Clogged Milk Duct (Causes, symptoms and home remedies)

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A clogged milk duct, otherwise known as plugged or blocked ducts is an experience where there is a blockage in the milk duct, thereby, resulting in an insufficient emptying of the duct.

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Breastfeeding is one of the first interactions between a mom and her newborn. However, this experience differs from one woman to another. So, the state of a limited supply of breast milk could be a result of a clogged breast milk duct.

However, this condition of sore breasts or the growth of small lumps on the breasts is enough to get any mom irritated and give up on breastfeeding. Clogged milk ducts could arise as a result of inadequate emptying of breast milk during feeding, changes in feeding pattern, wearing tight clothing and bras, and maintaining a static breastfeeding position.

Besides, a clogged breast milk duct could result in a serious case of mastitis – a painful breast infection. However, this condition is treatable. Therefore, to have a smooth breastfeeding experience, either as a first-time mom or an old mom – there is a need to understand everything about clogged milk ducts.

What Is A Clogged Milk Duct?

This is the growth of a tender lump in the breast which is caused by milk build-up. This could be as a result of some factors, which include; poor latching, wearing of tight clothing and bras, irregular breastfeeding, the use of weak breast pumps, among other factors.

However, no matter how overwhelming this might be, it is something that can be treated if handled in the right way.

Symptoms Of Clogged Milk Duct

For first-time moms, clogged milk ducts can result when the breast milk is not adequately emptied leading to a feeling of lumps on the breast. When this happens – moms feel discomfort and pains. This on the other hand can cause the baby to cry because little or no breast milk is gotten from the breast.

So, the following are some of the symptoms of a clogged milk duct;

  • Feeling of pain around a certain area of the breast
  • Milk blisters on the nipple
  • Tender and swollen lump on the breast
  • A decrease in milk supply
  • A feeling of discomfort that disappears after the pumping of breastfeeding
  • Redness and swelling on the nipple
  • Swelling and heat in that area of the breast
  • Expressed milk could be fatty and thickened

How To Clear Clogged Milk Duct

There might not be a need to visit a doctor when you are experiencing a clogged breast milk duct. However, if its nipple gets hot and red which eventually results in a fever – this might be the onset of mastitis – a painful breast infection that might need the attention of a medical practitioner.

Usually, symptoms of clogged milk disappear within 1 to 2 days with or without treatments. Therefore, the following tips would help you unclog your breast milk duct;

One of the surest ways of unclogging your milk duct is through consistent and regular breastfeeding. So, any mom with a feeling of pain would want to think of quitting breastfeeding – but the secret is to continue breastfeeding and to empty the breast milk at every feeding session.

Also, if the baby is unable to drain the milk completely or unable to properly latch – you could introduce a breast pump which will help to completely drain the milk from the breasts.

Soak the affected breast in warm water for at least 10 to 20 minutes and gently massage the clog

Desist from using the same feeding position – this improves your baby’s suction ability

Gently massage the clog

Try different breastfeeding styles because this helps to unclog the milk and empty the milk

Desist from wearing tight bras and clothing

Applying a warm cloth for about 20 minutes on the affected part can also help to clear the clogged duct.

Moms should always begin feeding their young ones from the affected breast.

Also, you could lay your baby down on a soft surface and lower your breast and let your baby feed from your dangling breast because gravity assists to unclog your milk duct.

Eating anti-inflammatory foods could also be of help – these foods include nuts, green vegetables, berries, tomatoes, fatty fish, and citrus fruits.

