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A clogged milk duct prevents the flow of breast milk and can be a common breastfeeding problem among new moms. It can cause swelling and can be painful if it develops.
But what causes it, and how do we prevent it from occurring? Let’s find out more, plus the best treatments to try when they do occur.
Causes of a Clogged Milk Duct
There are several ways that your breast’s milk ducts can become clogged. Some of them include:
If your little one is not latching on correctly, they may not be getting enough milk out. This can cause blockages in your milk ducts that can become painful and swollen. You want to make sure your breasts are drained during each feeding session. Similarly, a weak pump could also cause drainage issues.
When latching on, make sure they do it correctly and if you need to reposition them do so. It’s best that you’re both comfortable rather than only one of you.
If you decide it’s the right time to wean your baby and you do it quickly, your milk ducts may get clogged from less use. It can often lead to mastitis, so make sure you wean them slowly and keep a close eye on your own body.
Your health is always important to you, but don’t overdo it. Excessive exercise when breastfeeding can actually do more harm than good. You may want to get your body back to the way it used to look, but don’t cause yourself pain in the process. Moderate exercise is absolutely fine.
Excessive Milk Supply
If your body is like mine, it loves to produce way more milk than needed, and half the time you’re left wondering what to do and why it produces so much. If you leave it, an oversupply of breast milk may cause blocked or clogged milk ducts, so keep an eye and use techniques to reduce the production.
Breast milk builds up in your body over time. If you miss feedings, wait too long, don’t breastfeed, or use formula, your breasts can become engorged. Your supply can also build up if your little one no longer has feeds at night. Try to relieve your breasts by expressing or feeding.
Pressure on Breasts
A common cause of clogged milk ducts is that you’re wearing a bra that is too tight for you. This can put pressure on your breasts and lead to clogging. This can also happen if you frequently use an underwired bra or tight clothing, as well.
Something less known is that if you are carrying a diaper bag or another heavy bag and it’s resting on your breasts, this can also start to cause clogging.
Treatment for a Clogged Milk Duct
First and foremost, don’t worry. A clogged milk duct can happen to anyone, and it can be treated very easily. You can do it in the comfort of your own home while the baby is asleep with a movie on in the background.
Apply a Compress
One of the easiest and less painful ways to remove a clogged milk duct is to apply heat to the surrounding area. Find a warm compress before and after each feeding to soothe the affected area. This helps your let-down reflex with the flow of milk.
Although it may be painful to start with, try feeding your child from the breast with the clogged milk duct first. Their suckle is stronger at the beginning of each feed and may help remove or ease the clog. If the breast is too tender, feed on the opposite breast to start with then switch to the breast with the clog.
Don’t stop breastfeeding. Make sure you do it every one to three hours to make sure that the milk is still coming through. If you stop breastfeeding, it could cause the situation to worsen.
Try using a breast pump after every feed to make sure that all the milk has been drained. This will reduce the blockage, and maybe even clear it if you’re lucky! It’s always important to remember to pump as much as you can to make sure the clogged milk duct doesn’t return.
Speak to Your Doctor
One important way of treating a clogged milk duct is to speak to your doctor about it. They will be able to prescribe you a lecithin supplement that’s safe to take while breastfeeding. It will help resolve and prevent clogged milk ducts.
Speak to them also about learning how to do a therapeutic massage for your breasts. This will help manage clogged ducts. This technique helped a lot with me, and I could do them at home on the sofa.
Preventing Clogged Milk Ducts
One of the main ways to prevent a clogged milk duct from developing is to make sure that you breastfeed your little one often and switch up the position that you do it in. If you find that it’s occurring when your baby is lying horizontally, let them lie in a more upright position.
Feed as often as possible and ensure that the breast is drained before switching or stopping. You should know when the breast is empty if it feels lighter, and baby is no longer sucking.
Another way to prevent a clogged milk duct is not to wear tight clothing or form-fitting bras. Sometimes even nursing bras may end up being too tight for you. Check what clothes you have in your closet and try to wear looser outfits. You will benefit in the long run.
If you have tried everything and you’re still getting clogged milk ducts, speak to someone with breastfeeding experience who can help. This may be a family friend or physician. You may find that you have been breastfeeding in the wrong way, or your baby may not be latching on correctly.
Other ways to prevent clogged milk ducts include:
- Don’t skip feedings
- Don’t sleep on your stomach
- Try to avoid saturated fats in your diet
- Stay hydrated
No More Clogged Milk Ducts
When a clogged milk duct is treated, it should go away within a few days. If you leave it untreated, it may become worse, and you will have a more serious problem ahead of you.
If your breast is tender and you think you have a clogged milk duct, relax and treat accordingly. If you’re not sure or it hasn’t gone away within a few days, phone a doctor to get a check-up. You know your body better than anyone, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.