One of the common issues that breastfeeding mothers face is a clogged milk duct. This occurs when milk is not effectively removed from the breast, leading to a blockage and discomfort for the mother.
In this article, we will explore 7 proven methods to treat a clogged milk duct so you can find relief quickly and get back to enjoying breastfeeding your baby.
It’s important to address this issue promptly, as unresolved clogs can lead to more serious complications. Hope these methods can help you unclog your milk duct fast.
Table of Contents
How to Know if You Have a Clogged Milk Duct?
One way to know if you have a clogged milk duct is if you feel a hard, tender lump in your breast. This may be accompanied by redness, warmth, or swelling in the affected area. You may also experience a decrease in milk supply from the affected breast. Another indicator is if you experience a shooting pain in the breast during feeding or pumping.
Signs and Symptoms of Clogged Milk Duct
- Localized Breast Pain or General Discomfort. You may experience pain in a specific area of your breast. You may feel a shooting pain or general discomfort in your breast, especially during breastfeeding or pumping.
- Swelling or Lump. A small, firm area or lump may develop in the breast.
- Redness and Warmth in the Affected Area. The affected area might appear redder than the rest of the breast. The skin over the clogged area may feel warmer than surrounding areas.
- Milk Flow Issues, or Thickened Milk. You might notice a decrease in milk flow from the affected breast during breastfeeding. The milk from the affected breast might appear thicker or contain stringy or clumpy milk.
What Does Clogged Milk Duct Look Like?
A clogged milk duct can appear as a lump or tender spot in the breast, often accompanied by localized swelling, redness, and warmth.
Pictures of Clogged Milk Duct
Can You See a Clogged Milk Duct?
Yes, you can see a clogged milk duct. It often presents as a red, swollen, and tender area on the breast. You may also notice a small, hard lump or a bleb on the surface of the skin. In some cases, you may even see a milk blister, where a small amount of milk is trapped behind a plug in the duct.
What Does a Clogged Milk Duct Feel Like? Do Clogged Milk Ducts Hurt?
A clogged milk duct may cause localized pain, redness, and swelling, and can also be with a warm feeling in the affected area. Some women also report feeling a tingling or burning sensation in the breast.
Clogged milk ducts can be painful, especially while nursing or pumping, as the pressure from milk buildup can worsen the discomfort. The pain and tenderness can persist even after nursing or pumping, and the affected breast may feel heavy or appear larger than the other one.
Clogged Duct White Spot on Nipple
A white spot on the nipple, also known as a milk bleb or milk blister, occurs when a tiny piece of skin blocks a milk duct near the surface of the nipple. The white spot may cause sharp pain during nursing and may even lead to a plugged duct if not cleared.
Both clogged ducts and white spots on the nipple can be alleviated by the same treatment methods – pumping, applying compresses, massaging the affected area, etc. Read further to know about them.
Where Are Clogged Milk Ducts Located?
The location of the clogged milk ducts can vary from woman to woman, and they can occur in one or both breasts. Some women may experience clogged milk ducts closer to the nipple, while others may experience them deeper within the breast tissue.
The exact location of the clogged milk ducts can depend on various factors, such as the size and shape of the breasts, the positioning of the baby during feeding, and the overall health of the breast tissue.
In some cases, clogged milk ducts may also occur in the same area repeatedly, leading to chronic discomfort and potential complications.
Clogged Milk Duct in Breast
The most common location for a clogged milk duct is within the breast tissue itself because of high density of milk ducts.
The breast tissue contains numerous milk ducts responsible for carrying milk to the nipple. During breastfeeding, the milk-producing glands (alveoli) constantly produce milk. If milk isn’t adequately drained from the breast, it can lead to a blockage in the ducts.
Clogged Milk Duct in & Under Armpit
A clogged milk duct can indeed occur in the area of the breast near the armpit.
There’s a general misconception that breastfeeding-related issues solely affect the breast tissue. However, milk ducts are distributed throughout the breast area, extending towards the outer regions and under the armpit.
