If you want to watch a mom involuntarily wince, just say the phrase “clogged milk duct.”
Not only are they feels-like-you-got-punched-in-the-boob painful (quite possibly the female equivalent to a guy getting kicked in the junk?!), they’re also troublesome because they can lead to the dreaded mastitis.
I’ve had my fair share of troubleshooting clogs while feeding two babies, so I wanted to share a few tips from along the way in case you find yourself in a similar situation:
Breastfeed. Your baby is very efficient at draining milk from your breast. If latching is too painful, begin nursing from the opposite side to encourage let-down, and then switch sides.
Pump. The same goes for pumping; the object is to get that duct open and keep the milk flowing, so pump, pump, pump it up.
Positioning. Use gravity with a “dangle feed” to help get things moving. And try a similar position while pumping, as well.
Moist heat. The idea here is to reduce inflammation and pain, plus stimulate circulation. Take a hot shower or sit with a hot compress (don’t have one? simply wet a baby diaper & zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds) prior to feeding/pumping.
Vibration. My PT recommended this for helping to loosen things up and stimulate milk flow. And electric toothbrush works perfectly when used in small, circular motions!
Massage. Apply some lotion and massage out any lumps and bumps with your fingers, working from the back of the breast toward the nipple.
Sunflower Lecithin. Lecithin is reported to decrease the viscosity (stickiness) of the milk, thus helping it flow more freely. The recommended dosage for helping to clear a clogged duct is 3600-4800 mg lecithin per day, or 1 capsule (1200 milligram) 3-4 times per day. You can decrease the dosage as symptoms decrease/disappear.
Anti-Inflammatories. I’ve had good success with using ibuprofen to treat pain and inflammation, helping to open up and clear out those angry ducts.
Compressions and/or Hand Expression. While pumping, work on any areas that are hard or tender in an attempt to un-stick the milk. For particularly troubling spots, you can also hand express after feeding/pumping, which often helps get things moving (and can even increase supply!).
Loose Clothing. Wearing a tight or poorly-fitting bra, constrictive clothing or anything that smushes your breasts can impede milk flow and contribute to a clogged duct. Loosen up!
Sleep Position. Continuous pressure on your breasts while lying on your stomach or even in some side positions can also hinder milk flow, so switch it up frequently (or bust out that pregnancy pillow again).
Ultrasound. When all else fails, find a local physical therapist who specializes in women’s health. Whenever I had a pesky duct that just wouldn’t loosen up on its own, a session or two with my PT worked wonders.
Mamas, any other tricks for finding relief with clogged milk ducts? Please share!
Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional; this advice is purely shared based on personal experience. Please see your doctor to get clearance before trying anything new!