When I woke up 1 week after the birth of my daughter with a bright red breast that was painful and hot to the touch I knew something was up! Luckily I had been educated about clogged milk ducts and mastitis so I knew to call my midwives right away! Those wonderful women had me fixed up in no time! As someone who has experienced an extremely painful clogged duct, I wanted to share how I was able to treat my clogged duct quickly and naturally!
What is a Clogged Milk Duct?
A clogged milk duct occurs when the breast is not being completely drained during a feeding (or pumping session). Breastmilk begins to back up within the duct and can cause a blockage which can be extremely painful! Clogged ducts that are not treated properly can lead to Mastitis and other breast infections! Yuck!
Causes of Clogged Duct
Clogged Ducts can be the result of many different things.
- Improper Latch: An improper latch can cause Baby to not get all the milk you are producing. This is bad for Baby and bad for you AND your milk ducts.
- Pressure on the breasts: Pressure on breasts can occur from wearing clothes that are too tight or even from sleeping on your stomach.
- Stress: Too much stress causes so many problems within your body and your breasts are no different. Specifically, stress can disrupt your production of oxytocin which is the hormone that helps your body release breastmilk.
- Skipped Feeds: This can happen when you skip a breastfeeding session and give your baby a bottle instead. It can also happen when you go back to work and your pumping schedule doesn’t match what your breastfeeding schedule used to be.
- General overproduction: For the most part your body will produce the amount of milk your baby needs, however, there are times when your body doesn’t get the message fast enough and you have an overproduction issue. This can lead to a clogged duct if not dealt with properly.
Warning Signs of a Clogged Duct
Clogged ducts are pretty easy to self-diagnose. There will most likely be hard lumps in the breast that are extremely tender to the touch. You might also notice redness and swelling. You are also likely to feel pain before nursing that is relieved or alleviated after a breastfeeding or pumping session.
Early Treatment of a Clogged Duct is Key!
If you think you have a clogged duct it is important to treat it quickly and aggressively! The quicker you treat the clogged duct the more likely you are to prevent Mastitis which will often require the use of antibiotics. I don’t know about you but I always try to avoid using antibiotics whenever possible!
There is good news! If you think you might have a clogged duct there are many natural and home remedies you can do to treat the blockage before it turns into a full-blown infection!
Nurse! Nurse! Nurse!
Nursing when you have a clogged duct is the most effective thing you can do!
Pumping also works, however, nothing drains breastmilk as efficiently and effectively as a hungry baby.
When trying to clear a blockage nurse from the clogged breast first. Babies often suck hardest at the beginning and your little one might be able to clear that clog all on his very own! If it is too painful to nurse on that breast first try switching over as quickly after letdown as possible OR pump for a few minutes to relieve pressure and then place baby on the breast.
While Baby is nursing it is helpful to massage the clogged area towards the baby’s mouth to help break up the blockage. A common suggestion was to point baby’s chin towards the sore spot but recent research suggests this might not be necessary. My advice would be position baby’s chin towards the sore spot IF possible but don’t feel like you need to engage in breastfeeding yoga and contortion to achieve this! If you can get baby’s head in that position great if you can’t then don’t worry! You do you.
If after baby has finished nursing and you still feel engorged and in pain, it might be helpful to pump for a few minutes after. Be careful about pumping too much because this can cause more oversupply which can then lead to another clogged duct. Remember breastfeeding is all about supply and demand!
Home Remedies for Clogged Ducts
Treat a clogged duct as you would any other illness. You are trying to clear the clogged duct as well as prevent possible infection. Be good to your body! Drink lots of fluids, and get as much rest as possible! Ask for help so that you can sneak in an extra nap if possible!
Taking a hot shower and massaging breasts under the hot water can help as well. You could also alternate cold and hot packs if that provides relief to you.
The home remedy I found most effective was suggested by my midwives. I took lots of Vitamin C (an immune booster) and Turmeric (an anti-inflammatory) and applied a hot poultice pack to my breast made of castor oil and goldenseal powder 3 times a day. Using these home remedies along with nursing frequently cured my clogged duct within 24 hours. I continued on this course for the next week just to be sure that the clog was good and gone!
Other Home Remedies that were suggested but that I didn’t personally try include:
- putting raw cabbage leaves in the bra
- mastitis tincture remedy available from Wishgarden Herbs
- homeopathic Phytolacca or Belladonna
- grapefruit seed extract
When to Call Your Doctor
Remember a clogged duct can easily turn into full-blown mastitis or breast infection if treating it on your own is not providing relief within a day ask for help! If you feel you need support in dealing with your clogged duct be sure to contact your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant. When in doubt always ask for the help you need! Your doctor or midwife might need to prescribe antibiotics or other methods to treat you! Remember probiotics are always important to take after a round of antibiotic use!