Clogged Ducts! Any tips on preventing this and how to relieve them?

Heidi - posted on 09/03/2009 ( 24 moms have responded )

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I am an exclusive pumper (son refuses to nurse), and I have had masitis twice and my ducts keep clogging. Any good tips for relieving the clogged ducts? It feels like my boob is full of marbles : (

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Jenn - posted on 09/04/2009

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I had that once with my son - this is going to sound really funny (nice mental picture) but I got a bowl of hot water and hung over it with my boob in the bowl (OK go ahead and laugh now) but it worked pretty quickly. Good luck! :)

Tanya - posted on 09/03/2009

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mmmmm, some of the information you are getting is accurate, some of it works for some and is no longer recommended. I know everyone is trying to help you and share what worked for them.

Some good sites for accurate and up to date information are:

www.breastfeedingonline.com ~ read Dr. Jack Newman's Articles
www.LLLI.org - the la leche league website

First lets talk a little about HEAT vs COLD, You should only use heat when the breasts are 'flowing' or 'leaking' milk, not when they are plugged/clogged/not leaking. If you use heat when you are clogged it will increase swelling/let down behind the clog, so be careful. Use cold compresses for pain and swelling to relieve engorgement (if you have that still) Cabbage leaves relieve engorgement in about 50% of moms, but must only be used short term (3 days), as it will decrease your supply if you use it too much. (Dr. Jack Newman has a good article on this)

I would like to know a little more about you. How old is the baby? How often do you pump, how long on each side, and about how much do you get out of each breast? Are there times of the day when you are getting more milk than other times? How did you treat the mastitis? (antibiotics?) How long did it take for it to go away? Did you get fevers? red streaks, swelling, one hot spot, etc? Also what type of pump are you using?
Have you checked to see that it fits well with your breast size. The Medela Pump In Style has optional flanges that vary in size and some are also much softer, this could help. (Baby's R Us sells some of the Medela products; or you can look up a Rep online at www.medela.com)

Massaging it out (pushing it toward the nipple) while the breasts are flowing is good advice. Since you are a "pump only" mom, changing latch and position won't help, haha. You should typically pump with a double electric pump for a total of 20 min (both breasts at once for 20 min) Only pump longer than that if milk is still spaying fast, to empty breast.
Hopefully you can find some information in here that helps!

Tanya Phillips, IBCLC
Austin, TX

Kimberly - posted on 09/06/2009

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i was an exclusive pumper with my first daughter and i had mastitis twice with her. I am breastfeeding with this baby and had mastitis once. i believe some people have anatomy that make them more prone to having mastitis. try to use a heating pad on your breast or put very very hot water in a water bottle and put it over your breast. good luck

Sheena - posted on 09/04/2009

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warm showers will help, or any form of a warm compress. In addition try to massage the hard lumps. Pumping will stimulate your breast and possibly have you producing more milk. Your pump will not empty your breasts the same way your baby will. So if you have tried everything and can not get baby on see if your husband will help you out. I know a little graphic! Sorry ladies!

Alexinabaiza - posted on 08/19/2013

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i was using the lanisloh pump and realized i wasn't draining the girls fully... i switched to the first years mi pump and massaged the affected area and waahhh laaaa no more clog!

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Wendy - posted on 10/12/2012

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I had this problem also. what helped me were two things lowering my supply by only nursing on one side per feeding and switching bras. I noticed I almost always got the plugged ducts when wearing a particular bra. I never wore it again and I never got the clogged ducts again.

Jeanine - posted on 10/09/2012

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I am so sorry for you! I have had clogged ducts and mastitis and infections. That funnel shape of breast pumps is a poor design that I suspect exacerbates the issue. I keep waiting for a mom product engineer to develop better ergonomic design.



Anyway, this is what works for me....

1) take loads of vitamin c

2) reduce pain and swelling with 3 ibuprofen every 6 hours

3) ice packs, not hea

4) nurse or pump as often as you can

5) push the obstruction out of the clogged duct by pressing as firmly as you can behind the lump toward the nipple while you nurse or pump (massaging in a dang circle won't cut it

6) take "happy ducts" herbal tincture by Wish Garden herbs

Wenjue - posted on 08/26/2012

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Were you able to resolve the problems, and what happened afterwards? I think I may have something similar.

