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HOW TO CLEAR A CLOGGED MILK DUCT (INCLUDING A LITTLE KNOWN WAY)

I remember when I got my first clogged duct. I woke up with discomfort in my left breast. When I felt that area I discovered a small lump. It may have been small, but it caused a big pain.

I had heard about how to clear a clogged milk duct. I knew what I was 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.

caucasian woman in a white t-shirt with her hands pressed against her chest above and below her left breast

Clogged ducts are painful and can be scary. Not only are do they hurt, but they can also potentially turn into mastitis, a breast infection. They don’t always go away as quickly and easily as mine did.

There are several remedies for how to get rid of 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 milk duct or a plugged milk duct. They all refer to the same condition.

 Related Post

Help For Mastitis – A Lactaion Consultant’s Practical Advice

WHAT IS A CLOGGED MILK 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. Plugged ducts are different because they don’t go away and are much more painful

caucasian woman in her bra pressing her hands against her left breast and there is redness around her breast

HOW OFTEN DO THEY HAPPEN?

One study reported that 4-5% of women experienced a clogged duct within the first year of breastfeeding (Source).

WHAT CAUSES CLOGGED MILK DUCTS DURING BREASTFEEDING?

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 often do not empty well as a result of all that extra milk. This can make 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

Related Post

Too Much Of A Good Thing – How To Decrease Breast Milk Supply

caucasian woman smiling with her baby in a front baby carrier

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. It was inconvenient but I wanted the reassurance that it was nothing serious.

RISKS OF BLOCKED MILK DUCTS

You will want to treat your plugged duct to avoid the risk of developing mastitis (Source).

Clogged ducts can also cause a temporary decrease in milk supply.

BEST CLOGGED MILK DUCT REMEDIES

There are a variety of remedies for a clogged duct.

Whichever clogged duct remedy you decide to try remember to always make sure you are getting a good deep latch and emptying your breasts well.

PLUGGED MILK DUCT MASSAGE

teal colored LaVie lactation massager and the box it comes in
  • 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.

DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS

A lot of moms swear by Happy Ducts by WishGarden Herbs.

  • Helps stimulate breast lymphatic function.
  • Intended for short-term use

A daily Lecithin supplement may help prevent clogged ducts. More on that below.

WARM COMPRESS FOR CLOGGED MILK DUCT

  • You can put a warm washcloth on the affected area. Apply for 20 minutes before a feeding.
  • Some moms will put warm water in a clean disposable diaper and apply that to the affected breast.
  • Another option is to put a heating pad on the breast that has the clogged duct.
  • One more option is microwaveable pack filled with flaxseed or rice that you can heat up in the microwave.

BEST WAY TO RELIEVE CLOGGED MILK 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.

CASTOR OIL COMPRESS FOR CLOGGED DUCT

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 in quarters.
  • Get it damp with warm water.
  • Drizzle Castor Oil on the washcloth. Be generous!
  • Put it in the microwave for five to ten seconds. It should be warm but not hot.
  • Place over the area of your brest where the clog is.
  • Cover with some plastic wrap to keep the warmth in.
  • Remove after twenty minutes.
  • Wash castor oil off with soap and water.
  • Breastfeed or pump.

It may take more than one castor oil compress to completely clear the clog.

DANGLE FEEDING

Another popular method to clear a clogged milk duct is to use the dangle feeding position. This involves leaning over your baby for a feeding.

You can try getting on all fours over your baby and leaning over until your breast is at the right level for her to latch on to it.

You could also put her on your lap and lean over her. I generally discourage this type of position. But sometimes a clogged duct calls for creative positioning.

HAAKA AND EPSOM SALTS

Another home remedy for a clogged duct is to fill a Haaka Manual Breast Pump with warm water and add one to two tablespoons of epsom salts. Attach the pump to the clogged breast and lean back so the water makes contact with your breast.

Remove after twenty minutes.

This is another treatment that may require more than one session.