Clogged Milk Duct in Nipple & In Areola
Clogged milk ducts can occur in or near the nipple. The most popular reason contributing to a clogged milk duct in this specific location is inadequate latching during breastfeeding.
Sometimes, a clogged milk duct manifests as a milk bleb or milk blister on the surface of the nipple, blocking the milk flow.
Incorrect or prolonged use of a nipple shield may also affect milk flow and contribute to blockages.
Clogged Milk Duct Under Breast
Clogged milk ducts can occur under the boops when milk ducts located under the breasts are not being efficiently drained during breastfeeding.
The most common reason is wearing tight or ill-fitting bras or clothing that puts pressure on the underside of the breast, which can hinder proper milk flow, causing clogged ducts.
What Causes a Clogged Milk Duct?
10 Most Common Reasons For Clogged Milk Ducts
- Not breastfeeding frequently or having an irregular feeding schedule.
- Incorrect breastfeeding positions or improper latching by the baby.
- Wearing tight bras or clothing that compresses the breasts can impede milk flow.
- If the breast is not fully emptied during feedings, milk can accumulate, increasing the risk of clogged ducts.
- Occasional or chronic breast engorgement, where the breasts become overly full and swollen.
- Sudden changes in breastfeeding patterns, such as abruptly weaning from breastfeeding or switching to infrequent feedings.
- External pressure on the breast due to lying on the stomach or prolonged leaning against the breast.
- Trauma (such as a blow or injury to the breast) can cause obstruction in the ducts, leading to clogging.
- An oversupply of milk can overwhelm the ducts, leading to blockages if the milk isn’t adequately drained.
- Individuals who have experienced clogged ducts previously might be more prone to recurrence due to underlying factors or anatomical considerations.
How to Treat Clogged Milk Duct: 7 Proven Methods
Dealing with a clogged milk duct is not only uncomfortable but can also be a hindrance to breastfeeding. Luckily, there are various methods how to relieve clogged milk ducts and unclog milk ducts quickly and effectively.
1. Experiment with New Breastfeeding Positions
Experiment with different breastfeeding positions, such as the “football hold” or “laid-back nursing,” to encourage better milk flow and drainage from all ducts.
Breastfeeding Positions for Clogged Duct
“Football hold”. This position can target specific areas of the breast, aiding in draining milk effectively, which is very helpful for blocked ducts or engorgement in certain areas.
The “laid-back nursing” position, also known as biological nurturing or reclined breastfeeding, encourages babies to self-attach and self-regulate their feeding, leading to more effective and deeper latching, and often facilitates optimal milk transfer. The gravitational pull in this position can assist in better drainage of the milk ducts.
2. Haakaa for Clogged Duct
This is an award-winning and best-selling manual silicone breast pump recommended by nursing mums, magazines, celebrities, doulas, and lactation consultants all over the world.
The Haakaa, a silicone breast pump, can be used as a gentle method to help relieve a clogged milk duct. The Haakaa is typically used to collect let-down milk from the non-nursing breast during breastfeeding sessions. However, it can also aid in managing clogged ducts through a technique known as “reverse pressure softening.”
Here’s how to perform the Haakaa trick for a clogged milk duct:
- Apply Heat. Before using the Haakaa, apply a warm compress or take a warm shower to the affected breast.
- Gently Massage. Using your fingers, gently massage the area around the clogged milk duct towards the nipple.
- Reverse Pressure Softening. Hold the Haakaa firmly against the breast, but instead of collecting milk, use the Haakaa to apply gentle pressure around the clogged area. Apply the pressure in a circular motion, starting from the outer edges of the blockage and moving towards the nipple. This technique is called “reverse pressure softening.”
- Express Milk. After using the Haakaa for a few minutes with reverse pressure softening, continue breastfeeding or use hand expression or a breast pump to express milk from the affected breast.