Kimberly - posted on 09/06/2009

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oh and you might be able to talk to your ob or lactation consultant about this reoccurring problem

Jessica - posted on 09/06/2009

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HOT shower, lots of breast massage (after the shower, and before pumping). Do NOT use cold (you'll lower your supply). Pump often and try massaging your breasts in circular motions, starting just 'off' your breast and work your way down (as the pump is still pumping) and that will help 'bring down' the hindmilk that seems to be getting stuck. Perhaps extend the time you are pumping (if possible) by a few minutes.



I know when I do pump, and my boobs seem empty, if I massage from my armpits to my nipple, I get nearly another half ounce!

Rachel - posted on 09/06/2009

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Get in a hot shower and massage your breast under the water. I had one when my son was a month old, and it got infected. I got really sick, so be careful.

Lorraine - posted on 09/04/2009

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WELL I WOULD TRY TO GET YOUR SON ON. MY LITTLE ONE WILL GO ON MY BREAST AND NURSE. THEN IF THAT DOESN'T WORK MASSAGE FOR TEN MINUTES. YOU CAN ALSO DO WARM COMPRESS OR HOT SHOWER. PUMPING OF COURSE. MAKE SURE YOU DON'T HAVE ANY BLEBS WHICH LOOK LIKE LITTLE WHITEHEADS, WHICH IS JUST MILK TRAPPED. IF NONE OF THIS WORKS JUST MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE SOME ANITBIOTICS FROM YOUR DOCTOR SO THAT IT DOES NOT TURN INTO A MAJOR INFECTION. I REALLY DON'T KNOW WHAT ELSE JUST MAKE SURE THAT WHEN YOU PUMP, YOU ALSO GET YOUR KID ON THERE FOR EVEN A COUPLE MINUTES. I HAVE ALWAYS HEARD THAT OUR BABIES ARE THE BEST ONES TO EXTRACT MILK. ALSO, A NURSE TOLD ME TO TRY CABBAGE LEAVES ON THE BREAST. JUST DO THIS ONCE OR TWICE CAUSE IT WILL DRY UP YOUR MILK SUPPLY IF DONE TO OFTEN. SORRY, HOPE THIS HELPS!

Arifah A - posted on 09/04/2009

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Try putting a hot cloth on your boobs or cold! also when feeding use your thumbs and push downward on your boob, it'll encourage the milk to flow and could help uncloge it!

Heidi - posted on 09/04/2009

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Quoting Sara:

How often are you pumping during the day and across the night, how much milk do you pump each day, and how old is your son?

Taking lecithin is supposed to help with clogged ducts, so that's one thing you can do. You can make sure nothing is pressing on your breasts (don't sleep on your stomach, and make sure your bras and shirts are not too tight. Also be careful with babywearing- make sure you're using a position that does not put pressure on your breasts.) You can make sure you're not dehydrated, as dehydration can cause plugged ducts. Make sure you're not going more than 3-4 hours between pumping, even across the night. You can slowly space out the pumping sessions once your clogged ducts are gone, but do this SLOWLY. Like 10 minutes at a time.

These things worked for me: http://custommademilk.wordpress.com/2008...

but for me, the best thing was nursing. Since that's not an option (although many children can be taught to latch on, even at as old as 9 months...), you can try getting a manual pump such as the Avent Isis pump, and pump in the shower and lean into the flanges so that you're basically "dangle nursing" the pump. Do breast compressions to put pressure on the different parts of your breast to make sure all the ducts are being emptied. Imagine your breast is a clock with the nipple at the center, and massage your breast firmly at each "5 minute mark". Start at a ridiculously far-away point like halfway to your navel, or at your shoulderblade, and massage in straight firm lines toward your nipple. You can also try using a broad tooth comb and soaping your breasts to lubridate them, then using the comb to apply pressure to your breast. (DO NOT get the soap on the areola or the nipple..)


