Clogged Ducts (sometimes called Plugged or Blocked Ducts) is when a milk duct experiences a blockage and in turn, inhibits drainage. When milk builds up behind the blockage, the pressure can cause discomfort, soreness, and even a lump in the breast.
We know that aside from wanting to heal the discomfort, there’s often an added concern of things progressing into mastitis. Mastitis is the inflammation of the breast tissue, sometimes caused by bacteria, resulting in an infection, and sometimes caused by a clogged duct. Mastitis presents with redness, swelling, warm-to-the-touch skin, and often a fever and chills. If you think you have Mastitis reach out to your provider or physician! Please do not suffer in pain for one more minute!
If you experience a clogged duct, here are some things you can do to alleviate pain and unclog the blockage:
• If you are breastfeeding, continue to feed on the breast with the clog. During feeds, use your hand or another tool to massage the spot of the clog. (The area of the clog is typically red, swollen, tender)
• If you are pumping, use your hand or another tool to massage the spot of the clog while you pump.
• What’s this other tool?! An electric toothbrush or vibrator! That’s what! Believe us. Grab that vibrator and go. to. town....on your clogged duct, that is. ;) The pressure from your own hand pushing the vibrator or toothbrush against your breast and the vibrations from the tool itself are an excellent combination to break up the clog.
• Use a warm compress (washcloth in hot water, microwaved washcloth, rice pack, hot water bottle) on the area of the clogged duct before and after the feed or pump. You can also buy breast warm-packs.
• When (if?) you find yourself in a hot shower, let the hot water rain directly onto your breast and massage the affected area with your hand or other tool. You can also lay a washcloth over your breast while the hot water rains down.
• Marshmallow Root!!! Call your local herbalist for this magic plant ally! Marshmallow Root has natural anti microbial properties and will reduce inflammation and pain. Steep the Marshmallow Root according to the instructions from your herbalist, as if you were making a big pot of tea. Use a cloth to massage your breast with the tea or soak your breast directly in the tea when the temperature is safe. Repeat this process until you feel relief. Paired with massage this is an excellent route to take!!
• POTATO. Yes. Cut a few thin slices. Place them on your breast where you see/feel the clog. Cover with plastic wrap. Wear a bra or tight shirt to keep everything in place. Leave it on for 20-30 mins and repeat several times a day. (This works for Hemorrhoids too...grate the potatoes and sit on them for a bit...more on Hemorrhoids here....)
• Stay hydrated. Drink drink drink drink drink water.
• Rest. This is possibly the toughest one. Though, it’s helpful to think of Rest as relative. Rest used to mean taking a long nap or vegging out in front of the tv for a while. Maybe now it means taking a few deep breaths, or getting an extra pillow behind your neck during feeds. No pressure to “sleep when the baby sleeps” or other unattainable nonsense. (It’s actually not nonsense however it often feels impossible and the pressure to do so and the likely failure can cause a lot of unnecessary guilt, stress, and...A CLOGGED DUCT!!)
Clogged ducts can absolutely be healed and unclogged. They can feel stubborn at first and it’s disheartening when you feel like you’ve been massaging and feeding from that breast all day/night and it’s not improving. But stay with it. Slow your breathing, relax your shoulders, unclench your jaw, take a few sips of water, and go get your vibrator.
Reach out to Wyld Birth & Postpartum for Lactation Support and Postpartum Doula Support!