Having a clogged milk duct can leave you in pain, feeling discouraged and if untreated can lead to you having mastitis. Here you will find what a clogged milk duct is, what causes them, how to treat them, and tips to prevent the return of clogged milk ducts.
How To Clear A Clogged Milk Duct: Without Hurting Your Supply
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What is a clogged milk duct?
When you are breastfeeding milk travels from the alveoli (where breast milk is made) through milk ducts and then out of your nipple. These ducts are small can become clogged and as you produce more breast milk and nurse the milk back ups behind the clog leaving you with a hard lump.
This lump can become very painful, red, and if left untreated can lead to mastitis.
What is mastitis?
Mastitis is when the breast tissue becomes inflamed and may become infected. If you have mastitis your breast will be warm to the touch, red, very painful and you may feel like you have the flu. A fever, chills, body aches and this will require some antibiotics.
What causes a clogged milk duct?
You may be trying to figure out what you did to cause your ducts to become clogged. It can be as simple as baby slept longer and while thankful you did not pump to empty your breast. This means milk sat in your breast and due to its sticky nature it began for form a lump.
If this was not the case and baby has continued to nurse just as often as always your baby may have a poor or lazy latch and is not doing a good job of transferring breast milk. These means your breast is not getting “emptied” and is milk is left to sit.
Related Post: How to know if baby is full from breastfeeding
Some other common causes of clogged milk ducts:
- tight bra or shirt
- bra with underwire
- sleeping on your stomach
- over production
- too long in between feeds or pumps
How will you know if you have a clogged duct?
You will definitely be able to tell if you have a clogged milk duct. You should know what the normal texture of your breast tissues is especially while breastfeeding since you are constantly touching your breast. A clog will feel like a lump the size of a marble to the size of a golf ball.
At first it may not be painful but if not relieved it will began to painful and it may even turn red.
Can you have more than one clog?
Most definitely. You can have a breast full of clogs ranging in size especially if you went all night with out breastfeeding. While it may be amazing to get all that rest in the future dream feeding may be the trick to avoiding clogged ducts to develop over night.
I have personally had 15 clogs on one breast. You could see the little lumps and my breast was hard and heavy.
Clogged milk duct in armpit?
Sounds weird, but if you’re breast are full and find a lump in your armpit it most likely is a clogged milk duct. Try not to panic and try to relive the clog before making any calls to your doctor. Many women have milk ducts in their armpits.
If you felt that tingling, burning pain of left downs in your armpit then you are one of those with milk ducts in your arm pit.
How can you clear a clog?
These tips will be something every breastfeeding mom will need to know. At some point a clog is bound to happen. Whether it happens while your body is regulating your breast milk supply in the first 6 weeks or you get one when your baby starts to eat solids and nurses less.
Breastfeed or pump
The number one best tip is to nurse, nurse, nurse or pump if you are an exclusive pumper. Be sure that when you are breastfeeding your baby you are massaging your breast where the clog is. Start from the top of your breast and work your way towards the nipple.
If your baby is done nursing and you still feel the clog you can pump to try and pull out the clog. Don’t own a pump that is okay, you can hand express.
It may be painful to pump or hand express but the clog does need to come out to prevent the start of mastitis.
When baby is hungry again you can dangle feed. This means you stand above baby or lean over baby from above and let baby nurse. To make this even more effective point the babies nose to the direction of the clog.
If the clog is still not budging you can add some heat to the equation. You can either take a hot shower letting the water hit your breast while you massage it or use a heating pad.
If you don’t have a heating pad you can put hot water into a water bottle and rub that on your breast. I do recommend a heating pad though because it will come in handy with the shoulder pain that comes from holding your breastfed baby.
A lactation massager is essentially a vibrator. You use it with massage to physically break up a clog and improve the flow of breast milk.
Don’t be surprised if you see a long string like glob come out of your nipple. That is the clog! I know it may seem gross but hey you got the clog out! And that is what we are looking for
On the clog note don’t freak out if you don’t see one. Baby may have drank or it broke up enough that you didn’t notice it. As long as your lump is gone and milk flow is back you are good to go.
How to prevent a drop in your supply
When you have a clogged milk duct it can be painful to nurse on that side and your milk is not being drained from your breast. As you know breastfeeding is supply and demand. If milk is not coming out than milk is not being made.
Maintaining your supply through a clogged duct means you need to break up that clog as soon as possible and continue to nurse on that side despite the pain.
Doing so will ensure what milk you can get out from other ducts will keep up our supply and the more nursing on that side you do the more likely you are to get the clogged out. Once the clog is out make sure you nurse on that side first the next feeding to remind your body it still needs to make milk on that side.
How to prevent a clogged milk duct
Not a fan of clogged ducts or the fear of mastitis?
So here are some ways to prevent getting a clog.
If you are wearing an ill fitting bra it is time to get a new one! You don’t want it to be too tight and a while some people don’t have issues with underwire others do. If you are getting clogged ducts and wear an underwire bra it is time to ditch it.
Tight bras aren’t the only culprit though, tight shirts can have the same effect as a tight bra. So be more self aware when it comes to what you wear.
If baby does start sleeping longer stretches that is great but this means you may need to pump just to relieve some pressure or dream feed to drain the breast.
If baby is going longer stretches during the day you may just need to try to get baby to nurse even if for a few minutes or pump just enough to have some relief but don’t empty your breast. If you do you could trigger an over supply which can lead to more clogged ducts.
If you are a working mom and only get a limited pump break you can hand express a little every time you use the restroom to prevent engorgement. And don’t forget you can get an adapter for your car so you can pump on the drive to and from work!
Clogged ducts suck
I think it is fair to say that clogs are one of the biggest downfalls of breastfeeding. They are so uncomfortable and can cause panic with the fear of mastitis.
You can act quickly and get those clogs taken care of and with the right steps you can prevent them from happening again.
Try not to let the fear of a clogged duct get to you. It does not mean you will get mastitis, or that something is wrong with you. Simply pay a bit more attention to what your body is telling you and will be just fine!
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