- Repeat if Necessary. You can repeat this process multiple times throughout the day to help alleviate the clogged duct.
Using the Haakaa with the reverse pressure softening technique can aid in clearing a clogged milk duct by helping to soften the blockage and encourage milk flow.
3. Ultrasound for Clogged Milk Duct
Ultrasound therapy is sometimes used as a treatment for clogged milk ducts, particularly when other conservative methods haven’t been effective.
Ultrasound therapy can help to break up the clogged material within the milk duct, potentially facilitating easier removal or drainage of the blockage.
The heat generated by ultrasound can enhance blood flow to the affected area, which may aid in reducing inflammation and promoting healing.
It’s important to note that ultrasound therapy for clogged milk ducts is not a standard or first-line treatment. It’s usually considered when other conservative measures have failed, and it’s typically recommended using under supervision of a physical therapist.
The duration and frequency of ultrasound therapy sessions can vary based on the severity of the clogged duct and the individual’s response to treatment. Multiple sessions might be required.
Ultrasound therapy might be used in combination with other treatments, such as massage, warm compresses, or breastfeeding techniques, to enhance effectiveness.
4. Compresses: Ice or Heat for Clogged Milk Duct?
Both ice and heat can be beneficial for managing a clogged milk duct, but they serve different purposes.
Applying heat can help in promoting blood circulation and relaxing the muscles, potentially aiding in loosening the blockage.
Use heat before breastfeeding or pumping to encourage milk flow and make it easier to clear the clogged duct. A warm compress for 15-20 minutes before nursing can be helpful.
Ice or cold compresses can help in reducing inflammation and swelling. Apply an ice pack or cold compress for about 10-15 minutes after breastfeeding or pumping to reduce inflammation and ease discomfort. Be sure not to apply it directly to the skin to prevent any damage.
5. Epsom Salt
Epsom salt, known for its potential to alleviate inflammation and promote relaxation, is sometimes used in warm compresses as a home remedy to help with clogged milk ducts.
Made with pharmacy-grade magnesium sulfate to help ease aches and pains.
Fragrance-free. Paraben-free, phthalate-free. Fast dissolving.
Awesome soothing effect.
How to Use Epsom Salt for Clogged Milk Duct
Dissolve Epsom salt in warm water. The general ratio is about 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt per cup of warm water.
Soak a clean cloth or towel in the Epsom salt solution.
Gently apply the warm, Epsom salt-infused cloth to the affected breast where the clogged duct is. Hold the compress on the breast for about 10-15 minutes.
You can re-soak the cloth in the Epsom salt solution and reapply it several times a day, as needed, to help ease discomfort and promote relaxation in the affected area.
Massaging the affected breast using gentle but firm pressure is also key to releasing the blockage, and can be combined with essential oils for added benefits.
How to Massage a Clogged Milk Duct
- Using the pads of your fingers (not just the fingertips), gently massage the affected area in a circular motion, starting from the outer area of the breast and moving toward the nipple. Apply gentle pressure but avoid pressing too hard to prevent discomfort.
- Continue massaging in a circular motion, focusing on the specific area where you feel the blockage or lump. You can also try different massage techniques such as stroking, kneading, or applying pressure in different directions to help break up the blockage.
- While massaging, you might feel a small lump or graininess under your fingers. This sensation could indicate the location of the clogged duct.
Essential Oils for Clogged Milk Duct
- Lavender Oil. Known for its calming properties, lavender oil might be used in very diluted form for its potential anti-inflammatory effects.
- Chamomile Oil. Chamomile oil, particularly Roman chamomile, is considered soothing and may help reduce inflammation.
- Helichrysum Oil. Some moms use helichrysum oil for its potential anti-inflammatory properties.
7. Keep Getting Clogged Ducts? Try Lecithin
Lecithin, a natural substance found in various foods like egg yolks, soybeans, and sunflower seeds, is sometimes used as a supplement to help manage clogged milk ducts for breastfeeding moms. It’s believed that lecithin might assist in preventing recurring clogged ducts by altering the composition of breast milk.