HOW TO AVOID CLOGGED MILK DUCTS

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.

MASTITIS OR BLOCKED MILK DUCT?

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.

 Related Post

Help For Mastitis – A Lactaion Consultant’s Practical Advice

FINAL THOUGHTS ON HOW TO CLEAR A CLOGGED MILK DUCT

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.


Tablet with pictures of mothers and babies and title "Breastfeed like a boss - 52 tips for the first year of breastfeeding" and author's name Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC

IN BREASTFEED LIKE A BOSS I SHARE MY BEST TIPS FOR THE FIRST YEAR OF BREASTFEEDING.

29 Comments

  1. Hi there, I’m wondering what I should do – I’ve just weaned my son (16 months) – he has his last breastfeed the night before last – I was down to just his one evening feed – last night was the first night he didn’t have a feed. My breasts are a little full this morning with maybe a small lump in one – should I feed him to clear the possible lump? Or will my body absorb this in the next few days? Just don’t know what to do if you get a lump and want to stop feeding….. thank you!

  2. If the lump is not tender then I would not do anything. If it is tender but you don’t want to breastfeed anymore you could pump it and massage to get it to clear. If you get any fever call your doctor ASAP.

  3. The absolute best way, worked for me obviously, very little known, is to get on all fours, and put the milk pump on. It will come GUSHING out! So easy, and very easy, and relieving. I searched and searched the web when I was breastfeeding my son, and desperate for relief. I found a comment on a baby website, and it always helped.

  4. Hi there. Trying to wean my nearly 3yo… well since begginning of the year a small lump formed in one breast.. seen gp and had a scan and saw a doctor in breast clinic, all ok. 3 weeks ago the small lump in same breast got tender and feel it thicker the tissue and full. Tried massage, pump but only 1-2 drops come out🤦🏻‍♀️Started antib 4 days ago as gp recommended, taking lecithin. Not painfull but still lumpy, and a bit tender… also have a gland in armpit Only same side which is A bit swollen… i am very desperate!!! Any advice??? Thank you

  5. Currently breastfeeding my 10m old and got a huge marble size lump in my left breast, no pain. Got a mammo (showed a solid mass) and ultra (again solid and not liquid) and then a core biopsy which collected several solid hard samples. Biopsy came back and not cancer and inconclusive. Breast leaked fluid for a day and then got really tender so I gave it a squeeze. A combo of goopy puss, fluid, chuncks and crystalized solids(like sand) all started coming out. Radiologist and Dr think I could have been a clogged duct that’s now able to drain. Went on antibotics to avoid an infection and
    over the next week I kept expressing the biopsy sight for any more solids. I’m not finding any more solids but now I’m worried when the hole closes the lump will come back! I go a day without squeezing it and my breast starts to ache and gets larger on that side until I finally express it again and the breast is all flat and squishy again. There isn’t any visible clog I can see or feel between the biopsy sight and the nipple. I can’t keep expressing milk from a hole in my breast. What would you recommend?

  6. I would let it heal and do castor oil compresses. Keep a close eye on it and call your doctor if you experience any signs of infection.

  7. I am an under supplier as if that isnt bad enough I have been getting clogged ducts and have had mastitis. I breastfeed when I can but my baby was a nicu baby and prefers a bottle so I pretty much exclusively pump. My left breast has been in extreme pain for the last few weeks and i continue to get milk blisters as well. I’m not sure what to do i feel like I have tried everything yet still have these really sharp pains.

  8. I’m sorry to hear you’re having such a difficult experience. What kind of things have you tried? Have you worked one on one with a lactation consultant?

  9. Hi I am an over supplier and I keep getting mastitis I’ve tried everything, massage, castor oil compress, putting EVOO on my nipples, pumping more often, pumping less often nothing seems to work I’m on the verge of quitting!

  10. Hi, I am currently breastfeeding my 1 month 1 week old son. I found a lump like a big patch on my right breast. It will go off after nursing/pumping then it comes back again before next nursing session. Is this clogged duct?

