Clogged milk ducts are a common ailment for breastfeeding moms. Most of us are going to encounter it at one time or another. If you have one I’m sure you’re looking for the fastest to way to get rid of it before it can turn into mastitis!
When I was breastfeeding my oldest I had one that felt like a large marble or a ping pong ball, I’m not sure how it even fit there! It took about a day for it to go away. I tried many things on this list and my daughter was finally able to get it out!
Try these 7 remedies repeatedly until something works. It’s important to take care of it before it becomes mastitis.
If you think you’ve developed mastitis be sure to see your doctor right away! Scroll to the end to find out how to help prevent future plugged milk ducts.
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What is a clogged duct?
What is a clogged milk duct and what does it look like? A clogged duct is simply where milk has congealed and created a blockage in a milk duct within the breast.
They can happen randomly at any time. But they’re more common if your baby changes their nursing schedule or if you have an oversupply causing your breasts to not be emptied. You will feel a tender lump in your breast. They can happen anywhere in your breast from your armpit down to the nipple.
If you have flu-like symptoms or your breast is red and/or warm to the touch please call your doctor right away! You have likely developed mastitis, an infection of the breast, and will most likely need an antibiotic to clear it up.
Mastitis can strike fast and hard and is not something you want to take chances with. It may require a trip to urgent care if it’s a weekend. Don’t wait to contact your doctor if you think you may have developed mastitis.
How to clear a clogged duct
I am not a medical professional and none of the information contained in this post should be used in place of medical advice.
There are many methods to try to clear a clogged milk duct. I suggest starting from the top of this list and working your way down until something works. You may have to try things repeatedly.
It took about 24 hours to get rid of mine. It finally disappeared just as we sat down at breastfeeding support group to get help of course!
Let us know in the comments which work for you! Visit our breastfeeding page for more tips and tricks.
1. Check for a milk bleb
First, check to be sure there isn’t another issue going on. A milk bleb or milk blister resembles a tiny white blister across the tip of your breast. It is essentially blocking the exit and keeping the milk from getting out like it should.
Milk blebs are generally accompanied by quite a bit of pain as well. If you have a milk bleb you may need to use a clean, sterile needle to pop the blister or soak in Epsom salt.
If you think you have one find out more about how to fix a milk bleb or reach out to a local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)
2. Nurse, Nurse, & Nurse some more
Your baby can often get the clog out. Nurse as much as you and your baby can stand.
Try nursing in different positions. Ideally, you want your baby’s chin pointing toward the clog. The more you nurse and get milk moving the more likely the clog is to break free. Gently massage the area while your baby nurses to try to get it moving.
You can also try pumping to relieve a plugged duct. Just don’t over pump, especially if you are in the first few months of breastfeeding. This will signal to your breasts to make more milk, and an oversupply can lead to more plugged milk ducts!
3. Take a hot shower and try to hand express it out.
A warm shower is going to be your best friend. The heat may help to loosen the clog and let the milk flow. Plus, it will feel good on the sensitive or irritated skin.
I was never very good at hand expression myself but using your hands to gently massage your breast may help to loosen and move the clog along.
If you aren’t a good masseuse you can have your husband or a lactation consultant try to massage it out for you.
It’s never too late to invest in some breastfeeding education. Taking a
4. Run a fine tooth comb over the spot
While in a warm shower, or after putting a warm compress on the spot, run a fine tooth comb over the clog. The comb can help to break up the clog and get things moving again.
Put some pressure behind the comb but not so much that you’re going to bruise yourself up. No need to add extra pain to the problem.
5. Use an electric toothbrush or vibrator to loosen the clog
Number 5 is essentially the same idea as above. Ideally, try this while in the shower running your breast under hot water. Run the toothbrush, or vibrator if you don’t have an electric toothbrush, over the area to try to loosen the clog.
Pay special attention to the area in front of the clog, closest to the nipple. The lump is the backed up milk but the actual clog is likely in front of the lump and if you can loosen that area the blockage may get moving.
6. Dangle feed
Lay your baby on their back on the floor or your bed, somewhere flat where they can’t easily roll off. Get on all fours over your baby and try to get them to nurse this way. This is called dangle feeding.
The idea is that gravity will help your baby to suck the clog out, especially if the methods above have helped to loosen it. If you’re not doing it right after the warm shower you may want to apply a warm compress to the area for a minute before dangle feeding your baby.
7. Call in the big guns – have your husband try to suck it out
This one sounds kind of gross, I’m glad I didn’t have to try it. Your husband may have to take one for the team and try to suck out the clog. Especially if your baby is younger your husband may be able to suck a lot harder.
You can also use the dangle feeding position above to allow gravity to help him suck it out. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do!
I’ve heard many women swear that this method works!
Watch for symptoms of mastitis!
Keep trying and nursing, even though it may be painful, until something works. If you can’t get the clog out in a timely fashion you are likely to end up with mastitis.
Mastitis is a breast infection. Symptoms include flu-like symptoms such as chills and redness around the clogged area (different than a redness from rubbing to try to get the clog out).
If you start to have these symptoms you need to call your healthcare provider right away! They will likely prescribe you antibiotics. Once it has become an infection you can get very ill quickly so don’t wait to get medical help.
How to prevent clogged milk ducts
Taking a daily sunflower lecithin supplement may help to prevent future plugged milk ducts. Sunflower lecithin may help to keep the milk from sticking together as much which is what causes the clogs. You can purchase some at a local health food store like sprouts. You can also purchase some on Amazon of course.
Fair warning, the pills are very large! Make sure to drink lots of water too which may help keep your breast milk thinner. Plus it’s good for overall breast milk production.
Nurse or Pump Frequently
Regular emptying of your breasts will also help prevent clogs. Keep a manual breast pump in your purse or car in case you’re away from baby or your regular pump longer than expected.
Letting the milk sit will not only make you uncomfortable but will increase your chance of getting a clog.
Avoid tight clothing
Tight clothing can also lead to clogged milk ducts. Wear looser bras or nursing tops. If you must wear a tight bra to work out remove it as soon as you’re done.
At night you may go longer between feedings or pumping so ensure you are wearing suitable breastfeeding clothes for bedtime.
Hopefully one of these 7 tips helps you get rid of that clogged duct so you can have a long and happy breastfeeding relationship. Be sure to celebrate your own unique and amazing journey.
Check our Breastfeeding Page for more tips & tricks