped - even in spite of the pain and discomfort. The more often and more actively the child eats, the higher the likelihood of quick and complete resorption of milk plugs. Usually, with lactostasis, one gland hurts: you should not avoid feeding from this breast, even if, due to significant stagnation of milk, it is difficult for the baby to take it.
  2. In such cases, a small portion of the milk is first expressed. As a result of this simple manipulation, the tension in the areola region decreases, and the baby is able to grasp the nipple with his mouth without much difficulty. A simple massage, if done regularly, relieves the condition: the chest should be massaged in circular movements, directing the hand from the periphery of the gland to its center. The impact on the gland during massage should not be too aggressive.
  3. If it becomes clear that the baby cannot cope with the incoming amount of milk on its own, and even after feeding the lumps in the breast persist and cause discomfort, they resort to expressing. Unfortunately, this procedure can hardly be called pleasant, but it must be done.
  4. Self-expression during lactostasis can be extremely painful, so it is better to entrust it to a specialist - for example, an experienced midwife.
  5. Alternatively, hardware pumping is used, which is almost as effective as manual pumping, but during the procedure you still have to work with your hands, massaging the affected breast.
  6. In some cases, the doctor may prescribe ultrasound massage or intramuscular injections of oxytocin, after which the ducts of the mammary glands are reduced, and the outflow of milk is significantly improved.

What should a woman do if she has a “chest cold” far from civilization and will not be able to get an appointment with a doctor quickly?

  • It is not safe to self-medicate with stagnant milk, although some generations-proven recipes for warming compresses with camphor or vaseline oil, Vishnevsky's ointment, and diluted medical alcohol are popular among the people.
  • An insulating layer (for example, dense cellophane) is laid on top of the compress, which does not allow the liquid to evaporate, and the temperature under it - to decrease.
  • Keeping compresses on the chest for too long (more than 7-8 hours) is not recommended.

Such procedures can be done only after full expression and with extreme caution, not allowing the aggravation of symptoms, so as not to miss the incipient mastitis. If, during active warming, an infection joins an existing problem, the compress creates optimal conditions for its development, and the disease progresses very rapidly, and the patient's condition deteriorates rapidly.

Usually, three to four days are enough for the untreated lactostasis, which was not given enough attention, to turn into mastitis, which has to be treated with much more serious means, including antibiotics.

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