Thanks Sara!  I will try the lecithin.  I have never heard of that, but have some in my cabinet so it is worth a shot!  

Sara - posted on 09/04/2009

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Tanya-

Very interesting about the heat, it definitely makes sense. Maybe you could explain what happened with me? I found that for me moist heat helped move things along. There would be a hard lump in my breast at the point of the clog that would NOT move, I would apply moist heat, and then I could actually press the lump and it would sort of "get smaller" and move in the direction that I was pressing it as though it was breaking up. (Not as "dramatically" as it sounds- it still took time) Could it be that it wasn't a "clog" so much as something else? What would it have been? I'm just curious about what it could have been, because if it happens again in the future I'd love to know. :)

Heidi - posted on 09/03/2009

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Quoting Tanya:

mmmmm, some of the information you are getting is accurate, some of it works for some and is no longer recommended. I know everyone is trying to help you and share what worked for them.

Some good sites for accurate and up to date information are:

www.breastfeedingonline.com ~ read Dr. Jack Newman's Articles
www.LLLI.org - the la leche league website

First lets talk a little about HEAT vs COLD, You should only use heat when the breasts are 'flowing' or 'leaking' milk, not when they are plugged/clogged/not leaking. If you use heat when you are clogged it will increase swelling/let down behind the clog, so be careful. Use cold compresses for pain and swelling to relieve engorgement (if you have that still) Cabbage leaves relieve engorgement in about 50% of moms, but must only be used short term (3 days), as it will decrease your supply if you use it too much. (Dr. Jack Newman has a good article on this)

I would like to know a little more about you. How old is the baby? How often do you pump, how long on each side, and about how much do you get out of each breast? Are there times of the day when you are getting more milk than other times? How did you treat the mastitis? (antibiotics?) How long did it take for it to go away? Did you get fevers? red streaks, swelling, one hot spot, etc? Also what type of pump are you using?
Have you checked to see that it fits well with your breast size. The Medela Pump In Style has optional flanges that vary in size and some are also much softer, this could help. (Baby's R Us sells some of the Medela products; or you can look up a Rep online at www.medela.com)

Massaging it out (pushing it toward the nipple) while the breasts are flowing is good advice. Since you are a "pump only" mom, changing latch and position won't help, haha. You should typically pump with a double electric pump for a total of 20 min (both breasts at once for 20 min) Only pump longer than that if milk is still spaying fast, to empty breast.
Hopefully you can find some information in here that helps!

Tanya Phillips, IBCLC
Austin, TX


Hi! I am responding to you with now one seriousluy swollen breast because I have been in the bath with hot hot water on it and then putting hot compress on it while pumping.   NOW I read your response!  Cold compress would make sense now that I think about it.  



My baby is 5 months old.  He knows how to latch, he just wants a bottle.  He breastfed perfectly fine until I introduced the dang bottle at 4 weeks, and then it was down hill from there.  I had 3 different lactation consultants try to help, and nothing worked.



Since he sleeps through the night, I don't pump then.  I try to pump after every bottle feeding ( approx every 3 hours).  BUT...I have been lazy lately and know that's most likely the reason.  That plus, water intake hasn't been great.  I also wear super tight sports bras all the time because the girls are grande!  Someone posted something about that not being good, and I didn't realize this.  So it's no wonder my poor breast is looking all lumpy and swollen : (  So frustrating!  



I have an Ameda pump that seems to fit well.  In the morning I typically get 10-13 ounces, and then each other session I get 6-8 ounces, except for the lte afternoon session.  That one I usualy produce less... somewhere around 3 to 4 ounces.   It usually takes about 25 minutes to produce this amount. The manual pump in the shower is a great idea.



I treated my mastitis homeopathically under the care of  a kineseologist.  I don't take antibiotics ever.  My symptoms were burning, itching, and almost a bruise like feeling, and a lot of swelling that was even in my armpit.  They were extremely sensitive to touch and I could hardly hold my son to my chest.  Both times the hot spots were on the outter sides of my breast.   



