Clogged milk ducts are a common problem for breastfeeding mothers, but they’re also incredibly painful. Moms then wants to know how to unclog a milk duct while breastfeeding.
If you have clogged milk ducts it’s important to know that they can happen to anyone and there are ways to prevent them from happening in the first place or how to get rid of them if you do have them.
We’ve written this article on what causes clogged milk ducts, 15 different ways on how to unclog a milk duct while breastfeeding yourself at home.
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1. As often and completely as possible, empty the affected breast
It’s important to breastfeed or pump the affected breast as often as possible. This is the best way and will help unclog the clogged milk duct. Merely expressing a little milk is not enough. You need to completely empty the breast of all its milk as often as possible for this to work.
2. Use a lactation massager
If you are prone to getting clogged ducts and lactation massager is a great option! They are great to use with a hot shower. Using the massager where your breast feels firm will help loosen it and work it out.
3. Use a warm compress
Using a warm washcloth on the affected area. You can get this compress made just for this or use a heating pad. The warm compress is great for softening it up before working it out. Try doing this just before you breastfeed or pump.
4. Do breast compressions
Do breast compressions on the afflicted side while you breastfeed or pump. Massage the milk down towards the nipple to help the affected duct.
5. Use a comb in the shower
Take a wide-toothed comb with you to the shower, run it through a bar of soap, and gently massage it over the area of the breast that is blocked and down toward the nipple.
6. Try dangle feeding
Dangle feeding is when you put your baby below your breast and let the nipple “dangle” in his open mouth. Gravity can help dislodge milk that’s stuck in the ducts.
7.Have an epsom salt soak
Fill a container with warm water and Epsom salt, then place your breast in it to soak. Soak the breasts in a warm bath of Epsom salt for 10–20 minutes.
While soaking you can try to massage it out, using two different methods can help work it out faster.
8. Take ibuprofen
Taking ibuprofen is considered safe while breastfeeding but be sure to talk to your health care provider before taking any medication. This will ease the discomfort and inflammation caused by a blocked duct in your breast.
9.Use a breast pump
10.Use the Haakaa
I love the Haakaa and many moms swear by this hack. The Haakaa is a small silicone manual breast pump that collects breast milk when you start to leak on one side while you are nursing your baby on the other.
With this hack, you fill your Haakaa with warm water and epsom salt. Suction the Haakaa to your breast and let it soak for 10-15 minutes. This is great because it is using suction, moist heat, and epsom salt to work out the clogged duct. Do this as many times as needed.
11. Hand express
Hand expressing the affected side can be a good option if your baby and your pump don’t seem to be getting it out. This is because you can focus on the area that is needed the way your baby or the pump just can’t do.
12. Ask your partner to help you
If you feel comfortable with it, you can have your partner help suction it out.
13. Take Supplements
Taking sunflower lecithin has really helped me in the past. This can help reduce the number of clogged ducts and mastitis you may get by increasing the amount of fatty acids in your breast milk to help it flow through easier. It is recommended to take 1200mg, taken 4 times a day but be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any supplements.
14. Wear Looser Clothing
Clogged ducts can be caused by wearing tight clothing or even sleeping on your stomach from all of the pressure. Try wearing loose fitted clothing and avoid underwire bras when you can.
15. Consult a Healthcare provider
Sometimes no matter what you try at home, a medical care provider or a lactation consultant is really what you need. If the clog is not able to be worked out on your own, it can progress into mastitis and will be treated with antibiotics.
Preventing clogged milk ducts
1. Breastfeed your baby often
Nursing your baby often will help prevent potential clogs because it will keep the milk flowing and prevent backup. Breastfeed or pump every 2 to 3 hours.
2. Consider taking lecithin
Taking sunflower lecithin regularly can help prevent getting clogged ducts in the future. A typical dose is one capsule (1200 mg) three or four times a day. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before adding any supplements to your diet.
3. Make sure your breast shields are the right size
Having a breast shield that is the wrong size when you pump can cause clogged milk ducts so try a size up or down depending on your needs. This will make pumping more efficient and prevent clogged ducts.
4. Change anything that could be irritating your breast
Try a different bra, stop using an underwire bra, or sleeping on your back. It could be your diaper bag that is even bothering you.
What is a clogged duct?
A clogged duct is when a milk duct has become blocked. When a woman is nursing, the breasts have a number of ducts that transport milk from her mammary glands to her nipples. When a duct becomes clogged or blocked, a blockage can occur, which is referred to as a clogged or plugged duct. A clogged duct may cause severe pain, swelling, and itching. If you have blocked milk ducts, your breasts may feel hard and painful.
