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Clogged milk ducts hurt! End of story. They are sore, painful, and can definitely create some serious breast discomfort. I had my fair share of clogged milk ducts and it was not fun until I figured out how to clear them effectively. Keep reading for 18 natural and successful ways to clear a clogged milk duct.
What exactly is a clogged milk duct?
A clogged milk duct can also be referred to as a plugged or blocked milk duct and usually is a hard, tender lump located in your breast.
Milk ducts are tubes that basically transport your breastmilk from the area in your breast where it is manufactured, all the way down to your nipple ready for your baby to drink.
Clogged milk ducts can be pretty common and sadly a lot of mothers experience them at some point in their breastfeeding or pumping journey.
Due to an oversupply, poor drainage, and other various other factors, a clogged milk duct can easily evolve. It is basically where the milk ducts get clogged up and has trouble freely draining out.
This results in a hard, sore, red lump that is very painful known as a clogged milk duct.
What is the difference between a clogged milk duct and mastitis?
Even though a clogged milk duct can lead to mastitis, that isn’t always the cause. A clogged milk duct usually affects one breast and is more of a localized pain around the lump.
I did experience a couple clogged milk ducts at the same time but the pain and redness was definitely more localized.
Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast caused by an infection, obstruction and or allergy. This breast ailment also usually is paired with flu-like symptoms such as aches, fever, and chills.
If a clogged milk duct isn’t properly cleared it can definitely result in mastitis.
Even though both mastitis and a clogged milk duct are painful they are both usually pretty easily treated and shouldn’t keep you down for too long.
What causes a clogged milk duct?
There are a variety of different reasons as to why you may find yourself dealing with an unwanted clogged milk duct.
Here are some of the main causes of a clogged milk duct.
- Not emptying well
- Baby has a poor latch
- Skipping a feed
- Tight bra, clothing, or carrier
- Sleeping positions
Not emptying well
If you are not efficiently and effectively emptying each breast well while nursing or pumping, this can definitely lead to a clogged milk duct. You want to make sure you a properly draining each breast after each feed.
Some of us experience an undersupply of milk while others can deal with the complete opposite.
An oversupply of milk can definitely be a culprit for clogged milk ducts.
If your baby can’t keep up with your milk production it can be easy for you to become engorged and then be more susceptible to a clogged duct.
Baby has a poor latch
If your little one has trouble latching or doesn’t have a very strong latch this can lead to trouble feeding and also trouble emptying your breasts.
It might be a good idea to check if your baby has a tongue or lip tie as this can greatly affect their latch.
Working on your baby’s latch will help them more effectively feed.
If you aren’t exclusively breastfeeding and are exclusively pumping instead, make sure your flange size it right.
Also, having a good quality electric breast pump will ensure a good suction and help prevent blockages. You don’t want a weak feeble pump. That is not going to help you.
Skipping a feed
Skipping a feed or a pump session can definitely leave you engorged. Which then leads to other problems, you don’t have time for. If you can feel like you may already have a clogged milk duct, DON’T skip a feed. It will only make things worse.
Tight bra, clothing or carrier
Anything tight, whether it be your bra, a tight shirt, or a baby carrier, purse, or even your seatbelt can cause a clogged milk duct. Any extra pressure or anything that is restrictive around your chest can lead to blocked ducts.
Sleeping on your tummy or even on your side can something leave you waking up in the morning with a new hard lump in your breast. The prolonged pressure and close contact with your bed can most definitely lead to some blockages.
This happened to me a couple of times when I would sleep on my side, but sometimes you can’t really control your sleeping positions.
Sleeping on your stomach will make this problem even worse, so definitely try to avoid that. Sorry stomach sleepers!
I think stress can play into just about anything, but I do think it is true. Being stressed lowers your immune systems and can leave your body more prone to getting sick or dealing with various ailments.
Stress may not necessarily be a direct cause, but it can certainly make things worse.
