Whether you’re breastfeeding or exclusively pumping, feeding your baby is not without pain like a clogged milk duct!
It’s amazing to be able to meet all your baby’s nutritional needs because of the breastmilk you’re providing.
But nursing for any amount of time is a struggle.
If you’re crying in pain from a clogged milk duct, you need relief FAST!
Take it from someone who suffers from reoccurring clogged ducts…
Here’s 8 things I do to relieve a clogged duct ASAP!
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How To Know If You Have A Clogged Milk Duct
At the start of a clogged milk duct, you may not notice it because you’re not having any pain… Yet!
Most women know when a milk duct has become clogged because the pain sets in.
I’d describe the pain as a type of burning, pressure pain (if that makes sense). Trust me, you know when you have a clogged duct or not because you’ll probably find it hard it concentrate let alone breastfeed/pump because of the pain!
Here are the symptoms of a clogged duct to watch out for:
- A lump in one or both breasts (depending on how many clogs there are)
- Swelling/engorgement around the lump
- Pain associated with the lump (it hurts to touch)
- Pain when letdown occurs
- A milk blister or bleb on the nipple (not always)
- The pain is lessened after nursing or pumping
- The lump may move over time
According to Medical News Today, a clogged milk duct will resolve itself in 1 to 2 days without (or with) treatment.
Respectfully, I disagree! I’ve never had a clogged duct that just disappears on its own.
With oversupply I’m running the issue of constantly dealing with clogged ducts and it’s literally a pain!
I can’t just continue on pumping and not actively try to relieve the pain without the following 8 treatments!
Related Articles: How I Maintain An Oversupply Of Breast Milk
1. Warm Compress
A warm compress not only alleviates the pain from clogged ducts, but it also helps ‘loosen’ the milk to help with letdown.
There’s a couple ways to go about applying heat to the clog. You can always take a small hand towel, wet it with warm water. Ring it out and place it over the breast.
Or you can buy specific breast compresses to pop in the microwave and place in your bra before breastfeeding or pumping.
I use these breast therapy packs from Lanolin. They do help with letdown tremendously.
This form of treatment only requires you to apply a warm compress of your choosing for 10 to 15 minutes before breastfeeding or pumping.
Until your milk duct is clear I would apply warm heat before every feeding.
If you have the time, you could take a shower instead of applying a warm compress!
2. Epsom Salt For Clogged Ducts
Epsom salt soaks help ease a variety of ailments. But I bet you didn’t know you can soak your breasts in epsom salt for clogged ducts?!
While this method does work, I would avoid epsom salt for clogged ducts if you have cracked nipples. Salt and open wounds tend to not feel good!
To find relief try epsom salt for clogged ducts by…
- Fill a sink or large bowl with warm water
- Mix a handful of Epsom salt into the water
- Lower the affected breast (or both) into the water
- Soak for 10 minutes before each feeding/pumping
- Rinse breast before feeding
Repeat this process for 24 hours.
3. Dangle Feed
If you’ve never heard of ‘dangle feeding’ before you are missing out!
Although it’s not the most comfortable breastfeeding position, it does serve a greater purpose… To help clear clogged ducts!
The theory behind dangle feeding is that gravity will assist you in getting milk flowing again through a clogged milk duct.
Here’s how to dangle feeding:
- Find a comfortable area where baby can lay flat or slightly elevated (I like to lay baby on the floor)
- Now ‘dangle’ your breast over the top of baby’s mouth to get a good latch
That’s it! Super simple! However, some babies might get fussy with a new breastfeeding position.
Since I really only breastfeed occasionally to provide my baby comfort and extra bonding, I’ve found you can still ‘dangle feed’ while exclusively pumping.
Just use your pump!
Here’s how to ‘dangle feed’ while pumping:
- Apply a quality nipple cream
- Insert your flanges into your pumping bra (a pumping bra is required for this)
- Turn on your pump
- Once you’ve gained plenty of suction, get on your hands knees and ‘dangle’ your breast while continuing to pump
4. Different Breastfeeding Position
Some babies are extremely picky. They want to be held a certain way and even breastfed a certain way.
If you are breastfeeding and your baby and you are accustom to a certain breastfeeding position, try a new one!
Sometimes your baby needs a change of position to get a deeper latch and improve sucking.
When it comes to clogged ducts, one of the most effective treatment methods is massage. For massaging a clog out, you need to gently massage AROUND the clog.
