A clogged or plugged milk duct is a pretty common problem for breastfeeding or pumping moms. While it’s not a huge problem and can likely be resolved in a couple of days with your intervention, if not treated, it can lead to a more serious issue like mastitus.
If you’ve just discovered a small painful lump in one breast, it may be a plugged milk duct. Below, I’ll share exactly how to clear a clogged milk duct.
What is a clogged milk duct?
A plugged milk duct happens when one of the ducts gets blocked, due to either a tight fitting bra, baby’s latch issues, not emptying your breasts completely during feedings or skipping feedings.
A clogged milk duct will present as a small lump, usually only in one breast and may be tender to the touch. You may also notice some redness or the area may be warm.
Clogged milk duct vs mastitis
One of the biggest differences between a plugged duct and mastitis is the the fact that mastitis is an infection, and you will likely have a fever and flu-like symptoms. Your entire breast will likely be tender, sore and red.
How to clear a clogged milk duct — 7 home remedies
Use a lactation massager
Have you tried the LaVie Lactation Massager to clear clogged ducts? Not only does this handy little item speed down letdown and milk flow, but it also works to clear clogged ducts, too!
Some moms even use the massager after each feed to make sure their breasts are fully empty–which is a great practice to get into and really helps towards stopping clogged ducts before they even begin.
PS– if you don’t have a lactation massager, you can try an electronic toothbrush! Massage it directly on the bump and pull towards your nipple.
Use a haakaa and epsom salt to clear a clogged duct
You likely have a haakaa lying around to catch letdown from the opposite breast that you are nursing with. If not, I highly recommend one!
Not only can you easily build a milk stash by simply just catching your milk letdown, but it’s also super effective at clearing plugged ducts.
To use a haakaa to relieve plugged ducts:
- Fill up your haakaa with warm water to the flange line
- Add in a tablespoon of epsom salts
- Attach to affected breast for at least 15 minutes
- Massage affected area while haakaa is on your breast
Take a hot shower or use a warm compress
Besides hand expression after each feed, my main go-to when I felt a plugged duct wast to get in a hot shower and massage around the area that felt painful.
You can also use these super inexpensive hot and cold packs that are especially designed for nursing/pumping moms. You can use the cold part to help with engorgement (super awesome in those first few weeks) and then the hot part works to help clear plugged ducts.
A lot of moms say they’re able to pump way more milk when they’re using them, too. If you’re trying to pump more or encourage milk to flow faster when feeding your baby, these are great to have on hand.
Many moms have had success with using heating pads, too!
Use Sunflower Lecithin
A lot of moms use sunflower lecithin as a daily supplement while breastfeeding to help thin breastmilk (reduce the stickiness) and declump fats found in breast milk.
Besides the fact that works as a great maintenance med while breastfeeding, taken three to four times daily can also work to clear clogged ducts.
Some moms find that they are just prone to clogged ducts and take sunflower lecithin daily to help prevent clogs in the future.
Try dangle feeding
Use gravity to your advantage if you have a clogged duct by trying dangle feeding. Simply lay your baby on their back, and lean over to feed baby. Many moms say this works wonders to clear a plugged duct and some say this position even works really well for babies that struggle to latch.
Use natural anti inflammatory foods
Foods with anti inflammatory elements are not just great for your overall health and well-being but they’re also a lifesaver when you’ve got a plugged duct.
Try fresh garlic, tumeric, and real cranberry juice (no added sugar) and honey to help aleiviate a plugged duct.
I always make a tumeric honey tea when I’m sick, but I’ve also made the tea while nursing too to help with plugged ducts.
Stop wearing tight fitting bras
Tight clothing and bras can cause plugged ducts, so make sure that you’re using a bra that’s comfortable and doesn’t have any underwire. My absolute favorite nursing bras are from Kindred Braverly and you can find them online or on Amazon.
How to prevent clogged ducts in the future
Some women are just prone to clogged ducts, while others might experience one or two due to several factors. To prevent plugged ducts in the future, here are some helpful tips:
Nurse on demand or every 2-3 hours. If your baby sleeps longer than usual, relieve pressure by hand expressing into a haakaa. Use hand expression after each feed to make sure your breasts are fully drained.
Check your baby’s latch
Make sure your baby’s latch is correct– a lot of moms experience clogged ducts because of their baby’s latch issues. If you suspect your baby isn’t latching correctly, go visit a lactation consultant.
Make sure your flange size is correct
If you’re pumping, check to make sure your flange fits properly. Your pump comes with a standard-sized flange, which might not work for you. Check to make sure your flange isn’t too big or too small, as an incorrect flange size won’t fully drain your breasts, which can lead to plugged ducts.
Take Sunflower Lecithin daily
If you find you are prone to clogged ducts it’s a good idea to take Sunflower Lecithin daily. Take one to two times per day with food to help prevent clogged ducts down the road.
Have a technique to get rid of plugged milk ducts? Be sure to share with other moms in the comments below!