Lecithin is thought to reduce the stickiness of breast milk by increasing the phospholipids in the milk. This alteration might help prevent the milk from thickening and sticking to the walls of the milk ducts.
The typical dosage of lecithin for clogged milk ducts is around 1,200 to 4,800 milligrams (mg) of lecithin per day, divided into three or four doses. Always consult your doctor before starting any supplements while breastfeeding.
Legendairy Milk Sunflower Lecithin helps avoid developing plugged ducts. As a natural fat emulsifier, it can help to reduce milk “stickiness,” keeping it from clumping together.
Top 3 Natural Remedies for Clogged Milk Ducts
- Cabbage Leaves. Some moms find relief by applying chilled cabbage leaves to the affected breast. The coolness might help reduce inflammation and discomfort.
- Epsom Salt Compress. Soaking a clean cloth in warm water mixed with Epsom salt and applying it as a compress to the affected area might assist in reducing inflammation.
- Lecithin Supplements. As mentioned earlier, lecithin supplements might help prevent recurrent clogged ducts by altering breast milk composition. Always consult a doctor before starting any supplements.
Medication for Blocked Milk Duct
Pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) might be recommended to alleviate pain or inflammation associated with the clogged duct.
If a clogged duct leads to mastitis (an infection of the breast tissue), your doctor might prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. It’s important to complete the full course of antibiotics if prescribed.
In certain cases, doctors might consider prescribing medications to manage severe or recurrent cases of clogged ducts, especially if associated with chronic issues.
It’s crucial to note that while medications may provide symptom relief or help in managing associated conditions like mastitis, they might not directly resolve the clogged duct.
Ibuprofen for Clogged Duct While Breastfeeding
If you’re breastfeeding, ibuprofen is generally considered safe in moderate doses.
How to Prevent Clogged Milk Ducts?
To prevent clogged milk ducts, it is important to ensure proper breastfeeding techniques. This includes making sure that the baby latches onto the breast correctly and completely empties the breast during each feeding. It is also essential to feed on demand and not to skip feedings or go too long between feedings.
Wearing a properly fitted nursing bra that does not apply pressure to the breasts can also help prevent clogged ducts. Additionally, avoiding tight clothing and underwire bras can reduce the risk of getting clogged ducts.
Massaging the breasts and applying warm compresses before and during feedings can help to loosen any blockages and prevent clogs from forming.
If a clogged duct does occur, it is essential to address it promptly by applying warm compresses, massaging the area, and continuing to breastfeed or express milk to clear the blockage. If the clog persists, seeking advice from a lactation consultant is highly recommended.
Sleep Position to Avoid Clogged Milk Ducts
It is recommended for breastfeeding moms to avoid sleeping on their stomachs or in a position where their breast is pressed against the bed for extended periods of time. This can prevent the milk from flowing freely and increase the risk of developing clogged ducts.
Instead, it is best to sleep on your side or back, with a supportive pillow to help keep your body in a comfortable and safe position. It may also be helpful to use a nursing pillow or other support to elevate your upper body and avoid putting too much pressure on your breasts while sleeping.
Can a Clogged Milk Duct Cause Fever?
Yes, a clogged milk duct can cause a fever. When a milk duct becomes clogged, it can lead to a condition known as mastitis, which is an infection of the breast tissue.
Symptoms of mastitis can include redness, swelling, and warmth in the affected breast, as well as a fever and chills. It’s important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have mastitis, as it can worsen if left untreated.
In addition to causing discomfort and pain, mastitis can also affect your ability to breastfeed. If you do develop a clogged duct and are experiencing signs of mastitis, it’s important to consult with your doctor to determine the best treatment.
Clogged Milk Duct Versus Mastitis. What’s the Difference Between Clogged Duct and Mastitis?
