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Breastfeeding is hard enough already. Yet, here we are about to talk about how to clear a clogged milk duct. You know, just one of MANY breastfeeding challenges moms can face.
If you’re like me, you also probably never imagined you’d be up at 2 am googling how to clear a clogged milk duct, but here we are, girl. Here. We. Are.
Clearing a clogged milk duct can be tricky, but I have TWO secret tips to help you bust that clog:
- Haakaa Epsom Soaks
- Castor Oil Compresses
To find out how to use these tricks to unclog your milk duct, keep on reading below!
What causes a clogged milk duct?
A clogged milk duct is when your breast milk becomes obstructed within the milk duct.
Sometimes, it can be caused by a milk blister blocking the milk from exiting from your nipple.
Symptoms typically come on gradually and include:
- Swollen/tender lump in the breast
- Slow or no milk flow to the affected breast
- Hot or red skin on the affected breast
- Pain or discomfort during a letdown
- Sometimes, a noticeable small white milk bleb at the opening of your nipple
Common reasons a clogged milk duct occurs are:
- Missed feedings/pumping sessions
- Going too long between emptying your breasts
- Not emptying your breasts FULLY during a feed/pump (due to inefficient latching, not nursing long enough, not pumping long enough, using wrong flange sizes, etc…)
- Wearing a tight bra or clothing that hinders milk flow
- Having an oversupply of milk
Below, is an excellent video about what could happen if you DON’T clear out your clogged milk duct along with tips to help prevent that milk back up!
How long does a clogged milk duct last?
A clogged milk duct can last a while if not treated or unclogged correctly. If left untreated, you run the risk of developing an infection also known as mastitis.
Hence the importance of taking appropriate steps to get that duct unclogged ASAP as soon as you suspect it.
Be sure to keep on reading for tips on how to clear a blocked milk duct!
Can I pump or breastfeed with a clogged milk duct?
Absolutely! In fact, one method to help relieve a clogged milk duct is to increase your nursing or pumping sessions (which we’ll go more into below).
However, you may find that nursing and pumping is a bit more painful with a clogged duct.
If you find yourself in pain, you can try cold compressing or use the tips below to bust that clog for good!
How to clear a clogged milk duct for good!
Castor oil compress for clogged ducts
According to Healthline, castor oil use on the skin helps to “fight inflammation, reduce bacteria and soothe irritated skin”.
This is why it’s no surprise this method works wonders (as suggested by my lactation consultant) to help bust out a clogged milk duct!
- Take your washcloth and run it underwater so it’s nice and damp.
- Then, fold it into a small square (about the size of your hand) and gently pour the castor oil onto ONE side. Don’t drench it, just lightly cover the one side with oil.
- Stick the cloth into the microwave for about 10-15 seconds so it is warm to the touch (SHOULD NOT BE HOT).
- Apply the cloth to the affected part of your breast (wherever the clog is at) & leave it on for 20 minutes.
- After you’re finished, make sure you thoroughly clean your breast as you do not want the oil to be ingested by your baby. Castor oil is known for causing some serious GI Upset so we want to avoid ingestion by baby.
A few things to keep in mind is that castor oil can stain easily, so one tip is to use some saran wrap between the compress and your clothing.
Some suggest to go completely bare to avoid any staining of clothing at all.
Remember, you may need to try a few compresses throughout the day to ensure the entire clog is broken up and eventually dispells.
Use heat & massages
Using heat is a very effective way to open up those milk ducts allowing a better flow of milk to run through them. You can use warm packs or even a nice warm shower! I personally use warm packs as I find them to be much easier & you can take them anywhere!
Pair that with some gentle massaging of the breast to stimulate the clog to break down and pass-through can work as a wonderful pair!
In fact, I’ve had 2 clogged milk duct experiences. The first one wasn’t too bad and I almost didn’t notice it as the symptoms came on gradually over a few days.
I noticed it when I felt a firmness in my breast with a very milk pain when I could nurse my son.
I had read about the benefits of warm packing and massaging BEFORE nursing or pumping so I did it!
I warm packed my affected breast for about 5 minutes while massaging in between. Then I immediately set up my breast pump and continued to massage during my pump. Within 3 minutes I had a letdown and out came this little stringy-looking clogged milk!
It creeped me out a little, but I was able to remove the clog from the milk and save the rest without any problem! You don’t even have to do this, but it just made me feel better to remove the clog from the milk.
One last tip, a newer product I’ve seen floating around (and getting raving reviews) is called the LaVie Lactation Massager! It’s a small little massager created specifically to conveniently help clear clogged ducts and improve breast milk flow!
Now, I haven’t personally used this one myself, but with all the reviews, I am highly considering it for baby number 2!
Try the Haakaa Epsom Salt Hack (step by step how to use haakaa and epsom salt)!
