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Clearing a Clogged Milk Duct
I remember when I got my first clogged duct. I woke up with pain in my left breast. When I felt it I discovered a small lump. It may have been small, but it caused a big pain.
I did what I heard you were supposed to do. I put a warm washcloth on it, massaged it and continued to breastfeed to help move it out. Fortunately, that was all that it took to get rid of it.
Clogged ducts are painful and can be scary. Not only are do they hurt, they can potentially turn into mastitis, a breast infection. Often, they don’t go away as quickly and easily as mine did.
There are several remedies for a clogged duct. I am going to tell you about one that you may not have heard about before. And it works better than anything else I have seen moms try.
A word about terminology: A clogged duct can also be referred to a blocked duct or a plugged duct. They all refer to the same condition.
What is a clogged duct?
A clogged milk duct happens when the milk backs up. It creates a lump in your breast. It may be red and there may be swelling. It usually only happens in one breast.
Lactating breasts are lumpy. Full breasts tend to be uncomfortable. You may be wondering how you will be able to tell the difference.
If your breasts are uncomfortably full, they will soften with feeding or pumping. A clogged duct is different because it doesn’t go away and is much more painful
What causes a clogged duct?
Most incidences of clogged ducts are probably bad luck. However, there are some things that can make you more prone to them.
Women with an overabundant milk supply are more prone to clogged ducts. The reason for this is that the breasts do not empty well, making the ducts more prone to getting backed up.
Pressure on an area of the breast can lead to clogged ducts.
- A poorly fitting bra
- Underwire bras are believed by many to make a woman more likely to get a clogged duct. A well-fitted underwire should not cause any problems. Any poorly fitting bra can lead to a clogged duct.
- A backpack or front-carrier
- The straps of a purse
- Being a side sleeper
Inadequate emptying of the breast because of a poor latch is another thing that can lead to a clogged duct.
Some moms find that they will get a clogged duct when they are under more stress than usual, or if they are not getting enough rest. (That last one always makes me laugh. I have not yet met a mom with a baby who has said, “Yup, I feel like I am getting plenty of sleep, thank-you.”)
How long does a clogged duct last?
With treatment, most clogged ducts will resolve within 24-48 hours.
If it does not resolve within a week (at the very most) it should be evaluated.
I have worked with moms who had lumps that wouldn’t go away an their doctor had said nothing could be done to check it until they had weaned. That is absolutely not true. Ultrasounds can be done and biopsies can be done. Lumps can be removed.
Twice I had small lumps in my breast and they were removed. Both were caused by changes due to breastfeeding. The surgeon told me it was fine to wait to do anything until I stopped breastfeeding. I was not fine with it. At the time I knew a mom who was breastfeeding and had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This made me very cautious. Fortunately, this is exceptionally rare.
Best remedies for a clogged duct
There are a variety of remedies for a clogged duct.
- Always make sure you are getting a good deep latch and emptying your breasts well.
- Massage the area that is clogged when you breastfeed.
- There is a special vibrator specifically designed for this.
- You can also use a regular vibrator if you have one.
- An electric toothbrush works also. You would turn it around and use the back of the brush.
- A lot of moms swear by Happy Ducts.
- You can put a warm washcloth on the affected area. Apply for 20 minutes before a feeding.
My Secret Way of Curing a Clogged Duct
I promised I would tell you about a secret way of curing a clogged duct. I am a woman of my word!
I don’t know that it is a secret. But I do know that most moms and even lactation consultants don’t know about it. It works better than anything else I have had moms use.
Warm Castor Oil Compress Cure for Clogged Ducts
The fastest way to get rid of a clogged duct is a warm castor oil compress. All you need is a washcloth and some Castor Oil.
- Fold the washcloth into quarters and get it damp with some warm water.
- Drizzle some castor oil on one side. Be generous but don’t let it get sloppy.
- Put the washcloth in the microwave.
- Start out the microwave time at 5 seconds and keep doing five seconds until it is nice and warm but not hot.
- It doesn’t take long for it to get too hot, so be very careful.
- Apply the warm washcloth to the affected area of your breast.
- Cover it with some plastic wrap and leave it for 20 minutes.
- Wash away the castor oil, especially if any got on your nipple. You definitely don’t want your baby eating any castor oil.
- Breastfeed and massage the lump toward your nipple.
It may take more than one treatment to completely get rid of the clogged duct.
This has helped most women I know who have tried it, and they go back to a happy breastfeeding relationship.
How to prevent a clogged duct
If you are prone to clogged ducts I recommend giving your breasts a thorough feel after breastfeeding. Make sure that the whole breast has drained well. If you find an area that did not drain well then massage it before and during the next feeding. Pay some attention to it to make sure it empties.
If you keep getting clogged ducts a Lecithin supplement can help. 1200 mg 3-4 times a day is most commonly recommended.
How is a clogged duct different from mastitis?
A clogged duct is when the milk gets backed up. Mastitis is when the breast is infected.
Symptoms of mastitis are a hard, red spot on the breast. A fever. Flu-like symptoms.
If you get a clogged duct it will be a bump in your breastfeeding journey. Having read this though you will know what you need to avoid them and treat them.
How To Clear a Clogged Duct
Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC
Andrea has been working with new families as an RN for over 35 years and a Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.
She has her MA in Health and Wellness with a focus in Lactation.