Clogged milk ducts are a common ailment for breastfeeding moms. Most of us are going to encounter it at one time or another. I had one that felt like a large marble, 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 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!
What is a clogged duct?
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. You will feel a lump in your breast and it may or may not be painful.
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 milk duct
I am not a medical professional and none of the information contained in this post should be used in place of medical advice. Please reach out to a medical professional if you are concerned about your symptoms or condition.
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! Try out these 7 solutions to unclog a milk duct and let us know in the comments what works for you.
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 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 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 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. You can also try pumping. Just don’t overpump, 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 clogged 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 just feel good on the sensitive or irritated skin. I was never very good at hand expression myself but using your hands to gently massage and express your breast may help to loosen and move the clog along.
4. While in a warm shower or after putting a warm compress on the spot run a fine tooth comb over the spot
Next, try running a fine tooth comb over the spot, especially if it seems near the surface. 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
Same idea as above. Ideally, try this while in the shower running your breast under hot water. Run the back of the toothbrush, or vibrator if you don’t have an electric toothbrush, over the area to try to loosen the clot.
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. 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!
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. Remember, if you experience flu-like symptoms or the area around the clog is red and inflamed (other than being irritated by your removal efforts) you need to see a doctor right away! It has likely become an infection and will only get worse if not treated quickly. You can also contact your local IBCLC or visit a breastfeeding support group and see if they can help you.
How to prevent clogged milk ducts
Taking sunflower lecithin daily may help to prevent future clogs. 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 and avoid tight sport type tops that compress your breasts.