Clogged milk duct: Symptoms, treatment and prevention

Breastfeeding can be such a rewarding experience, but it can also be challenging. Breast pumping, leaking and feeding all night are all part of the process. And with exhaustion and a little one to feed, the last thing you want is to discover a clogged milk duct.

Whether you are a first-time mother or you have been on this path before, you have probably contacted other mothers or researched online to find the information you need.

In this article, we will address what causes a clogged milk duct, how to get rid of it, and ways to get back to your normal feeding routine.

Let’s get started.

Symptoms of a blocked milk duct

To understand what a clogged milk duct is, you need to look at the basic structure of how milk is transported through the breast to feed your little one.

Although we do not get too technical, the tubes that carry milk to your nipple area are called milk ducts, and sometimes these ducts do not drain properly or they become blocked.

It is usually possible to see if you have a clogged canal by simply looking at your breasts. For example, if you see that you have a red and irritated area around your breasts that feels tender or close to the touch, it is a good indication that you have a blockage.

Here are a few more symptoms that you may also experience:

  • A lump that appears on an area of ​​the breast
  • Swelling or pain near the lump
  • Some discomfort in the area, which subsides after breastfeeding
  • A blister at the opening of your nipple
  • Over time, the lump can move from one place in the breast to another
  • A temporary decrease in the milk supply in the affected breast
  • Thickened milk that looks like strings or grains when you pump

These symptoms usually affect one breast (the breast with the clogged canal) and they can leave it sore and painful.

When you are a breastfeeding mother who needs to provide her little food and also take care of herself, this is the last thing you will experience!

Don’t worry, we’ll share tips and tricks on how to get rid of this painful condition ASAP. But before we focus on how to treat and even prevent this from happening, we need to discuss what is causing it in the first place.

What causes this blockage?

Mom breastfeeds while she has a clogged milk duct

In a nutshell, a clogged milk duct is due to the breast not being completely drained while breastfeeding. Many things can contribute to this, including:

  • Tight clothing (eg sports bras, tight tops or even a baby harness that is too tight)
  • Missed feeding sessions
  • The same feeding position over and over again
  • Not enough feeding time
  • An incorrect lock
  • Rare feeding sessions

With regard to infrequent feeding sessions, it is important to note that your milk supply is affected by many different factors, including the number of times you breastfeed.

This means that the more you breastfeed your baby, the more your body is likely to produce milk. You can think of it as nature’s way of ensuring that you can supply your baby with enough milk for their growing body.

But what happens when you suddenly do not eat as often as you used to? Or when your little one is sick and not consuming as much milk as usual? Most likely, your breasts will not drain completely while you are breastfeeding, and this can contribute to a clogged milk duct.

Sometimes, however, clogged ducts can be due to how you breastfeed your toddler. For example, if your baby prefers to eat one breast over another, the less used breast may experience clogging.

In addition, stress, fatigue, an unbalanced diet and cracked skin on the nipples can also cause you to develop clogged milk ducts.

If you have a challenge with cracked skin on your nipples, breastfeeding can be incredibly painful and uncomfortable. And as a result, you can avoid breastfeeding your toddler with that breast to let it all go.

But keep in mind that this can cause clogging because the breast will be used less frequently and will not be drained as it should.

To prevent and treat cracked nipples, try ours Nursing Comfort Balm. It is packed with nourishing properties that will help soothe and moisturize your skin after each feeding. It is also 100% plant-based and completely safe for both you and your baby.

Now that you understand the symptoms of a clogged canal and what causes it, how exactly can you get rid of it at home?

How to treat a clogged milk duct

Mother breastfeeding a baby

Although it may feel uncomfortable, the good news is that most clogged ducts tend to subside after a few days and you can usually treat the symptoms at home.

Your best (and fastest) plan to get rid of clogging is by regularly breastfeeding your little one. Doing this and emptying the affected breast after each feeding session can really help.

How will you know you have “emptied” your breast?

The best way to see if your breast is empty is simply by feeling it. Your breast should produce little or no milk when you squeeze it, and it will also feel much lighter than before you started breastfeeding.

If your little one is having a hard time draining your breasts (i.e. they get full quickly), you can also use a breast pump to help.

In addition to making sure you drain your breast after each feeding session, here are a few more tips for treating clogged milk ducts at home:

  • Massage the clogged area while breastfeeding or pumping. You can use our baby massage oil with avocado, start just above the clog and push down towards your nipple.
  • Start your feeding sessions with the affected breast to increase the chances of it being drained.
  • Apply heat to your breasts for about 20 minutes. You can do this with a hot shower or by using a heating pad.
  • Soak your breasts in a warm bath. Our organic bath and body gift set is perfect for this. The cleansing gel cleanses and nourishes your skin, while the moisturizing cream helps prevent dryness and promotes soft, healthy skin.
  • Nurse in a position that puts your baby under your breasts. This can allow gravity to drain your breasts.
  • Avoid wearing custom bras and tight tops.

The above tips can help remove clogging of your channels in a few days. But how can you prevent it from happening again? Let’s see.

When to see a doctor

As highlighted above, a clogged milk duct can usually be treated at home and should subside within a few days. However, if this does not happen, you may need to contact your doctor.

Sometimes clogged ducts develop into an infection called mastitis. Symptoms of this condition include fever or chills and a lump of redness around it.

If your health care provider confirms that you have mastitis, they may put you on antibiotics to remove the infection.

Note: Do not hesitate to contact your doctor if you notice persistent symptoms. In this case, it may be something more serious, so an ultrasound or mammogram may be required.

How to prevent a clogged milk duct

The first step is to review your feeding routine. For example, if you miss a feeding session, or it is delayed, your breasts will not be drained as needed, which can lead to clogging. Therefore, it is important to breastfeed or pump at regular intervals.

While feeding schedules for infants may vary, experts recommend that breastfeeding mothers care for or pump eight to 12 times a day, especially in the early days of breastfeeding.

In some cases, you may also need the help of a breastfeeding specialist to see if your baby’s locking technique contributes to the clogged ducts.

In addition, it is important to continue breast-feeding if you notice a blockage, as stopping may make the problem worse. Continue breastfeeding, especially on the affected breast, changing feed positions and sides frequently.

One day at a time

Mother breastfeeds baby while she has a clogged milk duct

A clogged milk duct can be painful, uncomfortable and frustrating for both you and your baby. The good news is that it can usually be treated at home and often subsides after a few days.

If you follow the tips above and find that the problem persists for more than a few days, you can contact your doctor or breastfeeding specialist to find out what you can change in your routine to help deal with or prevent.

To make breastfeeding a little more comfortable, you can also use ours Nursing Comfort Balm. It is fragrance-free and made from 100% plant-based ingredients with nourishing properties that leave your skin soothed and moisturized after each feeding.

Breastfeeding is a journey that naturally comes with its ups and downs. So while taking care of your toddler’s needs every day, remember to also give yourself the love and patience you need. You have it here, Mom!