Symptoms of a clogged milk duct
Symptoms of a clogged duct include:
- Pain in the breast in a specific spot
- Swollen, hard, and tender lump in the breast
- Breast hot to touch
- Milk flow is slower on that side
- A milk bleb that looks like a small white dot on the nipple pore
What causes a clogged milk duct?
It’s very common for ducts to become clogged. When your breast isn’t emptied properly, it forms blockages. This can happen from:
- The latch is incorrect or the baby is having trouble sucking
- You skip a feeding. Sometimes this can happen if your baby sleeps longer through the night or you wean too quickly.
- Wear a bra that is too tight
How long do plugged ducts last?
The most common causes of plugged milk ducts are things that prevent the breast from draining fully. Any number of factors, including pressure on your breast from a too-tight sports bra or feeding schedules that are too short, may contribute to symptoms like these.
Can a milk duct unclog itself?
A long blockage can put you at risk of mastitis, most clogged ducts when doing home remedies such as breastfeeding frequently and taking lecithin, will heal on their own within 24-48 hours after the start, but a prolonged obstruction may cause inflammation. Dealing with clogged ducts is stressful, but knowing that you have the support, early detection, and care you need to tackle your clogged ducts can give you peace of mind.
What happens if you don’t treat a clogged milk duct?
If you don’t act, the obstruction isn’t likely to self-correct. Instead, it may lead to mastitis, an infection of the breast. Take note that a fever is not one of the symptoms of a blocked milk duct. If you’re suffering from pain and other symptoms accompanied by a fever, you may have an infection.
If mastitis isn’t treated, it could lead to a breast abscess so it is important to have it treated as soon as it is detected.
Can you continue breastfeeding if you have a plugged milk duct?
Yes, definitely. It is very important to breastfeed as often as possible if you have a clogged duct. This will help unclog the milk duct and also protect your milk supply.
How to identify a clogged milk duct
With a clogged milk duct, you will have a small, painful, and hard lump in your sore breast. The skin surrounding the small lump is red, warm to the touch, and painful. Before feeding, the breast may be more sensitive with some relief afterward. Only one breast is usually affected. Because of the obstructing duct, the milk flow out of the afflicted breast might be slower due to pressure from the clogged duct that causes other ducts around it to collapse.
Clogged milk duct vs. mastitis: What’s the difference?
Symptoms of mastitis
You may have mastitis if you experience any of the following signs in addition to a painful lump: Fever, chills, flu-like aches and pains, and general malaise.
Because a blockage that isn’t treated can lead to mastitis, it’s critical to start treating one as soon as you detect it.
What is mastitis?
Mastitis is a breast infection. It will generally show as a painful, hard, wedge-shaped red area on one or both breasts, along with fever and flu-like symptoms. Although mastitis isn’t as frequent as a blocked milk duct, up to a fifth of breastfeeding moms may experience it at some time.
Mastitis is most common during the first few weeks after childbirth, and it generally occurs alongside engorgement. It can appear at any time, but usually in the postpartum period. Excess sleepiness, smoking, and cracked nipples all increase your chances of developing mastitis. When the skin of your breast is broken, germs from the environment, your skin, or your baby’s mouth can enter. That can cause an infection in your breast tissue.
Does mastitis always require an antibiotic?
Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast. It is most often caused by milk that can’t flow through the breast to be released. That means there’s an obstruction of milk flow, not an infection. Non-infectious mastitis can usually be treated without antibiotics.
Although, the World Health Organization Mastitis: Causes and Management, “Without effective removal of milk, non-infectious mastitis was likely to progress to infectious mastitis and infectious mastitis to the formation of an abscess.”
If a mom has no risk factors for infection, she is likely to get better without antibiotics. Just be sure to talk to your health care provider.
What is a nipple bleb
Milk blebs can be caused by friction, usually due to an incorrect latch or the use of a breast shield that is too big. They occur because of injury from friction rather than a blockage.
When to see a doctor
The chest area can appear red or bruised for a week or so after the obstruction has been removed or mastitis has been treated. However, if you are still concerned or don’t believe your blockage or infection is healing on its own, make an appointment with your doctor. In some situations, more medication may be needed, as well as drainage of an abscess
Clogged milk ducts are a common occurrence when breastfeeding. They typically hurt and are warm to the touch. Mastitis usually hurts in the area where the clog is located, feels hot to the touch, has flu-like symptoms like fever and chills, and may also cause redness on the skin near your breasts. It’s important to remember that mastitis could need medical attention because it could turn into an infection if left untreated! If you think you have one of these conditions I would recommend talking with your doctor about what treatment might work best for you individually. I hope these 15 ways on how to unclog a milk duct while breastfeeding help. What supplements do you take while breastfeeding? Have any of them helped boost your supply? Be sure to read this article to find out more.