I mentioned I’ve had 2 episodes of clogged milk ducts in the 15 months I breastfed my son. This hack saved me from the most painful one!
I actually found out about this little hack thanks to a helpful post that one of my favorite Breastfeeding supplement companies shared, Legendairy Milk.
They raved about how using the haakaa and epsom salt for clogged ducts was helping lots of moms!
Needless to say, I decided to give it a try!
- Fill your Haakaa manual pump with warm water to the top mixed with a heaping tablespoon of Epsom salt.
- Attach the Haakaa pump to your breast (like you normally would).
- Leave the Haakaa attached to your breast for 10-15 minutes as it uses suction mixed with the Epsom salt to draw out the clogged milk.
- Try doing this 2-4 times a day until the clog is finally all emptied!
When I tried this hack, it worked RIGHT AWAY! I literally was able to watch the stringy little clog slither out into my Haakaa and honestly, I felt instant relief too!
Once the clog was out, I hooked up to my actual breast pump to empty my breast fully and it was instant relief!
Definitely suggest giving this hack a try if you’re not having luck with anything else!
*If you’re feeling OVERWHELMED with all the challenges of breastfeeding, please know you’re not alone. You can also navigate these issues with much more confidence by taking a BREASTFEEDING CLASS! I recently had the pleasure of taking my friend & lactation educator Katie Clark’s Online Breastfeeding Class. It is LOADED with information for nursing moms, pumping moms, navigating side effects and much more, but even cooler – Katie has extended a special code (code: FITMOMMYSTRONG) to offer to all of you! So make sure you check out her online breastfeeding class while it’s still available!
How to unclog a milk duct by increasing nursing or pumping sessions
Although it might hurt during this time, increasing your pumping or nursing sessions can be a really helpful way to encourage more milk to be withdrawn from your breast.
However, the biggest point to make is that you want to be sure you’re emptying your breasts EFFICIENTLY and FREQUENTLY!
Try the infamous sunflower lecithin for plugged ducts!
The idea of how this supplement works is that it helps to decrease the thick stickiness of the milk by increasing polyunsaturated fatty acids in the milk.
After going through 2 episodes of clogged ducts (both in the same breast) I decided to try out sunflower lecithin for myself!
I can happily say that I never had another clogged duct again. Whether it was coincidence or the lecithin actually worked, I can’t say for sure. BUT I truly believe for myself that the supplement worked!
If you do end up trying this little hack, be sure to get a supplement of HIGH QUALITY! There’s a lot of ‘cheap’ options online that do not work equally.
If you aim to try this out, I’d highly encourage you to look into Legendairy Milk’s Sunflower Lecithin! That’s the same one I used and like I already mentioned, I can’t say enough great things!
Combat pain with cold compressing
Lastly, clogged milk ducts suck! In fact, they can be pretty painful. One of the best ways to combat the aching pain is by using a cold compress!
If you use the same warm packs as I do, you’ll be glad to know they also double as a cold pack! Win-win!
Simply place your pack in the fridge or freezer, apply to the tender area(s) of your breast and feel the relief.
How to clear a clogged milk duct to prevent mastitis
Clearing a clogged milk duct should be a priority the minute you recognize you have one.
As mentioned earlier in this post, it’s important to prevent things like infection or other issues associated with leaving a clogged milk duct untreated.
Give one of the methods above a try after running them by your doctor and/or lactation consultant and get that clog out today!
Clearing a clogged milk duct FAQ:
Now that you know the BEST remedies to help you clear out a plugged milk duct once and for all, let’s finish off with some common questions so that it all makes sense.
How Does Epsom Salt Help Clogged Milk Ducts?
Epsom salt is thought to help relieve a clogged milk duct in two ways.
- It can help to actively draw out the clog (when paired with warmth and in a haakaa with actual suction, this only intensifies its abilities).
- It can calm and reduce the swelling, allowing for the clog to pass through more easily.
Can anyone take sunflower lecithin for plugged ducts?
Although lecithin for plugged ducts is generally known to be safe, you should always consult with your medical provider and/or lactation consultant before adding any kind of supplements into your diet.
What should you do if your clogged milk duct won’t unclog?
If you’ve tried the clogged milk duct hacks above and are STILL unable to bust that clog, you should discuss the next steps with your lactation consultant right away.
If you’re making slow progress, but starting to feel signs of sickness (fever, chills, dizziness, muscle aches) it could be progressing to mastitis and you should talk with your doctor right away.
I hope these tips can help you not just clear a clogged milk duct, but PREVENT a clogged milk duct!
They’re no fun to deal with and I wish them on no one!
Now you know how to clear a clogged milk duct, did any of these remedies work for you?
Looking for more BREASTFEEDING tips & advice?