  11. Hi

    I am exclusively pumping for my 3 week old and always had a great supply. But now my right breast is hard all down one side and my supply has reduced by half. It’s very tender. Have tried all the usual tips and tricks for clogged duct but not convinced it is because of how big the area is.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated

    Thanks again

  12. Sounds like it might be mastitis. I recommend you contact your health care provider.

  13. Hi Im currently breastfeeding my 1 month but he is in nicu so I am using a breast pump . I’ve had a lump on the bottom and side of my areola and it very painful. When I pinch it , it feels like a marble but when I poke it , it feels like it’s swoll. My breast turned red under my areola and I had a fever of 101.3 for a day and I seen lactation the next day but she said it looked like a clogged milk duct. I’m very worried because I had it for 3 days before seeing her and I tried really hard doing everything to get it out . Now it’s been 5 days and it still hasn’t budged. My milk supply is less then 2 times what it used to be on that breast. I’m really stressed because I don’t want it to turn into mastitis and I also don’t want my supply to be so low. I’ve tried everything from soaking in hot bath tub while massaging to turning my pump on highest I could take it (very painful). Also when I massaged the lump on my areola milk comes out but no sign of a plug . And it doesn’t get smaller . The redness did go away but there is a burning pain after I pump or when I turn pump on to high.

  14. It sounds like it could have been mastitis with redness and a temperature. Have you tried the castor oil compress? I would not pump to the point of pain.

  15. I had a clogged duct turn to mastitis, should I stop trying to get it out until after the pain goes away? It is on the underside and seems very deep and I was able go get some out but when the breast starts filling back up it comes back.

  16. You do want to try to clear that clogged duct. Have you tried the castor oil compresses?

  17. Hello! I’ve had several large clogs and mastitis, but right now I have many small, hard lumps all together- they are not necessarily painful, but they weren’t there before a few days ago and now my twins are refusing to breastfeed and scream whenever I try. I haven’t noticed a huge decrease in my supply when I pump, maybe it’s just harder for them to get it out? Do you think it’s many clogged ducts?

  18. It’s possible but hard to say without more details. Have you tried the castor oil compresses? If they don’t go away you should call your healthcare provider. I would recommend you contact a lactation consultant and set up a meeting.

  19. For those getting repeated clogs, start taking lecithin. NICU lactation consultant recommended and has worked wonders for myself and other I know .

  20. Hi Andrea,
    I am currently breastfeeding my 5 week old and 2 nights ago I started getting pain in my left lower breast. I don’t really feel any lumps though and I had body aches yesterday and still a little bit today, but no fever. I can’t tell if I have clogged duct or mastitis. I also have breast implants I don’t know if that makes it harder to find the clogged duct. I pressed with you with my other babies prior to my surgery and I’ve had clogged ducts and was able to get them out and this feels different. My main question is is how do I get relief From this breast pain, I’ve done hot showers massaging and my milk supply has decreased. I was wondering if you could give more details on how to make these castor oil compresses. Thanks.

  21. It sounds like you have a couple of symptoms consistent with mastitis. You should call your doctor. The castor oil compresses can help with mastitis as well. Did you watch the video in the blog post? I go through it step by step in that. Feel better!

  22. Hello, having recently gone back to work I have developed an uncomfortable lump in my breast, assumed it was a blocked duct but started to have flu like symptoms and so within 24 hours had started antibiotics. However I do now feel better but can’t shift the lump. Have been dangle feeding massaging had about a hundred hot showers, tried pumping manually so I’m beginning to wonder if it’s an abscess, however I feel like I can feel inflammation right along the duct. It’s been 3 days now so I just continue?
    It’s tender to touch and the skin is red around but that is also now improving – any other ideas ?

  23. Did you try the castor oil compresses? If you can’t get it resolved you need to call your health care provider. They will probably want to do an ultrasound.

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