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Uh oh. It’s a Saturday morning. And you’ve woken up with pain in one or both of your breasts. If you’re looking for way to unplug or unclog a milk duct, look no further. The following is a huge list of tips and tricks to get rid of a clogged milk duct and combat mastitis, fast. I asked a ton of moms online, and here’s what worked for them.
Before we get into how to get rid of clogged milk ducts, a little PSA.
I am not a doctor. And if you’re starting to get a fever or chills or you feel like you have progressed to mastitis, I would highly recommend calling your doctor ASAP. I have had countless clogged ducts, but mastitis only once. When the “baby” I was breastfeeding was 16 months old… the doctors at the ER couldn’t even believe it, ha. But it was TERRIBLE. I was in SO much pain, and SO sick. Of course I started feeling like I had the flu early Saturday morning when my doctors offices were closed. So I headed into the ER. They were thankfully able to get me some pain killers and hooked me up to an IV drip of antibiotics. It was at that point. I left with some medication that helped clear it up in a matter of two days.
Had I not gone into the ER, things could have gotten very bad. I know many other women that have had to be admitted with an IV of antibiotics or their mastitis turned into an abscess because they waited too long to go in. I even know women that kept putting it off and her clogged ducts turned mastitis turned MRSA… which is not great. So please. Listen to your body, listen to your gut. And I’m going to say it again, if your clogged duct(s) make a turn for the worse, CALL YOUR DOCTOR.
Thankfully, not all my clogged ducts have turned into mastitis. And not all of yours will either.
P.S. A little forewarning: clogged ducts hurt like a beeyotch. And so does getting them out. Don’t torture yourself! But keep breathing and remember soon that relief will be on the other side. I remember one time in particular the clog was so close to my nipple. J didn’t want to nurse anymore, but between he and my massaging, we had almost gotten it out. So I took a deep breath, grabbed my comb and just kept going. I let out an audible “$H!T”, felt the pop, and before I knew it both J and I were covered with milk.
One last reminder before we get into all the helpful tips and tricks to get rid of a clogged duct. Remember to use code SHYNNZ20 to save on your purchases at Kindred Bravely!
Tips + tricks for getting rid of clogged milk ducts:
In no particular order:
Consider switching bras!
One of the first things my lactation consultant told me was to ditch my too-tight nursing bra. And she suggested switching to a lighter, looser fitting sleep & nursing bra. So first things first, I took a break from my regular nursing bras, and opted for two different things. One: a nursing tank during the day. The Kindred Bravely Simply Sublime Maternity & Nursing Tank is always my go-to. It gives me just the right amount of support without being too tight to cause problems. And because the drop down cups are easily accessible, I can nurse and pump the clogged milk duct out, no problem.
Ditch your underwire bra!
Two:I made sure to switch to my Organic Cotton Crossover Nursing & Sleep Bra at night. Again, I was still able to feel supported at night, without being too tight. And the organic cotton allowed for stretch and breathability. Plus, it helps keep nursing pads in place! At night when J starts to get hungry, it’s easy to bring him to my breast and night nurse. Underwire bras are more likely to cause clogged ducts, so using the sleep nursing bra is an easy switch. Need a great bra that lifts and supports? Check out Kindred Bravely’s Marvella! All the support, with none of the wires. And remember, the easier you make round-the-clock nursing and pumping, the quicker your clogged milk duct will resolve!
Get in the shower!
Under warm or hot water, massage the clogged duct in a circular motion towards your nipple. Use a lot of pressure if you can.
I found this especially helpful after and in between massaging in the shower.
A tip for massaging out clogged milk ducts in the shower:
Use a wide tooth comb! This way your hands and fingers won’t get tired. And I found that the harder material of the wide tooth comb made breaking up the milk clog so much easier. Make sure it’s not a flimsy comb and can handle some pressure. Also check that the “nubs” (pointed ends) are soft or rounded enough to not hurt you! Maybe even consider going with a shower safe wide tooth comb to make sure it’s water safe. Sometimes I’d even add a little soap to help.
Use a vibrator or electric toothbrush!
I know women that swear by this buzz-ing “breast” friend technique. All I can speak for is the electric toothbrush, ha, but it totally works! I’ve especially found my Philips electric toothbrush works way better than the cheap-o electric toothbrush. So I’m assuming the more powerful your electric friend’s buzz, the better. One that has been recommended to me multiple times is those Therapeutic Wand Massagers! Turn on your vibrator or electric toothbrush and roll over the clog, going in motions towards the nipple. Pump and knead on your breast over the lump with your other hand to really get that clogged milk duct out.
Nurse, nurse, nurse!
Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do with a clogged duct and even if you’re stricken with mastitis. Nurse as much as possible on your clogged side. However make sure to continue to offer the other breast as well. You’ve already got one clogged milk maker, you don’t need another one!
Try the football hold. Or reverse whatever hold you’ve been doing. This will reverse the suction in a new direction, and can help dislodge the clogged milk duct.
Especially helpful nursing tips with clogged ducts:
Dangle nursing! Get on your hands and knees over baby, and bring your breast and nipple to baby’s mouth. It’s definitely a weird position, but this has been one of the best ways for me personally to get rid of clogged milk ducts. While dangle nursing, have baby’s chin the same direction as the clog. That way the milk will come from one of the clogged ducts in that part of your breast!
If you’re pumping and need some relief, do the dangle pump! Just like with dangle nursing, get on your hands and knees and pump, pump, pump! Definitely use your hands to massage while pumping, as well. The massage and sucking motions will help break up the milk duct clog faster when you pair them together.
Dangle nursing somewhat helping? Massaging under water somewhat helping? But not quite there? Try this genius tip to break up the clogged ducts:
Get in the tub, and get on your hands and knees. Make a note of where your breast kind of is, and fill the tub with warm water up to your breast level. I found the warmer the water, the better this was for me. But after you get on your hands and knees, use your hands to hand express, with your breast submerged under water! This puts gravity and the heat in your favor. And that clogged duct won’t know what hit ’em.
Dont want to fill a whole tub? Or don’t have access to one? Use a sink! Fill your sink with warm / hot water. Lean over the sink and submerge your nipple and breast. Massage the lump and the warmth, gravity and pressure should all work together just like in the bath!
Try raw potato slices!
While I cant say I’ve ever done this, multiple people have told me this works for them. And most of them told me it was important to do this method within the first 24 hours so keep that in mind. To use a raw potato to get rid of clogged ducts and mastitis: Slice like 6 raw potatoes lengthwise into thin strips. Put in a bowl of water and leave for somewhere around 20 minutes. Once time is up, apply slices of raw potatoes to the breast. The women who suggested this say they covered their entire breast with the potato slices, not just over where the clogged milk duct was. If you try this method, you’ll have to tell me how it goes!
This can be a heating pad, a hot water bottle, a hot towel (I soak a towel with water, wring it out and pop it in the microwave). Whatever works. Women have suggested Hot Hands packs to stick into my bra, which totally worked!
Try an ice pack!
Too much heat can actually cause swelling, which will only make it harder for the clogged milk duct to pass. Try an ice pack until five minutes before nursing or pumping that side to reduce swelling. And then a super hot shower to help your milk flow and let down before nursing. If you can, massage with a comb as mentioned above while in the shower.
Get sunflower lecithin!
Maybe chat with your doctor or lactation consultant about first, but this is one of the biggest recommendations I was given. Especially for women who get frequent clogged ducts or bouts of mastitis! The huge majority of responses all told me that sunflower lecithin saved them. Women who had clogs all the time said it totally stopped once adding the lecithin. And good news is it’s available on Amazon and at all health food stores! There is also soy lecithin that is beneficial as well. And from a little research it seem like B-complex, thyme and even evening primrose oil have also been found to be helpful for breastfeeding and pumping moms to keep recurrent plugged ducts at bay.
Here’s where a little caution needs to come into play. I have heard great things about cabbage leaves for clogged ducts. But I’ve also heard about using them for drying up your milk supply. So. Use your brain and don’t overdo the leaves. From what I understand, as long as they are used infrequently for short periods of time, you should be fine. However, if you’re struggling with undersupply at all, I would highly suggest leaving this one until the very end.
Have your partner suck it out.
Okay, hear me out. I know this one is usually a hard sell. Which is why I left it for last, ha. BUT, this one trick totally saved me when I went on a weekend getaway with my husband for 3 nights. I forgot any type of pumping mechanism and by the first night I was miserable. Hand expressing wasn’t really working for me. And my poor arthritic hands were just dying. So I begged my husband to help me out. Yes, it definitely took a little convincing, but he finally said yes. Just tell him: “you dont have to swallow”! HA. Because seriously, SWEET RELIEF! It only took him a few little sucks and oh my heck it instantly felt better.
I hope this has helped with any questions you may have on the best ways to remove clogged ducts before it turns into mastitis. Or even what to do after you’ve been diagnosed with mastitis and want to make sure you’re in the clear.
Let me know if you have any further suggestions for clearing blocked / plugged milk ducts in the comments below!
If you have ANY other nursing or pumping questions, head over to Kindred Bravely! Their blog is incredibly informative and offers tons of suggestions for pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding, pumping and more. And don’t forget to use code SHYNNZ20 to save on all your purchases at Kindred Bravely!