Tiny ducts carry milk from the mammary glands to the nipples during breastfeeding. Sometimes, these ducts become clogged with residual milk and can cause pain, swelling, and itching. In this article, we’ll teach you how to clear a clogged milk duct.
Causes of clogged milk ducts
Clogged ducts commonly happen to mothers who recently gave birth and have opted not to breastfeed or mommies who have stopped breastfeeding. Additionally, breastfeeding mothers may also suffer from blocked ducts if:
- There’s a recent change in the baby’s feeding schedule
- The baby has a weak latch
- There’s inadequate or incomplete milk drainage in each breastfeeding session
- She skips a feeding session
- She experiences pressure on her breast due to uncomfortable breastfeeding position or tight-fitting undergarment or clothes
- She’s stressed. Stress slows down the production of oxytocin, a hormone that helps release milk
Symptoms of clogged milk ducts
The symptoms of clogged milk duct include
- A warm, swollen section on the breast
- Pain and tenderness in a specific breast area
- Reduced milk flow of the affected breast
- A lumpy area in the breast
- Presence of milk bleb, a small white dot on the opening of the nipple
How to clear a clogged milk duct
The best thing to do if you have symptoms of blocked milk ducts is to continue frequent breastfeeding and pumping. To treat blocked milk ducts, follow these best practices.
Before breastfeeding, take a warm shower and gently massage the swollen breast area to help break the lump. Additionally, you can apply a warm (not hot) compress on the affected area for 20 minutes at a time.
Finally, ensure that you’re not wearing tight-fitting clothes or bra. If it’s possible, remove your undergarment before feeding.
To clear a clogged milk duct when breastfeeding, find a comfortable position; some reports say that it’s helpful to place your baby’s chin near the affected area.
It also helps if the milk flows “downhill” from the clogged ducts to the nipple. Consider kneeling on all fours and feed your baby while they are lying flat on the bed.
Whatever position you choose, don’t forget to check your baby’s attachment. If your baby doesn’t latch well, it may worsen the blockage.
Finally, try to feed your baby on the affected breast frequently. As you nurse, gently massage the lump towards your nipples.
After nursing, make sure that your breast feels soft and comfortable. If it still feels heavy, but your baby doesn’t want milk anymore, use a breast pump, or hand-express the milk.
To help ease the pain and reduce the swelling, apply an alternate warm and cold compress on the affected area after breastfeeding.
Additional home remedies for blocked milk ducts
Besides continuous and frequent breastfeeding, you can also consider the following practices to clear a clogged milk duct:
Soak your breast in a bowl of warm water
Prepare a bowl of warm water. Lean over the bowl and soak your breast for 10 to 20 minutes. This measure relieves the blockage because the warm water helps break down the lump while leaning over allows gravity to drain the milk.
Have adequate rest
As stress inhibits oxytocin production, try to reduce it by resting as much as you can. Take it easy with the chores and sleep when your baby sleeps. Finally, don’t hesitate to ask for help when things become overwhelming.
Take over-the-counter pain relievers
Pain makes it difficult to get adequate rest, and it may even make it hard for you to nurse frequently. Consider taking doctor-approved paracetamol or ibuprofen for pain relief. If you’re taking other medications, check with your doctor to ensure that it won’t cause a drug interaction.
Breastfeeding mommies are not advised to take aspirin as it may cause Reye’s Syndrome in their babies. Reye’s Syndrome is a condition that affects the brain and liver.
When to visit your doctor
With continued and frequent breastfeeding, it’ll only take a few days to clear a clogged milk duct. If your symptoms persist or if they worsen, such as when the lump becomes more prominent and you develop fever, set an appointment with your doctor right away. Fever, along with inflamed breast, can be indicative of breast inflammation (mastitis), which can then lead to pus build-up (abscess) if not managed properly.
Learn more about Breastfeeding here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.