Clogged milk ducts can happen at any point during your breastfeeding journey. They typically seem to happen to me during the newborn period and as I am weaning.
It doesn’t matter at what stage you are dealing with a clogged milk duct, THEY HURT..and can lead to mastitis which is absolutely horrible. So, how do you clear a clogged milk duct if you get one?
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What is a clogged milk duct?
A clogged milk duct is when there is something obstructing the flow of milk moving freely. A clogged duct can happen deeper in the breast or more towards the nipple.
Do clogged milk ducts go away on their own?
In my experience, clogged milk ducts can go away on their own, but they often take at least some effort to get rid of. Your milk flow may be slower when you have a clogged duct, and your little one may become impatient and fussy.
How do I know if My Milk Duct is Clogged?
If you suspect that you have a clogged milk duct there are definitely some symptoms that you need to watch out for:
Your breast may be tender to the touch. You may also feel a lump in your breast about the size of a blueberry and larger.
The redness may be around your whole breast or just around the lump.
These two symptoms typically go hand in hand and they are a big sign of infection setting in.
If you think about this symptom, it makes complete sense. Milk is trying to come through your ducts but can’t. There is likely a lot of pressure behind the clog, creating pain in the milk duct behind it.
Is a Clogged Milk Duct the Same Thing as a Milk Blister?
A milk blister, aka milk bleub, is a clog that is blocking the milk pore. A clogged milk duct occurs further back in the breast.
So essentially, they are similar, just clogged in a different location in the breast.
What Causes Milk Duct Clogging?
If you are making more milk than you are expressing, you are at risk for a clogged milk duct. You can also develop clogged milk ducts if the bra you are wearing is too tight
Related Post: Helpful Breastfeeding Tips
Should You Consider Clogged Milk Duct Popping?
The last thing you should do is try to pop the milk duct/blister yourself. Popping a clogged milk duct has a very high likelihood to cause infection.
How to Relieve a Clogged Milk Duct
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that a specific method will work. Here are multiple different ways that could potentially work to relieve your clogged duct.
Epsom Salt Soak
Epsom salt is great at helping your body relax, and your milk ducts are no different. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath for 10-20 minutes is a great way to help remove the clog. If you own a Haaka or another silicone breastpump you can use this to complete an Epsom salt soak.
Related Post: How to use the Haakkaa plus tips you need to know
While suction is an absolute necessity for removing a clog from your milk duct, it doesn’t have to be the only thing. Using gravity by dangle-feeding your little one adds a little more pressure to the clog, making it easier to remove.
While your little one is feeding, massaging the affected area helps the ducts flex and makes it easier for the clog to move.
Feeding your little one is one of the best ways to relieve a clogged duct. You can also turn their nose or chin toward the affected area to help loosen the milk and drain the duct.
Related Post: Breastfeeding hacks every mom needs to know
If your little one isn’t hungry, you can always hand express or use a milk pump to remove the clog from your duct.
Making a poultice out of thinly sliced or shredded potatoes and letting it sit on the affected area for 20-30 minutes is a time-honored method of helping remove a clogged duct.
Before feeding your little one, hold a warm compress against the affected area. Warming the clogged duct helps relax the clogged duct allowing the blockage to move easier.
Use a Comb
Running a toothcomb over the clogged breast while taking a shower can help break apart and unclog the milk duct as well as boost flow.
Using an electric toothbrush or a vibrator on the affected breast is a great method. The vibration can loosen the clog, making it easier to move. This Vibrator from MomCozy is perfect!
Enlist your Husband’s Help!
YES! Your husband can help unclog your milk duct! Especially if your baby is a newborn and cannot suck as hard as you may need for relieving the clog.
Your husband may need to “take one for the team” and suck the clogged milk duct out for you – I can guarantee you it will be less uncomfortable than the mastitis that can occur if you let it go!
When Should You See a Health Care Provider for Clogged Milk Duct Popping?
As with most medical conditions, it is important to reach out to a healthcare provider when breastfeeding has become too uncomfortable to continue. You should also notify your healthcare provider if you notice any symptoms of infection or mastitis. (symptoms are listed below)
Steps your Doctor Will take for Clogged Milk Duct Popping:
- The first step will be to wash the area with soap and water. They will pat the area dry once it has been thoroughly cleaned.
- Next, the doctor will use a sterilized needle to lift the edge of the blister. They will want to avoid any pushing motions with their needle to prevent the infection from traveling deeper or getting worse.
- Once the blister is loose, they will remove it with tweezers and scissors.
- Finally, they will wash the area gain and most likely tell you to apply antibiotic ointment after feeding your little one.
When does a clogged milk duct become serious?
An untreated clogged milk duct can lead to mastitis. Mastitis is inflammation due to an infection of the milk ducts.
Symptoms of mastitis include:
- Breast tenderness or warmth to the touch
- Breast swelling
- Thickening of breast tissue, or a breast lump
- Pain or a burning sensation continuously or while breast-feeding
- Skin redness, often in a wedge-shaped pattern
- Generally feeling ill
- Fever of 101 F or greater
If this does occur, don’t worry. Doctors will be able to take care of the infection with antibiotics.
How to Prevent a Clogged Milk Duct
The most important step in preventing clogged milk ducts is to make sure your little one empties your breasts entirely. Newborns can take 15-30 minutes to empty the breast, so be patient.
You also want to make sure to wear loose-fitting clothing, avoid putting pressure or weight on your breasts for an extended period of time, and breastfeed on demand or at least on a regular basis to ensure a consistent flow of milk. If you have an oversupply and your little one is unable to empty your breasts, a lactation specialist can advise you on how to reduce your milk supply.
Related Post: Best Nursing Tanks to Make Breastfeeding a Breeze
Even though no one wants to experience a clogged milk duct, it is important to know what to do if it happens and even how to prevent one! Having these tricks up your sleeve can help prevent a trip to the doctor and a round of antibiotics!
You can use this supplement to ease the passage of milk through the breast tissue and mammary glands which can help to prevent clogged ducts and mastitis.
Make sure that your bra isn’t too tight so that the milk doesn’t get trapped!
Massage During Let Down
Keep the milk flowing during let down with a massage!
Apply warm, wet heat to your breast with a warm wash cloth. This will help prevent any clogs. You can also try these heating pads made specifically for nursing mothers.
Have you experienced a clogged milk duct? How did you manage to get it out? Let me know in the comments below!