Do not press directly on the lump/clog itself. It’s very painful and will only lead to increased swelling.
Instead, take a small amount of coconut oil and make circular motions above and below the clogged milk duct.
Then begin to massage above and below the clog by stroking downward toward the nipple.
While this method can be used on its own, I’ve found for my own clogged ducts that I have to combine massage with some of the other methods.
Personally I would start with breast massage first to relieve clogged milk ducts.
Now you’re probably wondering why I put massage and express as two different treatment methods right?
Well, technically massage and expressing breastmilk are a bit different. With massage you won’t be actively trying to express milk out.
But with expression, you’re basically using your hand to force milk out.
I also put express as its own treatment for a clogged duct because you can express breastmilk in between pumping and feedings.
This will help not only eliminate pain and pressure, but help keep the breasts empty and milk flowing properly.
Just to be clear- Don’t dump your expressed breastmilk because of a clogged duct. Put in a breastmilk storage bag and freeze it for later.
Some women will dump their expressed breastmilk and it’s a waste! You and your body work really hard to make that milk so save every drop!
If you don’t want to express milk into a cup, than you can express while in the shower as well. I highly recommend it!
Related Articles: Everything You Need To Survive Colic In Your Newborn
Along with expressing in between feedings, you could pump instead. I still express from time to time, but find my hands tend to cramp up after a while…
It is hard work to express by hand! Plus, it’s time consuming!
However, if you exclusively pump (like me) then instead of pumping in between regular pumpings, you need to express.
You can also try turning up your pump power a little more. Not so much that you are in pain. Just enough to produce a stronger suction to possibly clear the clogged duct.
Have you ever seen pictures of women with cabbage stuffed into their bras? No they’re not crazy!
Let me be very clear about the use of cabbage leaves: Cabbage leaves are used for mastitis, engorgement and weaning. Therefore, cabbage leaves can lower milk supply. So be careful when using them!
Since they are not used simply for clearing a clogged duct, using cabbage leaves as a treatment for clogged ducts is a last resort.
This means you’ve tried every other treatment to clear the clogged milk duct and it has not worked and now you are now developing mastitis or already have it.
Cabbage leaves are incredible for helping ease mastitis! I’ve had mastitis a few times now because of clogged ducts and I’ve never had to get antibiotics to treat it.
I just use cabbage leaves instead!
Because you need to be very careful with cabbage leaves if you don’t want to lower your milk supply, use the following directions to alleviate a clogged duct that’s turned into mastitis:
- Peel off the outer layer of leaves to a head of cabbage
- Carefully peel one or two leaves off
- Use a rolling pin to make the leaves easier to lay against the breast
- Cut out the spine of the leaves
- Place the leaves inside your bra avoided the nipple area
- Wear the leaves for 20 minutes or until wilted
Now, I’ve heard many women say they use the cabbage leaves for 20 minute intervals multiple times a day usually after each feeding…
However, the use of cabbage leaves is all about how you feel. The minute you notice the clog gone or your symptoms subsided, stop using them!
Don’t run the risk of lowering your milk supply!
Remember- Cabbage leaves are your last resort option to relieve clogged ducts because they will dry up milk causing temporary low milk supply.
A clogged milk duct is no joke! It’s extremely painful and depending on how long it stays clogged I can develop into mastitis. Then you’re faced with a whole new load of issues!
All 8 treatment options above are guaranteed to unclog that milk duct for you!
The first choice for relief for me is always epsom salt for clogged ducts. This is by far the easiest to do!
I should know, I have reoccurring clogged ducts and it’s a constant challenge to keep them unclogged with an oversupply issue.
But I’ve used all the treatment options above to unclog milk ducts.
If a warm compress doesn’t work by itself, I begin massaging and expressing milk to see if that makes a difference.
After that I turn my pump strength up, dangle feed and then use cabbage leaves if all else fails. Anything to relieve the clogged duct!
Clogged ducts is an issue for breastfeeding/pumping moms everywhere.
Unfortunately, many women will stop breastfeeding/pumping due to the pain they’re experiencing.
Although it is completely your choice (and there is no shame is weaning early), you don’t have to sacrifice your breastfeeding journey because of a clogged milk duct.
You keep on feeding as much as you can!
You got this mama!
So start trying any of these 8 treatments for relieving clogged ducts FAST! So give epsom salt for clogged ducts a try first then continue on through the other remedies to get rid of that clog duct!