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7 Ways to Relieve Clogged Milk Duct Symptoms

During breastfeeding, your breast milk navigates through your body and out your breasts through a system of internal pipe-like structures called milk ducts. Milk production begins within the alveoli, which are small clusters of cells within the breast. Once ready, it’s squeezed into the ducts and travels through the breast and out of the nipple. This is a natural process that’s stimulated by the release of hormones after pregnancy and delivery. However, occasionally things can get a little backed up and result in a clogged milk duct. Although this can be uncomfortable, it’s usually nothing to worry about. For help, consider the following seven ways to relieve clogged milk duct symptoms and when to see a doctor.


Common Symptoms of a Clogged Milk Duct

One of the first things that many breastfeeding mothers notice when they experience a clogged milk duct is a small lump within the breast tissue. Although this can be alarming, it’s usually nothing to worry about and will go away after the milk duct has been re-opened. The lump caused by a clogged milk duct is usually fairly small, firm, and feels like it’s right under the surface of your skin. It can also radiate soreness or slight discomfort when touched.

Other symptoms include redness or warmth around the bump. The discomfort can wane after a nursing session, but may come back the longer you go between feedings. In some cases, women experiencing a clogged duct have noticed a small white dot near the opening of the nipple or milk that appears to be thick or grainy.

Although clogged milk ducts can be alleviated at home, if you notice any lumps in your breast that don’t go away, it’s important to see your doctor. Abnormal lumps or bumps could be an early sign of breast cancer, so getting it checked out and diagnosed as soon as possible is important for long-term treatment and recovery.


Causes of Clogged Milk Ducts

There are several things that could increase your risk of experiencing a clogged milk duct. However, chances are that you’ll encounter these one or more times during your breastfeeding journey, so don’t stress about it too much. Some of the biggest reasons clogged ducts occur include the following:

  • Difficulty with latching
  • Being separated from your baby
  • Tight clothing
  • Missed feedings
  • Not emptying the breast completely


    If your baby isn’t consuming the amount of milk you’re producing, it could result in a clogged duct. This may occur if your baby is in the NICU or you’re separated from them for a long period of time. Therefore, missing feedings or pumping sessions can also increase your risk of experiencing a clogged duct. Finally, wearing tight clothing could restrict the flow of milk and therefore, cause blockages.


    7 Ways to Unclog a Milk Duct

    Clogged milk ducts can be uncomfortable and quite inconvenient. To help you alleviate the symptoms associated with them, consider some of the following at-home remedies.

  1.  Keep Nursing

    Although it may seem counterproductive, one of the best things to do to relieve clogged milk ducts is to keep nursing. You may feel like nothing’s coming out at first, but the act of nursing will help to alleviate a plugged duct. If it feels too painful to try and nurse on the breast with the blocked duct, start with the other one first. This can help initiate the breast milk production and loosen any clogs. Make sure that your baby completely empties each breast, otherwise you increase the risk of further engorgement. If your baby stops nursing before they’re empty, use a breast pump to make sure that all the milk is drained.

  2. Use a Breast Pump

    With that being said, you can also work on unclogging a milk duct by using a breast pump strategically. You should supplement nursing sessions with pumping and make sure to fully empty your breasts each time. If you notice early signs of engorgement, pumping can help you release the clog before it gets too serious. However, don’t use the highest suction level as this can cause additional discomfort or complications. Instead, try the low setting and alternate between different phases of suction.start your order

  3. Change Your Position

    Different milk ducts are stimulated by different breastfeeding positions. Although you may prefer one over the other, changing your positions occasionally can help ensure that all of the ducts are stimulated and emptied accordingly. This, in turn, reduces the risk of engorgement and clogged milk ducts. Luckily, there are tons of different breastfeeding positions you can try. Some of them may even provide additional benefits. Just make sure that when you change positions, your baby has a strong latch on your breast. Otherwise, this can result in additional issues.

  4. Strengthen the Latch

    With that being said, making sure that your baby has a strong latch from the beginning is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of a blocked duct. Checking the latch can also help you alleviate engorgement. If you’re having trouble with your latch, work with a lactation consultant. Even if breastfeeding has already been established, a lactation consultant can help you get the most out of each position and ensure that your baby is receiving the nutrients they need during nursing sessions.

  5. Apply a Warm Compress

    Another way to help relieve clogged milk ducts is to apply a warm compress to the area. This can help expand blood vessels and improve overall blood flow, which can improve the flow of breast milk. Avoid using items that are too hot and instead, try dipping a washcloth in warm water and gently holding it on your breast.

  6. Use Gentle Massage

    In addition to the warm compress, try using a gentle massage on the breast to help stimulate milk production and loosen the clogged duct. The most effective way to do this is to massage the breast in a circular motion, starting on the outside and moving in. Don’t put too much pressure on the area, as this could cause discomfort or result in bruising. A light massage is sufficient enough. You can do this several times a day in addition to nursing and pumping to help relieve a clogged duct.

  7. Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing

    Finally, it’s important to wear loose-fitting clothing when you’re experiencing a clogged milk duct. When your shirt or bra is too tight, it can cause additional pressure and aggravate the area, thus making the engorgement worse. Instead, opt for a supportive, non-binding nursing bra and a comfortable top. This can also help you prevent a clog in the future.


    When to See Your Doctor

    Many instances of a clogged milk duct can be alleviated at home with one or more of the remedies listed above. However, if the lump gets any bigger or persists for more than a few days, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your doctor. This is especially important if you develop a fever or experience increasing levels of pain. When clogged ducts cannot be treated at home, they can develop into mastitis. This is a type of infection that will require medical intervention.

    Signs of mastitis are more noticeable than a clogged duct. Your entire breast may appear red, swollen, and painful to the touch. Mastitis is also accompanied by flu-like symptoms and high levels of fatigue. If you think that your clogged duct has developed into mastitis, or it isn’t going away, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Mastitis can be treated with antibiotics, but the sooner you do so, the better.


    Preventing Clogged Milk Ducts

    Clogged milk ducts can be uncomfortable and lead to several complications. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help prevent them in the first place. Although these aren’t guaranteed to help you avoid them altogether, they may help lower your risk. Some prevention tips include:

  • Breastfeeding or pumping regularly, on a schedule
  • Pumping breasts between sessions as needed
  • Fully draining the breast after each feeding
  • Nurse in comfortable positions that don’t put pressure on the breasts
  • Avoid tight fighting clothing and underwire bras
  • Dress for comfort


To help prevent clogged milk ducts, Byram Healthcare offers a wide selection of insurance covered breast pumps to new and expecting moms. This can help you maintain a strong milk flow and reduce the risk of a clog or backup, while still giving your baby the nutrients they need for a healthy development. Browse our product selection and get started with our easy, three-step ordering process today.