Oh the anguish of a clogged milk duct!
We get it. You want it gone -- ASAP. (As you should so it doesn’t progress to it’s nasty cousin, Mastitis.)
First, what exactly is a clogged duct (also called a blocked or plugged duct) and what causes them? How can you recognize one?
A clogged milk duct is an obstruction within the duct that causes milk to back up, usually due to insufficient emptying of the breast. Most often, a lump forms that can be tender or painful and warm to the touch. You may also notice redness of the affected area.
How do I know it’s not mastitis?
Mastitis is the progression of a clogged duct to an infection. Your breast will be painful with redness and/or red streaking, swelling, and you will begin to experience flu-like symptoms (chills, fever, general malaise). Contact your doctor right away if you notice these symptoms beginning - quick treatment leads to quick recovery!
For more information, we have a blog all about mastitis here.
We’ve rounded up some of the most tried-and-true advice for addressing clogged ducts, as well as some ideas for prevention if you find that you are prone to experiencing them.
- Use a warm compress before nursing to soften the breast. (Easiest method is to soak a clean diaper in warm water and place it inside your bra so the inside of the diaper is facing your breast).
- Soak breast in a basin of warm water with epsom salt.
- Similarly, fill a Haakaa silicone pump with warm water and epsom salt and attach to affected breast while nursing on opposite side.
- Nurse, nurse, nurse! Do your best to keep the breast as empty as possible.
- Nurse on affected side first.
- Nurse with baby laying down on back and you above them on all fours (“dangle feed”) to allow gravity to help with milk removal.
- Use a variety of nursing positions.
- Breast massage.
- Do gentle but firm breast massage with coconut oil and one drop of lavender oil, moving from the clog toward the nipple.
- Use breast massage while in hot shower - the combination of heat and pressure can relieve a blockage.
- Use an electric toothbrush over the affected area to help loosen the clog.
- Do NOT massage aggressively as this will increase the inflammation of the duct and worsen the clog.
- After nursing, use a cold compress to reduce inflammation. (Same diaper trick as seen above in #1!)
- Additionally, an anti-inflammatory medication like Ibuprofin can be taken. (Check with your doctor or pharmacist)
- As a natural route for reducing swelling, slice up a potato thinly, place all over breast and allow to sit for one hour.
- Pump after nursing to empty the breast of any excess milk (electric pump or manual).
- Replace pump parts if needed to ensure most effective suction.
- Drink pineapple juice (not from concentrate).
- Cut out any artificial sweeteners which have been linked to an increase in clogged ducts.
- Take up to 4800 mg of Sunflower Lecithin per day while addressing clogged duct. Can also be taken preventatively, and many moms cite this method as most effective for avoiding future blockages.
Clogged ducts are never a welcomed guest on any breastfeeding journey. Be vigilant in taking steps to prevent the onset of a clogged duct by emptying breasts as much as possible during nursing and pumping sessions. For additional help, contact us! We have Certified Lactation Counselors on staff here at Wyatt's Maternity to support you! We would be happy to answer any specific questions you might have.
Wyatt's Maternity exists to support you on your breastfeeding journey - beginning with your NO COST breast pump! All you have to do is fill out this online form - that's it! We handle the rest so you can focus on your baby.