Breastfeeding

Sunflower Lecithin For Plugged Ducts: Effective Or Not?

Updated on 8 September 2022 • 5 minute read

 

What Are Plugged Ducts?

Plugged ducts occur when there’s too much pressure inside a breastfeeding mother’s breast. This can be caused by milk not completely drained from the breast, which usually feels like a tender and warm lump. (1)

 

What Is Lecithin?

Lecithin is a group of chemicals called phospholipids, which are important parts of the brain, blood, nerves, cell membranes, and tissues. (2)

Lecithin is a food emulsifier that turns into choline in the body. It helps in the metabolic process and for moving fats. (2)

 

What Does Lecithin Do For Breastfeeding?

For some breastfeeding moms, lecithin helps promote better milk flow and letdown by preventing blocked milk ducts. (3)

 

Note: Six or more wet diapers in 24 hours is a good sign that your baby is getting enough milk. (4)

 

Can Lecithin Supplements Prevent Blocked Milk Ducts?

There are no scientifically-proven benefits of lecithin for breastfeeding. Still, it’s believed to decrease the milk’s stickiness by increasing fatty acids percentage. This helps prevent blocked ducts. (3)

 

How Much Lecithin Should I Take While Breastfeeding?

Lecithin is available in liquid form, capsule, and granules. The usual recommended dose is 1200 milligram (one capsule) four times a day. (3)

If you’re thinking about taking lecithin, consider consulting your healthcare provider or seeking the expertise of an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.) 

 

Popular Lecithin Supplement Brands

Legendairy Milk Organic Sunflower Lecithin

(Image source: amazon.com)

 

This lecithin supplement has plenty of good reviews on Amazon about how it helps breastfeeding mamas increase their milk supply. In addition, customers claimed that it helps prevent clogs and blockage in their milk ducts.

 

Natural Nutra Sunflower Lecithin

(Image source: amazon.com)

 

This lactation supplement also has plenty of good reviews on Amazon about its effectiveness in preventing milk duct blockage

 

Before Taking Any Supplement

Pregnant women, new mamas, anyone under 18, and those with any known medical condition should consult their doctor before taking any dietary supplement.

 

Benefits & Risks Of Lecithin Supplements

 

Benefits Of Lecithin Supplements

Although there are no scientific studies proving the effects of lecithin supplements on breastfeeding, it’s suggested by breastfeeding experts as one way to help prevent blocked milk ducts. (5)

In addition, it may be suggested by lactation consultants to help prevent any complications that come with plugged ducts. This includes painful lumps on the breast and slow milk flow. (5)

 

Risks Of Lecithin Supplements

Lecithin is a common food additive that’s already present in breast milk. It can be found in egg yolks, soybeans, wheat germ, peanuts, and liver. (2)

According to the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), lecithin can be used in food with no strict rules or limitations other than the current good manufacturing practice. (6)

Adverse reactions to lecithin are unlikely, but if they do occur, they can include a feeling of fullness, diarrhea, increased saliva, nausea, and/or stomach pain. (7)

 

How Long Does Lecithin Work For Clogged Ducts?

Currently, no studies are conducted on the effectiveness of lecithin for clogged milk ducts. However, breastfeeding moms have posted customer reviews on Amazon about lecithin supplements helping relieve clogs and blockage within 24-48 hours.

 

More Lecithin FAQs

 

Does Sunflower Lecithin Increase Milk Supply?

For some breastfeeding moms, lecithin helps promote better milk flow by preventing blocked milk ducts. (3)

 

Can Sunflower Lecithin Affect Baby?

Currently, there’s not enough evidence to determine the effectiveness, dosage, and side effects of lecithin for either the mother or her baby. (5)

 

Does Sunflower Lecithin Help With Engorgement?

Breast engorgement is defined as the swelling, tightness, and an increase in the size of the breasts caused by breast milk. This usually happens during the first few days postpartum when the mother’s milk supply builds up. (8)

Sunflower lecithin hasn’t been proven to help with breast engorgement. The best way to ease or prevent engorgement is to drain your breasts by feeding your baby and/or pumping. (8)

 

Does Lecithin Make Milk Less Fatty?

On the contrary, a 2003 study by the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition shows that soy lecithin decreased the human milk fat loss, which usually happens when using breast pumps. (9)

According to the study, the fat content of human milk, which is the majority of calories for infants, adheres to the pump system, resulting in fat loss and poor growth in infants. (9)

Adding soy lecithin to the breast milk sample may help babies get more calories from their mothers’ breast milk administered by a pump. (9)

 

Soy Lecithin Vs. Sunflower Lecithin Breastfeeding Supplements

Lecithin can be found in soybeans, egg yolks, wheat germ, peanuts, and liver. Lecithin supplements can also be produced from sunflower seeds, canola, cottonseed, or animal fats. (2)(7)

Of these lecithin sources, the most common are soybean oil and sunflower oil. But which one is better?

