The Best Tips To Prevent And Treat Clogged Milk Ducts

The Best Tips To Prevent And Treat Clogged Milk Ducts

Andrea Tran RN, BSN, MA, IBCLC

There are a variety of things that can cause breast pain when you are a breastfeeding mother. One nursing problem that results in breast pain is a clogged duct. This condition is sometimes referred to as a plugged milk duct. It results when milk flow is disrupted for some reason in an area of the breast.

A clogged milk duct can lead to an infection, so it is really important to catch it early, and hopefully clear it out before it results in a round of antibiotics.

What does a clogged milk duct look and feel like?

A clogged duct will result in a hard lump in your breast. The size of the lump can vary from pea- sized to considerably larger. It is usually tender, and often the skin is reddened where the lump is. It may feel warm. It is sometimes accompanied by a white spot on the nipple called a milk blister or bleb. Some moms also notice some additional heat in one side, where the breast seems warm. This is one of the earlier signs that may help you catch the clogged duct before it results in an infection. One study reported that 4-5% of breastfeeding mothers experience a clogged duct at some point during breastfeeding. If you find yourself in this unlucky group, you can usually get rid of the clogged duct on your own.

How to treat a clogged Milk Duct:

If you feel a hardened area in your breast, try massaging that area at your next feeding or pumping.

Get behind the lump and massage in the direction of your nipple. Using a special lactation massager or even the end of an electric toothbrush can help get rid of the lump. The massaging motion can help dislodge the lump, so it can pass through.

When you latch your baby, try to position him so that his chin is pointed in the direction of the lump.

Your baby’s chin will massage that area of the breast help it drain more thoroughly. If these simple measures are not effective, the next thing to try is to apply some moist heat to the clogged area about 20 minutes before the next feeding. A trick that moms use is to put warm water into a clean disposable diaper and apply that to the affected area. Make sure that you don’t make it too hot. You don’t want to cause a burn.

Alternatively, you can just wet a washcloth with warm water and castor oil and cover it with some plastic wrap to keep in the heat.

If you can’t get your water warm enough, you can put the wet washcloth in the microwave for a few seconds. Again, don’t let it get too hot! Doing a warm compress with castor oil has also been useful for many mothers suffering from a clogged duct. When you feed after applying the moist heat, again position your baby with his chin in the direction of the clog. Continue massaging the area throughout the feeding. You can also employ these measures if you use a breast pump.

Try massaging the lump in the shower while expressing milk.

This is a trick that usually works well. By standing in the steam and heat of the shower, you can massage and express the milk without worrying about it leaking all over. The hot shower beating down on the area can also feel really good, and be very effective when combined with a manual massage. Try taking a shower in the morning and evening, in addition to the other tips to really get that clogged duct to move.

It may take more than one session of applying the warm packs, massaging and showering to resolve a clogged duct. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t go away entirely right away, just keep at it to avoid any infections.

Why am I getting a clogged milk duct?

The most common causes of a clogged duct is something that prevents the milk from flowing freely. Tight clothing and carriers are on the list, among a few other things that can affect how your milk flows. Overall, it is really hard to say what specifically is causing a clogged duct, but here is a small list of items you can control:

  • Poorly fitting bras
  • Backpack straps
  • Baby carriers
  • Purse straps
  • Seat belts

Some mothers find that if they sleep on their side, that can cause an episode of a clogged duct. Mothers with abundant milk supplies tend to get clogged ducts more often. This includes mothers of twins or triplets as well as those moms who just produce a lot of milk.

Most often, mothers with an oversupply experience clogged milk ducts.

If you have an oversupply issue and you pump a lot, decreasing pumping can help reduce your supply. If you have gotten used to pumping to keep from getting uncomfortably full, then you should gradually decrease how much milk you pump every couple of days. If a baby has a shallow latch or an ineffective suck, this can result in poor draining and could be
the cause of a clogged duct. Missing feedings can also lead to clogged ducts. This can happen when your baby starts
sleeping longer stretches at night. If you find that you get repeated cases of clogged ducts, you will want to take care not to miss feedings. Keeping a manual pump in your purse when you are out without your baby allows you
to pump some milk off.

Complications of a clogged duct:

If a clogged duct is not resolved, it potentially can turn into a case of mastitis. Mastitis is a breast infection. If you get mastitis in addition to a tender lump that is red, you will also have a fever and flu-like symptoms. Mothers report feeling very sick when they get mastitis. It requires treatment with antibiotics. Call your health care provider if you develop symptoms of mastitis. The key is to treat the infection very quickly, so you can feel better with baby right away.

A healthy diet can help reduce chances of infection.

A healthy diet can actually be super helpful in preventing an infection from happening. Try eliminating sugar and simple carbs, which cause chemical reactions in your body that allow bacteria to feed and grow faster! Milk Dust is an amazing nutritional supplement low in sugar, and high in antioxidants to help keep your body in a more alkaline state, and hopefully less-likely to get infected! Milk Dust also has a great 10-day detox program, to help you stock to a healthy diet, that will keep your immune system working strong!

How to prevent clogged milk ducts:

While most moms who get clogged ducts will only experience this breastfeeding problem once, there are some moms for whom it is a recurring problem.

