If you're planning on breastfeeding your baby, then you already know how much research there is out there. From pumps, to bottles, to latches and tongue ties, to knowing your rights about breastfeeding in public and the workplace, it's a lot more in depth than simply putting your baby to your breast and letting the milk flow. But there's one major thing you need to learn in addition to everything else — how to cope with clogged milk ducts.
Clogged milk ducts are exactly what they sound like — an obstruction that stops your breast milk from flowing freely. According to Kelly Mom, clogged milk ducts could be from a nipple pore blocked or the blockage could be further back in the breast, but they generally come on gradually and affect only one breast at a time. Oh, and they can be incredibly painful. Baby Center noted that because the breast tissue can become inflamed, your breast could have a hard spot that is tender to the touch, redness across your breast, or a hot sensation or swelling in your breast. Left too long, a clogged milk duct could become a breast infection and make the situation even worse.
Even if your breasts are emptied with every feeding and your supply is well-maintained, you could be at risk of developing clogged milk ducts from something as simple as wearing too tight of a bra according to What to Expect. But despite the pain, there are nine ways to cope with them so you don't have to let them ruin your breastfeeding journey.
1. Nurse, Nurse, & Nurse
A clogged milk duct can be painful and of course it doesn't sound appealing to breastfeed while you're dealing with one, but it's one of the best ways to rid yourself of the block. La Leche League International noted that nursing is the only way to clear the blockage in your breast and get your milk flowing freely again. Nurse frequently on the breast with the clogged milk duct, too and try to empty your breasts completely so there's no back-up of milk. If you can't breastfeed, Kelly Mom recommended pumping to relieve the pain.
2. Apply Warm Compresses
Heat can help your milk flow and push through that blockage, so What to Expect suggested using warm compresses to cope with the clogged duct. A warm washcloth before each feeding can help with your milk as well as standing under a steady stream of warm water in the shower.
3. Avoid Tight Clothing Or Bras
You'll want to avoid any pressure on your breasts so Kelly Mom suggested loosening any bras or constrictive clothing so you're not obstructing your milk flow. As if you needed an excuse to go without a bra, right?
4. Massage Your Breast
Massaging before feedings can also help your milk flow and help decrease the inflammation of the tissue in your breast. According to Kelly Mom, one trick is to soap up a wide tooth comb in the shower and use it to massage the area of the clogged duct towards your nipple. You can also submerge your breast in an epsom salt bath and massage it at the same time. What to Expect also suggested using a circular motion right on the actual lump in your breast to help massage it out.
5. Nurse Over Your Baby
Many moms find that dangling their breast into their baby's mouth for a feeding is beneficial in helping remove a clogged milk duct. KellyMom suggested that this position may be helpful because gravity is also working to unclog the blockage.
6. Take Pain Medicine
Kelly Mom noted that pain relief is definitely part of coping with a clogged milk duct, so stock up on some ibuprofen for its pain reliving and anti-inflammatory properties. Always be sure to check with your doctor about any restrictions on medications and nursing.
7. Pump After Nursing
To be sure you're completely emptying your breast, you can also pump after feedings according to Kelly Mom. Although oversupply is often the reason behind clogged milk ducts, pumping for a few extra minutes just to stimulate your milk to push through the blockage shouldn't be a problem.
8. Get Plenty Of Rest
I know that seems impossible, but it can help. Baby Center suggested getting as much rest as you can, even if that means bringing your baby and all of the things they'll need for a day into your room with you.
9. Use Cold Compresses After Feedings
Although warm compresses help the milk flow, a cold compress can help relieve the pain and inflammation in your breast according to KellyMom. Some moms prefer one over the other, so use whichever compress makes you feel better.