 

Sunflower Lecithin

  • Derived from sunflower seeds
  • Extracted using a gentle process of cold pressing–no chemical solvents involved

 

Soy Lecithin

  • Derived from soybean oil
  • 94% of soy in the U.S. is genetically modified (10)
  • Cost-effective source of lecithin
  • Chemicals acetone and hexane are used to extract lecithin from soybean oil

 

If you want to get lecithin from natural food sources, you can do so by eating organ meats, red meat, seafood, cooked green veggies (broccoli and Brussels sprouts), and legumes (black beans, kidney beans.) (7)

 

More About  Plugged Ducts

 

Plugged Ducts: What Happens

 

Some breastfeeding mamas may experience plugged milk ducts, where the breast milk does not flow correctly through the duct. This results in painful, tender breasts that can make a mom’s breastfeeding journey extra challenging.

 

Plugged Ducts: Causes

 

  • Your bra may be too tight for your postpartum breasts. Consider wearing comfortable nursing or maternity bras.
  • Your boobs weren’t completely emptied after feeding or pumping.
  • Your nursing or pumping schedule was disrupted, causing your breasts to be full longer.
  • Your baby is not latching deeper.
  • Your baby has a lip tie or other medical condition that makes it difficult for him or her to latch.
  • You sleep in your stomach, which puts pressure on your breasts.
  • You have an oversupply of breast milk.
  • You’re currently weaning your baby.
  • Your breast pump is not draining your breast milk.

 

Plugged Ducts: Treatment

 

  • Taking a hot shower.
  • Applying a warm compress.
  • Massaging the affected breast by pushing your breasts from the outer part towards the nipple.
  • Soaking the affected breast in warm Epsom salt water for ten minutes.
  • Feeding your baby from the affected breast.
  • Feeding your baby on all fours below you to use gravity to help draw more milk.
  • Pumping to empty your breasts after feeding.
  • Calling your doctor if the lumps get bigger and last more than a few days accompanied by flu-like symptoms. 
  • Weaning slowly to help your body and baby adjust.

 

Plugged Ducts: Prevention

 

  • Let your baby completely drain the milk from both breasts.
  • Pump your breasts to drain them after feeding.
  • Wear well-fitting nursing or maternity bras.
  • Eat foods that promote breast milk production like fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and meat and other protein-rich foods. (11)
  • Drink around 2.7 liters or 91 ounces of water daily. (11)
  • Continue feeding your baby to maintain your milk supply.
  • Continue feeding your baby even if blebs or sore nipples occur. Keep at it, mama!

 

Plugged Milk Ducts Or Mastitis?

 

10% of breastfeeding mamas in the U.S. experience mastitis. (12)

Plugged ducts typically resolve on their own within a day or two. If it does not, and it’s accompanied by flu-like symptoms, it can be a breast infection called mastitis. (12)

If you suspect that you have mastitis, call your doctor right away. This infection can be taken care of by antibiotics. Continued breastfeeding is encouraged as mastitis does not pose any risk for your baby. (12)

 

Additional Safety Information About Lecithin

 

Choline

Choline is a key element in lecithin that plays a vital role in your baby’s good health from the womb up to toddlerhood. (13)

However, choline can also cause a fishy odor in the body for some people. Although phosphatidylcholine, the form of choline in lecithin, should not cause this problem. (14)

 

Depression

Numerous scientific studies have suggested that the overconsumption of choline, a key element in lecithin, can cause postpartum depression. (15)

 

 

 

References:

(1) https://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/p/plugged-ducts

(2) https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=19&contentid=lecithin

(3) Dr. Jack Newman‘s Guide to Breastfeeding https://www.canadianbreastfeedingfoundation.org/basics/lecithin.shtml

(4) https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/is-baby-getting-enough/

(5) https://www.toronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/8eaf-tph-breastfeeding-protocol-6-plugged-ducts-2013.pdf

(6) https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=184.1400&SearchTerm=lecithin

(7) https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319260#health-benefits

(8) https://www.chop.edu/pages/breast-engorgement

(9) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10785719_Lecithin_Decreases_Human_Milk_Fat_Loss_During_Enteral_Pumping or https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/newtoxnet/lactmed.htm

(10) https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/adoption-of-genetically-engineered-crops-in-the-us/recent-trends-in-ge-adoption.aspx

(11) https://health.clevelandclinic.org/foods-to-increase-milk-supply/

(12) https://www.aafp.org/afp/2008/0915/p727.html

(13) https://www.incredibleegg.org/nutrition/articles/choline-throughout-the-life-span/

(14) https://pmj.bmj.com/content/75/886/451

(15) https://worldnutritionjournal.org/index.php/wn/article/view/626

 

 

 

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