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First, let me say I am not a medical professional or lactation specialist and this article is simply written from my personal experience with plugged milk ducts as a new mom.
Not quite the same amount of OUCH as giving birth… but boy are these clogged milk ducts a PAIN IN THE BOOB! Literally.
I didn’t even realize what was going on the first time I got one. I proceeded to get multiple blocked ducts over the course of a few months until I realized how to appropriately prevent and quickly clear them. I’m here today sharing everything I learned along the way.
Let’s get right to the goods (how to clear a blocked milk duct) in case you are struggling with one at the moment:
How to clear a clogged milk duct naturally?
Massage! I know it doesn’t feel great… but it is super effective to help get the milk flowing. Work from the farthest point towards the nipple to try to get a release. Massage before breastfeeding, during breastfeeding, while pumping, when expressing. Massage massage massage!
Breastfeed upside down. I’m not joking. I literally would lay my baby down on a soft surface and hover over her to nurse in a completely different position.
Heat. Apply warm compresses before nursing, before pumping and during massage and hand expression. I had great success with massaging during a hot shower.
For more relief buy yourself a massage tool like this one to help clear future blocked ducts and prevent them too.
What causes a clogged milk duct?
Plugged (clogged, blocked) milk ducts are often caused by incomplete draining of milk from the breast or restriction of milk flow. This can be from a variety of causes such as the baby favoring one side, spacing out feedings too much, not nursing long enough, having latching difficulties or wearing clothing that is too tight and restricting milk flow.
What does a blocked milk duct feel like?
In my experience it is a painful, hardened area on the breast. Sometimes a lump forms, other times it’s more diffuse in area. It is quite painful to touch/massage. There is no fever or malaise. Be sure to consult your doctor if you are experiencing fever or deterioration of symptoms (you do not want a clog to turn into mastitis).
What do I do if my clogged milk duct won’t unclog?
Keep trying different methods. It can take a couple days to clear. Be sure to call your doctor if symptoms are worsening or any fever appears. You do not want a clogged duct to end up as mastitis. Click here to read about mastitis (Mayo Clinic).
What does it feel like when a clogged milk duct clears?
I always feel immediate relief and a flow of milk. Sometimes it’ll literally spray everywhere if you don’t cover it!
What happens if you can’t unblock a clogged milk duct?
You are best to consult your doctor or a lactation consultant for assistance if you cannot unclog the duct yourself. You do not want to end up with mastitis, an infection, from the clog.
Can you pump a clogged milk duct?
Absolutely! You want to nurse and pump frequently to help drain the breast.
Can you breastfeed with a plugged milk duct?
Yes, it’s one of the ways to relieve it! It’s not always the most comfortable, but it will help you drain the breast and often release the clog too.
Clogged milk duct vs mastitis
As previously mentioned, I’m not a doctor or specialist in this issue. I’m a mom who dealt with blocked ducts extensively. I really like this article for explaining the difference. The very basic is this: mastitis is inflammation and infection that results from an uncleared blockage.
How to prevent blocked milk ducts
These are the things I used to prevent getting any more blocked milk ducts:
- Breastfeed often & ensure a good latch (see a lactation specialist if you need latching help!)
- Switch sides (use an app or notebook to keep track. It’s so hard to remember what you did in the middle of the night!)
- Wear loose clothes
- Change up breastfeeding positions (I’m sooo guilty of having a favorite and I believe this was my main issue in getting so many)
- Gradually wean sessions (my daughter slept very inconsistently and I would often get a blocked duct if she skipped a night feed)
Blocked milk ducts are painful and annoying obstructions of milk flow in the breast. Luckily there are many natural methods to relieving a clog, and even more ways to prevent future occurrences. Of course, don’t hesitate to reach out to your physician or lactation consult for help (especially if there is concern over mastitis!).
I hope my personal experience will help you prevent future clogged ducts and keep your nursing journey pain free!