I have seen some of Jack Neman's articles on Kellymom.com.  I have never heard of the other site u mentioned, but will check it as soon as I sign off!  Thanks for your helpful tips!  Off to ice!!

Jennifer - posted on 09/03/2009

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I used warm compresses three times a day combined with motrin 3 times a day to reduce the swelling. It really helped me.

Jela - posted on 09/03/2009

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Within the first few days of being home with my second son I had a clogged duct . I was sooo not happy about it but what I had to do to help it was take a warm hand towel * not wash cloth its too small for me * soaked it in HOT water as hot as I could stand it and wrapped my boob in it . Then I pumped while the cloth was on me and then again when it was off. I had to apply extra pressure like pushing on the hard parts while I was pumping. Didnt resolve right away but I would also suggest trying to get your little one to nurse and in different positions. My son had a hard time taking to the nursing thing and I think thats why I got clogged up. I hope this advise helps I feel your pain! Good luck!

Sara - posted on 09/03/2009

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How often are you pumping during the day and across the night, how much milk do you pump each day, and how old is your son?

Taking lecithin is supposed to help with clogged ducts, so that's one thing you can do. You can make sure nothing is pressing on your breasts (don't sleep on your stomach, and make sure your bras and shirts are not too tight. Also be careful with babywearing- make sure you're using a position that does not put pressure on your breasts.) You can make sure you're not dehydrated, as dehydration can cause plugged ducts. Make sure you're not going more than 3-4 hours between pumping, even across the night. You can slowly space out the pumping sessions once your clogged ducts are gone, but do this SLOWLY. Like 10 minutes at a time.

These things worked for me: http://custommademilk.wordpress.com/2008...

but for me, the best thing was nursing. Since that's not an option (although many children can be taught to latch on, even at as old as 9 months...), you can try getting a manual pump such as the Avent Isis pump, and pump in the shower and lean into the flanges so that you're basically "dangle nursing" the pump. Do breast compressions to put pressure on the different parts of your breast to make sure all the ducts are being emptied. Imagine your breast is a clock with the nipple at the center, and massage your breast firmly at each "5 minute mark". Start at a ridiculously far-away point like halfway to your navel, or at your shoulderblade, and massage in straight firm lines toward your nipple. You can also try using a broad tooth comb and soaping your breasts to lubridate them, then using the comb to apply pressure to your breast. (DO NOT get the soap on the areola or the nipple..)

[deleted account]

In order to prevent future clogs, make sure that your bras and shirts are not too tight as that can cause clogs. Also my ducts used to get clogged when I slept on my side so I slept on my back for a while and I never had a clogged duct again. Good luck and good job on giving your baby your milk! It's so easy to stop when things don't go smoothly so be proud of yourself for hanging in there!

User - posted on 09/03/2009

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I too have had mastitis twice and am an exclusive pumper. Make sure you are pumping long enough at each session. I got my clogged duct when I first went back to work. I was trying to rush to pump at work and since that time I have made sure I take enough time to thoroughly pump. I also massage my breast when the milk quits flowing on its own during pumping. When I had my clogged duct, as bad as it hurt I hooked up my pump every two hours and would pump for at least 30 minutes each time with a warm compress on the clogged duct. It was gone in 1 day. Hope you get relief soon.

Amanda - posted on 09/03/2009

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I was talking to my midwife, and she told me pumping increases you milk volume

Anna - posted on 09/03/2009

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Hot showers helped me too. Or put on a compress of crushed cabbage leaves - that really does work. Keep trying with the nursing? The usual advice from the professionals is to let the baby nurse to unblock it. Have you tried different positions? You could join a La Leche League group to help with the nursing if you did want to try it again. It can take some babies quite a while to learn how to do it.

[deleted account]

Have a warm Shower and let the water run over breasts and it should encourage your milk to lactate, When pumping massage lumps in breast to encourage better milk flow, try and pump as much as you can off the sore breast because i suffured from it myself and my midwife said to feed as much as i could off that particular breast. Also she so to try laying down and positioning baby onto the breast upside down obviously if your finding it difficult to nurse just try the things i suggested without nursing

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