Increase your water intake

Clogged Milk Duct VS Mastitis

 Clogged milk ductMastitis
DefinitionThe blockage or obstruction in some of the milk ducts in the breast. It could be on the nipple or inside the tissuesThis could be as a result of allergy or infection and it happens especially during the first month of feeding and at weaning
SignsTenderness of the nipple, swelling, warm skin, tender lump.It happens in one breastSimilar signs as clogged duct but could also include; fever, chills, body aches.It could happen in both breasts
CausesPoor milk removal
Excessive oversupply of milk
Tight bras and clothing
Poor pump flanges
Changes in feeding time
Overuse of pacifiers
Nipple shield
Untreated clogged milk duct
Bleeding or cracked nipple
Bacterial infection
Weakened immunity 
Side effectsInadequate flow of milk
Thickened or fatty looking milk (not harmful to your baby) 
Gelatin-like milk (not harmful to your baby)
Milk might become saltier making your baby turn down that affected part
For severe cases, there could be blood or mucus in the expressed milk – you  might need to visit your pediatrician if you have other concerns
TreatmentsDirect breastfeeding is encouraged and if it’s painful – a breast pump can be used instead.Apply warm bath. Massage the breast while the baby is nursing. Wear loose clothing and a bra.
Enough rest
Discontinue from sleeping on your stomach
Regular and consistent nursing
Complete emptying of the breasts
Enough rest
Visit your doctor if you have on both breasts

How Long Does A Clogged Milk Duct Last?

Clogged milk ducts usually get resolved within 24 hours to 48 hours after its commencement. However, exceeding the 48-hour mark could lead to mastitis. 

Essential Oils For Clogged Milk Duct

One of the safest ways of dealing with clogged milk ducts as a mom is by using essential oils. For the best results, you can add some drops of these essential oils to coconut oil and apply them to the affected breasts. However, moms must ensure that the nipples are adequately rinsed before the next feeding session so that babies don’t have a taste of the oil.  So, the following are some of these essential oils;

  • Lavender essential oils
  • Geranium essential oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Neroli
  • Frankincense
  • Roman chamomile
  • Myrrh
  • Wild orange
  • Sandalwood

How To Massage Clogged Milk Duct

So, for a clogged milk duct – this could be painful so the massaging should be gently done. This experience can be treated as soon as it is noticed.

Besides, you could apply a warm bath before pumping or breastfeeding as this will help the pain to subside. Also, you can gently use your hand to massage the hardened part near the nipple – you should therefore focus only on the clogged duct area.

Massaging can also be done using gravity making use of the same technique above – which will help to reduce any swelling and pain. The above process should be repeated over and over again until you no longer find painful or hard spots on the breast.

Clogged Milk Duct In Armpit

This experience is a weird one but it does happen and it is as a result of different changes that have taken place or its taken place during the motherhood adventure.

So, if you discover a milk duct in your armpit while still breastfeeding – you need not fret yourself because it’s normal and it happens at the early stage of breastfeeding.

Therefore, in getting rid of clogged milk ducts in your armpit; you need to massage the hardened part towards the nipple, use a warm compress, warm bath, or showers, and regular removal of breast milk either through pumping or breastfeeding.

However, continuously blocked milk duct in the armpit or the breast could lead to breast abscess or mastitis and in severe cases – could be a sign of breast cancer. Therefore, you can visit your doctor for an ultrasound, CT scan, mammogram, or MRI scan on the lump.

How Do You Know When A Clogged Milk Duct Is Free? 

There should be a feeling of relief as soon as the clogged milk duct is unblocked. Another notable sign is the fact that the milk begins to flow more during pumping or breastfeeding. However, there might still be some feeling of soreness some days after becoming unclogged. Also, there might still be some clumps in the expressed milk – which is safe for the little one.

Clogged Milk Duct After Stopping Breastfeeding

The following tips will help you prevent clogged milk after you stop breastfeeding;

  • Always wear a firm bra
  • Use breast pads inside the bra to help soak milk leakages
  • Handle your breasts gently because they can easily bruise
  • You could express some milk whenever the breasts are full
  • Besides, there is a need to increase your daily water intake
  • Do not wear things that can put excessive pressure on the breasts
  • Also, some medications can be used for this purpose – however, there is a need to consult your doctor or lactation consultant before embarking on this.

Final Thoughts

A clogged milk duct could result in a painful experience to handle but it’s something that can be treated at home within 2 to 3 days from onset.

However, once it persists beyond 2 days – you should consult your doctor or your lactation consultant as this could be the case of mastitis. Your doctor would help with the necessary prescriptions to arrest the onset of any form of infection.

Therefore, you should breastfeed regularly and don’t skip any pumping or feeding sessions as this could cause a clogged milk duct.

Have a smooth and stress-free breastfeeding adventure!!

Lily & The MBH Team
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