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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.
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.
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
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
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
- Massage the area that is clogged when you breastfeed.
- The LaVie Lactation Massager is 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 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.
- Massage and hand express while you are in a hot shower.
- Always try to feed after applying a warm washcloth or taking a hot shower.
- If your baby is not available you can pump instead of feeding.
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.
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.
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.
IN BREASTFEED LIKE A BOSS I SHARE MY BEST TIPS FOR THE FIRST YEAR OF BREASTFEEDING.