Early this year when I wrote parts one and two of this post, I thought that my breastfeeding trials, at least with Gabriel, were finished. Then around the time that Gabriel turned ten months old in June, he started sleeping better at night (i.e. not waking up to nurse until early morning). Our nursing schedule during the day remained the same, but the interrupted feeding(s) at night caused me to experience recurring plugged milk ducts.
My first experience with a plugged duct was in early June, I woke up in the morning before Gabriel, realized what was going on, visited the Kellymom website, and followed their protocol for unplugging a duct. Their method worked like a charm (by which I mean that I used their method to make sure that the milk was ready to flow, and let Gabriel actually nurse the plug out), so I continued with my normal routine not thinking much of my encounter with a plugged duct. Exactly three weeks later I had my second run-in with a plugged duct, in the opposite breast. I had a little more trouble overcoming that plugged duct, but I overcame it with reasonably well (within a few hours).
As I came to learn, once a woman has a plugged milk duct, she is more likely to encounter the problem again. So, every two or three weeks, for a total of five times over the summer, I had a plugged duct, each plugged duct being worse than those that came before. I experienced the fifth (and hopefully last) plugged duct after Gabriel’s first birthday in August. With that plugged duct that I wondered whether it was time to stop breastfeeding altogether. It took an entire day (by which I mean from morning to night) of intense efforts of trying to remove the plug before we were finally successful (Gabriel has had to nurse every plugged duct out for me). I recall being in a lot of pain that night, and even telling J.R. that I would rather be giving birth than experiencing that plugged duct.* That was how bad it got.
It has been over two months since I last experienced a plugged duct, and I am hoping that I won’t again. Happily, Gabriel and I have been able to continue nursing. If all goes well, I plan to continue nursing him until around age two, or possibly later, if he is interested still.
* I believe that I said this because plugged ducts are intense pain with essentially no benefit (I went ten months without having any, so they are not necessary) compared to the pain associated with childbirth and the immense joy linked to it.