When baby was about a month old I noticed that I had a lump in one of my breasts. I assumed that it was a blocked milk duct as this is a common occurrence in breast-feeding women. I did all the things that are recommended for a blocked milk duct: warm compresses, massage, breast-feeding only on that side, and, this one was difficult, but my mom suggested that the way to cure a blocked duct was to have the baby nurse so her chin was on the lump. I tried this even though the lump was above my nipple so baby had to be nursing upside down. I either did this lying on our sides so her feet were kicking me in the face or hovering above her on all fours and lowering my breast into her mouth.
I was working hard to get rid of the lump because I knew that a blocked duct can lead to mastitis. Mastitis is an infection in the breast that often occurs because a blocked milk duct has stagnant milk in it where bacteria can multiply. Mastitis can be very serious and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of mastitis are fever, breast pain, and a red mark on the breast where the lump is.
At the time I was attending a breast-feeding support group. After a few days of trying to get rid of my lump at home I brought it up at the support group. The leader of the group suggested that I go to the physiotherapist for a therapeutic ultrasound. The idea is that the ultrasound breaks down some of the tissue in the lump so things can start moving again. I went for two treatments at the physiotherapist. They also taught me some fascia techniques to use at home to help stretch out the tissue and loosen the lump so the milk could pass. One of those techniques involved pulling my nipple really far out until my breast was pretty much cone-shaped. It was WEIRD. But not as painful as I would have thought.
The lump did not resolve so when I had my six week postpartum checkup my OB referred me to a breast health clinic for a diagnostic ultrasound. At this point I was starting to worry that the lump might be something other than a blocked duct.
By the time I had my appointment at the breast health clinic I had had this lump for over a month. Using an ultrasound, the doctor was pretty sure that the lump was full of milk but to make sure she did a fine needle aspiration. That involved numbing my breast and poking a needle in it to draw out some of the fluid in the lump. It was indeed full of milk and when the milk was drawn out the lump collapsed. The doctor told me that it had been a galactocele. It was nothing to be concerned about but it may come back.
A few days later, it did come back. It looks like my lump is something that may be ongoing until baby is weaned. At least I know now that it’s something I can ignore (unless it becomes painful or shows other symptoms of mastitis). The lump seems to be smaller than before the fine-needle aspiration. When the doctor popped it, she said it was about the size of a golf ball. I think that’s pretty impressive, especially since a golf ball was probably about the size of my entire breast before baby.