If you suffer from repeated episodes of clogged milk ducts, you should get in the habit of feeling your breasts after feedings to ensure that all areas have drained well. At the next feeding, massage any areas that didn’t drain well. Lecithin is a dietary supplement that some moms take to help prevent recurring plugged ducts. Taking 1200 mg 2-4 times a day has been recommended. Fortunately, most moms will not have to deal with this breastfeeding problem. But if you find that
you do, you now have several ways to deal with it.

Exclusive Pumping – Tips and Tricks For a Good Supply

Exclusive Pumping – Tips and Tricks For a Good Supply

Andrea Tran RN, BSN, MA, IBCLC

The decision to be an exclusively pumping mom comes from a variety of reasons. Breastfeeding doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes babies won’t latch. Some babies are too sick to breastfeed. There are moms who don’t want to breastfeed but do want their baby to get their breast milk.

Whatever the reason, exclusively pumping moms have their own unique needs and concerns. If you are struggling with breastfeeding issues, the thought of being an exclusively pumping mom may sound like the perfect answer to your problems.

However, the reality is that it is time-consuming and a lot of work. These tips and tricks will help the exclusively pumping mama make the milk she needs while maintaining her sanity.

How To Have a Good Milk Supply 

Follow these rules to build and maintain a good supply of breast milk:

  • Have a good breast pump! – This cannot be emphasized enough. 
    • A hospital/rental grade pump will be the most effective and efficient to establish a full milk supply.
      • Examples: Medela Symphony, Ameda Platinum, Ameda Elite
    • After the first 4-6 weeks, many moms can transition to a personal pump.
      • Well reviewed personal pumps: Spectra S1 or S2, Medela Pump In Style
    • Personal pumps are not like the Energizer Bunny. They won’t last forever and may need to be replaced after being used for many hours of pumping.
    • If your supply starts to drop, your pump may be to blame. See below, “Pump Troubleshooting.”
  • For the first 4-6 weeks pump at least eight times every 24 hours
  • If you are not making enough milk, add one or two pumpings per day.
  • Pump until the milk stops flowing plus two additional minutes.
  • Pump both breasts at the same time. This results in higher prolactin levels. Prolactin is one of the essential hormones responsible for making milk.
  • Pump at least once during the night (midnight to 5 am). Prolactin levels are highest during these hours.
  • Hands-on pumping helps build a better milk supply (Source). This is a technique where you massage and compress your breasts during pumping sessions.
  • If your supply drops and you are confident, your pump is working well use tips for increasing your milk supply.

Pump Troubleshooting Checklist

Milk supply drops are often due to pump problems. 

  • Are there parts in your pump that are supposed to be replaced regularly?
  • Are all the connections and seals tight? 
  • How many hours has the pump been used? 
    • If you are using a personal pump, try renting a hospital-grade pump. If your supply increases, a new pump may be needed. 
      • Call the pump company for a replacement if your pump is still in warranty.

Pump Kit Cleaning Tips 

One challenge of exclusive pumping is the fact that you have to pump, feed your baby the pumped milk, and you also have to clean your pump parts after each cleaning. The CDC recommends thoroughly cleaning your pump kit after each time you use it. 

These pump cleaning hacks can help save you some time.

  • Have multiple pump kit pieces. This way, you do not have to wash and dry your kit every single time. 
    • You need the breast pump shields and connectors (sometimes these are one piece).
  • Pumping directly into bags means no bottles to wash.
  • Use breast pump wipes or sanitizers for cleaning when you are out and about. 
  • Use breast pump kit steam bags to sanitize your pump parts.
  • Put your pump parts in the dishwasher.

Miscellaneous Tips for Exclusive pumpers

Have a supply of spare parts for your pump. Some things need to be replaced regularly. But even a brand-new part can be defective.

Always have a manual pump on hand for emergencies.

  • Power outages 
  • Pump failure.
  • Keep a manual pump in your diaper bag as a back-up when you are out.
  • You may not be able to find a convenient place to plug in your electric pump.
  • A battery pack may have lost its charge. 

If your budget allows, have a hospital grade pump for use at home, and a personal pump to take when you are on the go. 

Time Saving Tips for the Exclusively Pumping Mama

  • Hands-free pumping bra – moms swear by these. It will free up your hands to do other things while you are pumping.
  • Hands-free pumps like the Willow and El Vie allow you to pump while you are doing other things. You can pump while you are feeding your baby a bottle, or even while you are in the car.
    • These pumps plug into an outlet to charge and fit into your bra.

Exclusive Pumping Schedules

The number of times a day a woman must pump to maintain a full milk supply will vary from mom to mom. Some moms have breasts that can store a lot of milk and can pump less frequently. Other moms need to pump more often because their milk production will slow down if their breasts get past a certain point of fullness.

Experiment to determine the number of times you need to pump. 

  • Start with eight times a day.
  • Decrease to seven times and wait three days to see if your supply decreases.
  • If your supply stays the same, try decreasing by another pumping.
  • Continue until you see a decrease in supply. At that point, you would go back to the number of pumpings that produces the amount of milk you need.
  • Some moms can pump as few as four times a day and still produce e full milk supply. Other moms may need to pump 10-12 times a day.

Exclusive pumping may be a lot of work. However, giving your baby the gift of your breast milk is worth it.