Lets face it. Breastfeeding can be hard. And intimidating. And even at times, painful. But it can also be a beautiful sacrifice that you make for your little one. One of the harder things to deal with when you are breastfeeding is the pain. Those little mouths hurt! But it isn’t always painful. There are so many things you can do to help with the pain. And also prevent it. One of the most common problems women have while breastfeeding is a clogged milk duct. This happens so often while nursing and can be quite painful. I’ve experienced this multiple times and have become an expert at how to clear them. So I’m going to tell you how I have been able to clear clogged milk ducts.
So first things first.
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What is a clogged milk duct? How does it become clogged?
Well a milk duct that is clogged happens when the milk that is being produced is more than what is being expressed. It becomes backed up and the duct clogs. The tissue surrounding the duct then becomes swollen and inflamed and ultimately blocked. The duct becomes clogged for several reasons.
- You missed a nursing session or pumping session
- Your bra or shirt might be too tight fitting
- You slept on your breasts
- Breast shields are too small
- Latching issues
- Nipple shield usage
So how do you know you have a clogged milk duct?
- You will feel one or more hard little knots or lumps in your breast or breasts.
- The breasts will be sore. Like someone gave you a bad bruise.
- The area on the breast may be red or look irritated
- Breasts are tender and look swollen
- Painful to nurse or pump, especially at letdown.
- Breast will feel warm
Next let’s talk about how we clear clogged milk ducts
- Putting a warm compress on before nursing or pumping can help. I use the Lansinoh heating pads and love them. They can be heated up or frozen and you just stick them in your bra and the best part is there is no mess afterwards like using a wet washcloth would be or having to stay near an outlet to plug in your heating pad.
- Take a warm shower to help signal let down. Let the water hit down over your breasts, specifically the lumpy areas.
- While pumping, massage the breast moving from the top of the breast to the end of the nipple. Try to massage the knots and lumps as much as possible. It can be very painful, but the only way to unclog the duct is to loosen up the knot.
- Pump or nurse longer. If you are nursing, try switching position of babies mouth. If you are pumping, add one more letdown cycle then you usually do. That way the breasts are being fully drained. Some women say that positioning your baby at your breast with the chin pointed toward the knot or lump and then have them latch will work wonders on unclogging the plug.
- Nurse, Pump, Hand express until the breasts are fully drained. The only way to unclog it is to drain those boobs!
Finally, How do we prevent clogging our milk ducts?
- Breastfeed and pump on a regular basis
- Do not let yourself miss too many nursing or pumping sessions, this will cause you to become engorged
- Wear a good fitting bra with no underwire or no bra at all when you can
- Don’t sleep on your stomach if possible. Putting pressure on the breasts can help clog the milk ducts
- Use different positions when nursing your baby to completely drain your breasts. Also do this when pumping by moving the shield around to different positions on your breast.
- If baby has not completely drained your breasts when nursing, then pump the rest out with a breast pump or manual expression.
- Massage while you pump. This helps get out a lot of the milk that doesn’t come out when you are nursing and pumping.
- Make sure you wipe your nipples off with a clean washcloth or wipe after nursing or pumping, to prevent getting clogging the openings of your nipples and getting dried milk there. This used to happen to me all the time. It’s much easier to wipe them off each time than to wait til you shower. It’s a little painful to get it off once it dries.
What if I cant unclog my milk duct?
If you have tried everything above and can’t unclog your milk duct or you are noticing signs of Mastitis then you need to immediately call your doctor to be seen.
What are the signs of Mastitis?
- Most of the symptoms from a clogged duct, but everything will be more intense
- You might see red streaks on your breast
- You will ache and feel like you have the flu
- Fever and chills alternating or just one or the other
What causes mastitis?
- Clogged milk duct
How is it treated?
- pump and nurse frequently
- massage breasts from top to end of nipple
- warm shower
- lots of fluids
- lots of rest
- antibiotics if it is bad enough
Make sure that if you are experiencing mastitis symptoms, that you immediately see your doctor. It can be dangerous if left untreated.
Clogged milk ducts can be a pain, but they can be treated and are fairly easy to prevent. I hope that this helps you unclog your milk ducts the next you time you find yourself with one.
Do you have any tips on how to prevent clogged milk ducts or how to treat them? Let me know in the comments!