Clogged milk duct and mastitis are both common breastfeeding issues, but they have important differences.
A clogged milk duct occurs when milk fails to properly flow through the ducts, resulting in a tender lump in the breast. It can cause discomfort, but usually does not result in a fever or other systemic symptoms.
Mastitis, on the other hand, is an infection of the breast tissue, often resulting from a clogged duct that has progressed. In addition to the tender lump and discomfort, mastitis is also characterized by fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms.
While clogged ducts can often be resolved through massage, warm compresses, and frequent nursing or pumping, mastitis typically requires treatment with antibiotics to clear the infection.
Despite their differences, both clogged ducts and mastitis can be painful and frustrating for breastfeeding moms and may require some adjustments to feeding routines.
How Long Does It Take To Unclog a Milk Duct?
In general, it can take a few days to a week to fully clear a clogged duct, but the length of time it takes for breastfeeding moms to unclog a milk duct can vary.
It is important to address the issue as soon as possible to prevent mastitis, a painful inflammation of the breast tissue.
Some individuals may find that a clogged duct can resolve within 24-48 hours with consistent and thorough treatment. It’s crucial to continue nursing or pumping from the affected breast to help alleviate the blockage.
Can You Feel a Clogged Milk Duct Release?
When a clogged milk duct releases, you may feel a sudden relief of pressure and pain in the affected breast. This release may feel like a sudden letdown of milk, and you may even see a surge of milk being released from the affected duct.
Some women also report feeling a tingling or pins-and-needles sensation as the clog releases and milk begins to flow freely again.
Clogged Milk Duct for Over a Month. What to Do?
If you have been dealing with a clogged milk duct for over a month, it is important to seek external help. If all methods you have tried do not provide relief, it is crucial to consult with a lactation consultant, doctor, or midwife.
They may recommend additional treatments such as ultrasound therapy, medication, or even a minor surgical procedure to clear the blockage.
One Breast Stopped Producing Milk After Clogged Duct
If, despite your efforts to unclog a clogged milk duct, you see the milk supply in one breast decreasing, you may feel discouraged and worried, and it’s normal.
It may be a challenging and frustrating experience, but with patience and perseverance, you’ll be able to overcome the setback and increase your milk supply.
You should diligently follow your lactation consultant’s advice, from using warm compresses to adjusting the baby’s feeding position, and slowly but surely, you’ll see your milk supply begin to improve.
Learn why breastfeeding is so hard, and get a bit of motivation by reading my story.
Clogged Milk Duct 6 Months After Weaning. How Is This Possible?
After weaning, the breasts gradually stop producing milk as lactation ceases. However, in some cases, milk may remain in the breast tissue, particularly if weaning was abrupt or if there was an incomplete drainage of milk from the breasts. This residual milk might remain in the ducts and potentially lead to a clogged milk duct even months after weaning.
Can You Get a Clogged Milk Duct Years After Breastfeeding?
Yes, it’s possible to develop a clogged milk duct years after breastfeeding, although it’s less common compared to experiencing it shortly after weaning.
Can You Get a Clogged Milk Duct While Pregnant?
During pregnancy, changes occur in the breast tissue in preparation for lactation, including increased blood flow, glandular tissue development, and milk duct expansion. While the breasts are preparing for milk production, it’s possible for milk ducts to become blocked due to hormonal changes.
How to Treat Clogged Milk Ducts During Pregnancy?
Treating clogged milk ducts during pregnancy requires gentle approaches, as some typical remedies used while breastfeeding might need modification due to the stage of pregnancy.
It’s recommended to talk to your OBgyn if you suspect a clogged milk duct during pregnancy.
See a Pinterest friendly photo… so you don’t lose this post!
Mom of 3-year-old superhero Michael and 7-year-old princess Stasia. 👩👧👦
Passionate about research and getting to the core, enjoying processing information & always hungry for more. 📖
Learning & sharing how to be a better mom. Join me, and let’s grow together! 🌼