How to fix a clogged duct: 10 breastfeeding tips

If I had a dollar for every time I googled “how to fix a clogged duct,” I’d be able to afford that 2017 Disney World trip Eric apparently promised Peeper last month. (I was all, “You said what?” So now we’re going to Disney.)

You see, I get clogged ducts on the regular. I’ll notice the signs of a clogged duct: a painful spot on one breast, a lump, a red spot, swelling, and oh did I mention the pain? By this point—going on 18 months breastfeeding Kiwi and almost as long with Peeper—I know how to fix a clogged duct. Breastfeeding mom friends of mine sometimes text me and ask for tips to get rid of ’em, so now I’m sharing these 10 techniques with you all.

I’d hope, of course, you don’t actually need these tips to fix a clogged duct. But if you do get one, you’ll want to try whatever works until it’s gone. After all, clogged ducts can turn into mastitis, a really nasty breast infection accompanied by fever, chills and super painful swelling.

So try these 10 tips and with a little luck, your boobs will be back to normal ASAP!

How to fix a clogged duct when you're breastfeeding, even ones that won't go away. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

How to fix a clogged duct (even a stubborn one!)

  1. Heat. Apply heat to your breast where you feel a lump. You can do hot compresses (microwave a damp washcloth), a heating pad or those hand warmer packs you use when skiing. Heat the hard or painful spot for about 15 minutes before nursing or pumping.
  2. Massage. While you’re breastfeeding or pumping, rub the hard spots. It’ll hurt, but get in there as your baby nurses. That’ll get the milk moving.
  3. Shower. Stand under water as hot as you can manage. Aim the water at your breast where you have the clog. Then nurse or pump as soon as you get out of the shower.
  4. Hand express. While you’re in the shower, use one hand to hand express and the other hand to massage the clogged duct. I know milking yourself is super awkward, but that’s pretty much the story of motherhood, ain’t it?
  5. Check for blebs. A bleb is congealed milk that blocks the opening in your nipple. Just like a hunk of hardened glue that blocks the spout of your kid’s Elmer’s, you have to remove the plug before it can flow again. So look on your nipple for a small white dot (about the size of a pencil tip). After you’ve been in the shower a while, it’ll be softer. Using clean hands, pick at the bleb a bit. Often you’ll be able to scratch it off. (Listen, I know this sounds horrifying. But if you have a persistent bleb, no amount of massage and nursing will get it out, and you’ll be stuck with a clogged duct—and may end up with mastitis.)
  6. Check your latch. Making sure your baby (or your pump) has a solid latch will help her pull that milk out. Some people recommend leaning over your baby as she lies on the ground so gravity helps unclog your duct, but if that makes her have a wonky latch, then it’s counterproductive. Bottom line: go for a good latch every time.
  7. Nurse often. The more often you nurse, the more chances your baby will have to fix a clogged duct. So offer milk often, even (especially) if your breast is sore. If he’s nursing from only one breast each feeding, consider feeding him from the side with the clogged duct each time and pumping from the other breast. Babies are more effective at fixing a clogged duct than a pump.
  8. Consider a supplement. If you get clogged ducts often, you might want to take a lecithin supplement, as Kelly Mom suggests (though talk to your doctor or lactation consultant first). Lecithin is a common food additive that helps keep fats emulsified in foods (like salad dressing), and experts think it does something similar in breast milk so it doesn’t “stick” and gum up your ducts. Doctors and lactation experts agree lecithin is safe; you can start off taking 3-4 capsules a day (3,600-4,800 mg a day, which is well under the maximum daily dosage). You can gradually decrease the amount of lecithin you take as long as you don’t get more clogged ducts.
    Something to consider: If you’ve cut out soy, avoid soy lecithin—you can get sunflower lecithin instead.
  9. Upgrade your bra. Your boobs have undergone astounding changes since you got pregnant, gave birth and began breastfeeding. Wearing an ill-fitting bra—especially one that’s too tight, and doubly so if it has an underwire—can cause clogged ducts. Do your girls a favor and invest in a few new bras that actually fit (including sports bras!).
  10. Relax. Stress can also contribute to clogged ducts. If you’re wondering how to fix a clogged duct and benefit your mental health, find your favorite way to chill out, even if that’s pretending to pee so you can read a magazine in peace for 5 minutes. (Been there.)

Best of luck, Mama!

Do you have tips on how to fix a clogged duct? Please share ’em!

12 thoughts on “How to fix a clogged duct: 10 breastfeeding tips

  • January 4, 2017 at 11:01 am
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    I got my first clogged milk duct about a month ago when piper was eight months. I had no idea what it was or how to fix it. Lots of googling left me kind of overwhelmed on how to treat it. I wish I had seen this blog post back then. Lots of great manageable tips 🙂

    Reply
    • January 4, 2017 at 11:38 am
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      Oh Megan, I’m so sorry to hear that! Clogged ducts are no fun, but add in feeling overwhelmed (or worried you have breast cancer! oh the google!) and it’s much worse. Here’s hoping you don’t have to deal with that again!

      Reply
  • January 4, 2017 at 7:21 pm
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    These are such excellent tips and I am sure so many mamas will find this helpful! I remember getting mastitis with my oldest and it was NOT fun. Thanks for being such a helpful resource!

    Reply
    • January 4, 2017 at 7:46 pm
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      Yuck, I know mastitis is awful! I had it with Peeper and it knocked me down. 🙁

      Reply
  • January 8, 2017 at 12:06 pm
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    Ah – I was a “pumping mommy” (my baby never latched) and this happened so often to me that I became quite good at fixing it. Heat and hand express was my go to. Lots of nice warm showers too (it was a great excuse!).

    Such a helpful post – I remember how concerned I was the first time it happened to me.

    Reply
    • January 8, 2017 at 12:38 pm
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      Yes! Especially when my kids were tiny, I’d use a clogged duct as an “excuse” to take a hot bath. 🙂

      Reply
  • January 15, 2017 at 10:43 pm
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    Rice socks help a lot too! The last time I had one it was the best thing I had ever tried! It was just the right amount of heat and I could use it to massage the area.

    Reply
    • January 17, 2017 at 11:05 am
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      Such a good idea! I like that rice keeps heat so you don’t have to run back to the microwave every 30 seconds.

      Reply
  • March 2, 2017 at 7:53 pm
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    With my son I got them frequently once I went back to work and was pumping. I found the vibrations from an electronic tooth brush helped.

    Reply
    • March 2, 2017 at 9:30 pm
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      Oh I’ve never tried that! Thanks for the tip!!

      Reply
  • March 6, 2017 at 2:50 pm
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    These are all helpful. I have been frantically googling the last 30 minutes and will be trying all of these. Thanks!

    Reply
    • March 7, 2017 at 5:19 pm
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      You’re so welcome. I hope they help!!! Good luck, and come back and share what worked for you!

      Reply

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