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Dealing With a Dreaded Plugged Milk Duct

My baby just turned one yesterday and to celebrate, my body decided to give me the worst plugged milk duct I’ve ever had.

We spent this past weekend in New York with family for my nephew’s high school graduation. There was an extreme heat wave, an outdoor ceremony, not enough hydration, lots of pool/bathing suit time, and baby’s sleep was all messed up. It was lots of fun (minus the sleep issues) but not ideal for breastfeeding. I noticed a slight lump in my right boob Sunday morning at 6AM on our drive to the airport to fly back to Atlanta, and by the time we got home it was large and painful. I’ve had milk blebs, engorgement, and small clogs that resolved quickly but never large clogs that lasted days, nor mastitis (knock on wood).

I’ve been trying to clear this clogged milk duct and it’s slowly but surely resolving. Here’s what has helped:

  1. Sunflower lecithin: I have always liked Legendairy Milk supplements and picked up some of their softgels. Sunflower lecithin is thought to reduce the "stickiness" of milk so that it flows through the ducts more freely.

  2. Haakaa with warm water and Epsom salts: This can be soothing and also help dislodge the clog. Fill up the Haakaa with warm water and add 1-2 tablespoons of Epsom salts, mix thoroughly, and attach the Haakaa to the affected breast. Leave on for 10-15 minutes.

  3. Light massage with a little heat: Before/during feeding or pumping, you can use light massage and/or heat to get milk flowing. The old recommendation was to pile on the heat and deep/aggressive massage but this has recently changed due to risk of increasing inflammation (be sure to read tip 7 below about icing!). This can be done with a heat pack and your hands (think stroking/petting and don't massage too hard, which can increase inflammation), or the LaVie heated lactation massagers. This is one of my must-have items for pumping and I use them almost every time I pump!

  4. Breastfeeding and/or pumping for relief: Continue to breastfeed on demand and offer the affected breast first. I've been tempted to pump more frequently to try to remove the clog, but it is a tricky balance to not trigger an oversupply which can make the clog worse. Instead, I have pumped when giving baby a bottle and also hand pumped/expressed or used my Haakaa for relief.

  5. Rest: Wait, what is that? Does it even exist for moms?! But seriously, we had a busy weekend so I'm trying to use my baby's and toddler's nap times (if they align) to rest myself.

  6. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen: I’ve been trying to keep up with these for pain relief and anti-inflammation. I find ibuprofen works better for me, so that is what I’ve been reaching for most.

  7. Ice: Between feedings, ice can help reduce pain and inflammation. Try the Lansinoh hot/cold ice packs, which come with handy covers so the packs aren't so cold on your boob. You can ice for 10 minutes while lying down.

  8. Loose bras: I typically sleep in a looser nursing bra, but I've been skipping that. During the day, I have been opting for a looser nursing tank top. I think the time spent in a tighter bathing suit didn't help, so I'm giving the ladies a break from restriction.

  9. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: it has also been very hot here so I’m trying my best to stay hydrated. I like to add Liquid IV to my water for the extra electrolytes (and also because it tastes delicious so helps me to drink more water).

  10. Check flange size and bra fit when pumping: Make sure you are using the correct flange size for your nipple so that you are emptying completely when pumping. If you are using a wearable pump (only as a secondary pump!), be sure to have a properly fitting bra and that you are attaching the pump well. Reach out to a lactation professional (me!) if you need help with flange or bra sizing.

Because my baby is older, I don't need to investigate whether there is an issue with his latch or if he isn't removing milk adequately. If you have a younger baby, it is worth meeting with a lactation professional (like myself) to rule this out. And if you suspect that you may have mastitis, be sure to see your doctor. Symptoms of mastitis include red, painful lumps in your breast; hot, swollen breasts; fever; body aches; red streaks on your breast; chills. Resist the temptation to overfeed, pump excessively, and/or aggressively massage/heat the lump because these can lead to mastitis.

I’m hopeful that we will unclog in the next day or two! Have you found anything that helped with clogged ducts? Let me know in the comments!

*I earn a small commission on items purchased through the Amazon Associates links above, at no cost to you.


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