17 ways to clear a clogged milk duct
- Frequent nursing
- Take a hot shower
- Phytolacca Decandra
- Dangle feeding
- Use heat
- Happy Ducts
- Use a handheld massager
- Avoid wearing a tight bra
- Experiment with different breastfeeding angles
- Warm diaper compress
- Try taking Sunflower Lecithin
- Use some essential oils
- Have an Epsom salt bath
- Drink pineapple juice
- Add some cabbage to your bra
- Castor oil
- Comb out the clogs
If you’re are reading this you are either sat here scrolling in absolute agony, you have dealt with these nasty little things before and want to be more prepared next time around.
Or maybe you are pregnant, new mother, or breastfeeding and are just making sure you have all the tools on hand if are lucky enough to experience a clogged duct.
Whatever category you fall into, here are some tried, tested, and effective (not to mention natural) remedies that will get that milk duct unclogged in no time.
1. Frequent nursing
I know, you probably are going to hate me suggesting this one but trust me, you have to. I know it hurts like nobody’s business but frequent nursing (or pumping) is essential for working out a plugged up duct.
Grit your teeth and get to it.
Even though your boob feels like it has a 50lb, solid, painful lump in it, don’t be tempted to skip out on feedings, because it hurts.
You NEED to work out the clog and NURSE, NURSE, NURSE (or PUMP).
And actually, sometimes pumping might be your next best option. Even if you exclusively breastfeed, using a good quality electric pump can sometimes be more effective than your baby.
2. Take a hot shower
Heat can do wonders for you! Turn on the shower, jump in and just let the hot, steamy water run straight over your chest.
Stay in there for as long as you want!
While relaxing in the shower, massage your affect breast and try to clear the clog by massaging and pulling towards the nipple. The heat can help unclog the blocked duct and you may even get some milk draining out in the shower.
If possible, immediately nurse or pump directly after the hot shower and continue to massage the lump out.
This is hands down a must-have for any lactating mother. It is my NUMBER ONE go-to for treating mastitis.
I even had success with this magic homeopathic remedy when I had a stubborn clogged milk duct I didn’t want to turn into mastitis.
Give this remedy a try and I can bet ya, that clogged milk duct will be gone before you know it.
4. Dangle feeding
Let gravity do some of the heavy liftings for you. In all seriousness, get on all fours, lean over your baby and let them nurse while your boobs dangle down.
It sounds weird and crazy but it can be really effective. Add a few gentle massages in there too and you can really start to clear that clogged milk duct.
5. Use heat
I know you can’t stand in the shower all day long, because you’ll turn into a prune and motherhood does carry other responsibilities too, but you can use heat in other ways too.
A heat pack will be your best friend if you are dealing with any breast discomfort.
Not all heat packs are made equal and not all heat packs are the perfect size for your bra. These Earth Mama heat packs are essential. You will not want to be without them, plus they fit just perfectly inside your bra!
6. Happy Ducts
Wish Garden Happy Ducts is a great herbal remedy that can be very effective in helping remove clogged milk ducts. Many mothers swear by its effectiveness and say it’s a must-have remedy for any lactating mother.
I have mentioned massage like a million different times already but sometimes you might need a massage with a little something extra.
Finding a handheld massager can be helpful in breaking up that clogged milk duct and offering some relief.
The lactation massager is a great option for helping clear out clogged milk ducts, improving milk flow, and emptying the breast. It is also waterproof so could even be used in the shower!
8. Avoid wearing a tight bra
Give your girlies the comfort of a good quality soft and comfortable nursing bra. They’ll thank you later I promise!
A tight, constrictive bra can be the worst thing for clogged milk ducts. And it definitely won’t help clear them out. Avoid anything constrictive around your chest whether it’s a bra, baby carrier or purse. Especially steer clear of any underwire bras!
Embrace the loose clothing and comfy bras.
