Babies are great, but sometimes they bring with them some extra struggles and hardships.
For example, clogged milk ducts.
On top of caring for a baby, (keeping a little human alive is no small task), it’s no fun to have to deal with feeling all plugged up and crappy!
So here’s how to clear a clogged milk duct naturally, effectively, and quickly, so that you can go back to focusing on what really matters, like caring for your little one!
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How to know if you have a plugged duct
A plugged duct is pretty hard to miss.
A clogged milk duct might look red, or you might just feel it.
If your breast feels sore, tender, or just uncomfortable and you have a hard spot somewhere on your breast, then yep, you probably have a plugged duct. Congratulations!
I know, it sucks, but help is here.
Now that you know the signs of a clogged milk duct, let’s move on to solutions!
7 natural ways to clear a clogged milk duct
The good news is that there are things you can do right away to make your plugged duct feel better and go away quickly.
It’s important to deal with a plugged duct as soon as it forms.
Don’t just ignore it or wait for it to go away on its own because it could develop into mastitis.
Follow these tips to help your clogged milk duct feel better fast!
1. Take sunflower lecithin
One of my top tips is to use sunflower lecithin for plugged ducts.
Lecithin acts like oil on a squeaky door hinge, it just makes everything work more smoothly!
If you’re coming down with a plugged duct, I’d take 2-3 pills every 2-3 hours for a few hours until I start to feel better, which usually doesn’t take more than 2-6 pills for me.
Sunflower lecithin is also great for preventing clogged milk ducts!
Just take 1-2 pills every day to keep things clog-free and flowing smoothly!
2. Drink lots of water
Water can help things flow better, so drink up!
Drinking plenty of water helps your body function better in loads of ways, actually, like helping you detox or clearing up a UTI.
Related: Natural ways to avoid getting a UTI
It can also work to clear clogged milk ducts. So start drinking more water any time you feel a plugged duct starting to form!
3. Manage your stress
Stress can be a contributing factor to getting plugged ducts and mastitis. Which kind of sucks, because a plugged duct itself can be stressful!
My worst clogged milk ducts have happened when I’m going through a lot of stress.
But try to relax, rest, and take care of yourself.
Managing stress and reducing the stress in your life can both prevent and help relieve plugged ducts.
Listen to your body. A plugged duct might just be your cue that it’s time to slow down and take things easy for a bit!
4. Massage your clogged milk ducts
A plugged duct is kind of like a clogged drain, and massaging the clogged areas can help things feel better quickly.
Use medium pressure, like massaging a knotted muscle, to rub from the outside of your breast towards your nipple- in other words, massage in the direction the milk is supposed to be going.
It might feel uncomfortable at first, but can also lead to immediate relief for a clogged duct.
You can lightly massage in the same direction while nursing too.
Speaking of nursing-
5. Nurse- a lot!
Your baby helped cause the plugged duct so he or she can also help solve it!
Nurse a lot on the side with the plug. It’s a bit uncomfortable, but it is super helpful in making a plugged duct go away fast!
The trick with this is to face baby’s chin towards the problem area of your breast.
This can help because as baby’s jaw moves, it helps get things moving in that area of the breast.
I think this is why plugged ducts usually happen more on the upper outside corners of the breast- normally baby’s chin is facing towards the inside when they’re nursing.
Nursing this way can take some creativity and acrobatics though!
I’ve nursed with a plugged duct before by laying down to nurse with my baby parallel to me but with her feet in the direction of my head. Just do what it takes to get your baby to help massage things out!
Pumping for a clogged duct
You can also pump if you want to, and it might be a good choice to pump for a clogged duct if baby won’t nurse.
Although just so you know, in my experience I’ve also had excessive pumping actually lead to plugged ducts. So I would only use a pump if baby is full or otherwise isn’t able to help by nursing.
If you don’t have a pump but want to try something for immediate relief, you can try using a Haakaa for your clogged milk duct.
Watch this video for a cool hack on how to use your Haakaa and epsom salts to quickly get rid of a clogged duct!
And if you need to nurse on your non-plugged breast, just use the Haakaa like normal on the side where you’re clogged at the same time.
And if you’re pumping and nothing is coming out, I’d go back to stress management.
Try your best to relax to get the milk flowing!
6. Use a warm compress
Use a washcloth soaked in warm water over your breast- it feels wonderful if you’re uncomfortable! This can loosen up a plugged duct and help things flow better.
Or take a hot shower or bath. Let very warm water run over the clogged areas. It feels heavenly and can also help with reducing stress!
7. Make sure your nursing bra isn’t too tight
If you’re wearing tight tops or bras, it can make a plugged duct more likely, or worsen your plugged duct.
Wear loose-fitting clothing or even go braless while dealing with a plugged duct.
This is also a great way to prevent clogged ducts in the future!
How to know if a clogged milk duct is unclogged
So how do you know if it’s working?
Sometimes, there’s an immediate feeling of relief, almost like the plugged up area suddenly started flowing again. The lump should start getting smaller, and feel better even if it’s still tender for a little while.
If you don’t feel some relief within a few hours, or things get worse, revisit the tips above.
As a side note, one thing you should not do: don’t use peppermint essential oil.
I know that a lot of us crunchy moms enjoy using essential oils for everything, but peppermint EO can dry up your milk supply. It doesn’t affect everyone the same, but it’s definitely an oil you’ll want to avoid while breastfeeding.
What to do if you get mastitis
Mastitis happens when a plugged duct goes rogue.
If a clogged milk duct won’t unclog, there’s a chance it could develop into mastitis! Prevention is the best cure, so definitely try the above remedies for a plugged duct right when you start feeling clogged.
With mastitis, you might experience redness, swelling, and tenderness. You also might develop a fever. A fever is a pretty definitive sign that it’s mastitis and not just a clogged milk duct.
If left unchecked, mastitis can get worse and might require medical help.
So double down on the clogged duct tips above!
You can also check out this post on natural remedies for mastitis for more ideas on herbal remedies and supplements that can help.
Antibiotics for mastitis
Antibiotics should be a last resort, seriously, like last last last resort.
They affect the gut health of both you and baby, which affects your immune system, mood, and more. It can throw off your internal balance of good bacteria for up to two years.
Using antibiotics for mastitis isn’t the end of the world… But they should only be used if nothing else works.
If you feel that you have to take antibiotics to manage a bad case of mastitis, make sure to take plenty of pre- and probiotics during and after taking any antibiotics to help recover your gut health.
A plugged duct is no fun but neither is using conventional pain relief methods that don’t support your overall health. Use these tips for quick relief using natural remedies. You’re worth it!
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