9. Experiment with different breastfeeding angles
I know there are a ton of different holds and ways to breastfeed your baby and you probably have a couple go to options that seem to work well for both you and your baby.
But if you are dealing with a clogged duct or two, try repositioning yourself and your baby and see if a new angle can help draw that clog out.
If you are a pumper you could also try angling your pump in different directions or repositioning yourself until you find a spot that is most effective in clearing out the clog.
10. Warm diaper compress
This trick is heaven sent! Plus, I can pretty much count on the fact you have all of the supplies.
Grab a diaper and get some nice warm or even on the verge of hot water and pour some water into the diaper.
I know you will use up a few diapers with this mom hack, but it’s 100% worth it!
Then use your diaper as a hot compress and I can tell you from experience it feels amazing and offer soooo much relief so those tender plugged up ducts.
There are thousands of mamas out there that see great success with take sunflower lecithin. Sunflower lecithin is a natural fat emulsifier that can help reduce the buildup of clogs and also help clear out any existing clogged milk ducts.
This is a great product to have on hand especially if you are traveling or away from home.
It is important to note that there are two types of lecithin. I would recommend going with the sunflower lecithin as it is soy-free.
Most lecithins are soy-based and some women and children have sensitivities to soy. Plus, soy is usually genetically modified and engineered and is also estrogenic which can sometimes cause some issues with hormones.
I would go for the sunflower lecithin if it were me!
12. Use some essential oils
There are so many different types of essential oils out there, the lists can be a bit overwhelming. Here are the top 9 best essential oils for beginners if you want to learn about my main go-to’s.
Massage all over the affected breast while drawing it down to the nipple.
Do use caution if you have your baby nurse afterward, you don’t want them to get the oils too close to their face or eyes.
13. Have an Epsom salt bath
If you are anything like me, you take any excuse for a nice long soak in the bath. When dealing with a nasty clogged milk duct, run a nice hot bath and add some Epsom salt and soak for as long as you have time for.
Epsom salt has many great properties and can really help with your boob troubles.
Make sure you sink down into the bath and let the water cover you chest. And of course, you can try massaging the painful area so help clear out the clog.
14. Drink pineapple juice
While I know pineapple juice is a great go-to for cold, cough and congestion relief, it also can help clear out a clogged up hard clog.
I never actually tried this remedy, but I have heard lots of mothers have a ton of success with it. AND you get to enjoy some yummy pineapple juice while you are at it.
15. Add some cabbage to your bra
Cabbage leaves can be super helpful in drying your milk up, so you do need to use this one with a bit of caution if you still want to keep your milk production.
Try a cabbage leaf or even half of a leaf and stuff it right into your bra. You may smell a little cabbagy but it really will help!
Make sure the cabbage is completely covering with the clogged milk duct is and then just carry on your day with a little cabbage by your side.
16. Castor oil
Grab a flannel and some castor oil and make yourself a little compress. Castor oil can reduce inflammation, alleviate pain and also treat those stubborn clogged milk ducts.
If you can get your flannel warm (throw it in the dryer or something) and then apply the castor oil, that is your best bet.
Heat is your best friend when trying to clear out clogged milk ducts.
Be generous with the castor oil and then apply it to the affected area. Leave it on there for at 20-30 minutes. You can even try saran wrapping around your chest to keep it in place, just don’t do it too tight.
17. Comb out the clogs
Get the comb really soapy and wet and then comb from the affected area all the way out to the nipple.
Be soft and gentle and make sure you are using a large-toothed comb.
Clogged milk ducts can be so very painful, frustrating and inconvenient to say the least. Whether you are a first-time mama, or you have had 4 children, clogged milk ducts happen to the best of us.
Do your best to avoid them but sometimes they just are inevitable, but that’s life!
Hopefully, these tips will be effective and clear out any clogged milk duct you may have.
Have you had a clogged milk duct before? What is your most effective to get rid of them?