Breastfeeding is sometimes painful when you have clogged milk ducts and milk blebs – Ever looked or googled for easy breast engorgement treatment at home? At times blocked milk ducts can lead to mastitis or breast infection. Being a mom of two exclusively breastfed babies, I often struggle with clogged milk ducts and here is easy breast engorgement treatment that really helped me.
A blocked or clogged milk duct is very painful. And if not treated can lead to breast infection or mastitis.
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What does blocked milk ducts look like?
The most common symptom is pain on the side of the breast where the duct. You can also feel the knot or a blocked duct which can feel like a hard lump. This is a most common issue with breastfeeding moms and it is extremely painful. Sometimes, you can also see a milk bleb or blister on the nipple. Some even experience a red or pink spot that is tender and warm to the touch.
Should I pump to relieve engorgement?
While emptying the breast is the best way to relieve breast engorgement, pumping might not be an ideal solution for all. For an oversupplied mom like me, pumping can increase the milk supply. However, pumping a little bit definitely helps alleviate engorgement and makes it easier for baby to latch as engorgement makes it too firm for baby to latch.
What causes clogged milk ducts?
Blocked milk ducts are not uncommon. When the milk is not emptied from your breast for a long time, it leads to blocked milk ducts and engorgement. Here are some probable reasons which you could watch if you got one.
- Check if your baby is latching & sucking properly – If there is any issue with either, it can lead to your baby take in less milk leading to engorgement.
- Missing or skipping nursing or pumping sessions – It can either be that you have simply forgotten to nurse your baby or missed your pumping session for any reason. It can also be a result of abrupt changes in breastfeeding schedule while you are planning to wean.
- Wearing tight bra or clothing – Tight clothes can block the flow of milk leading to blocked milk ducts.
- History of mastitis – If you have had a history of having mastitis or breast infection, there is a high probability of it coming back.
- Breastfeeding Position – Similar to latching issue, certain breastfeeding position might not be the one for you or your baby leading to him/ her take in less milk.
- Unhealed cracked Nipple – If you have a cracked nipple that is not treated, it can be the entry way for bacteria leading to infection. Use a lanolin cream to heal the cracked nipple.
How do you clear clogged milk ducts?
Note: If you have a fever or starting to feel flu like symptoms, contact your physician immediately as there can be a chance of breast infection or mastitis which needs medical attention. Before you try any of the following methods, do plan to consult a lactation consultant.
It is highly recommended to act sooner if you think you have a blocked milk duct as it can turn into breast infection. Here are some simple and easy remedies that you can try at home:
1. Warm shower – Getting into warm shower and run the warm water on tender breasts which has the clogged duct. If possible slightly massage the breast and hand express some milk out. Massage towards the nipple to regulate the flow. If you are unable to get into shower, you can also try heat compress or a hot towel.
2. Dangle Nursing – This is one of the best ways that help you clear the blocked milk ducts. All you need to do is lay baby down and get down on your hands & knees and nurse the baby with your engorged breast hanging directly into his/ her mouth. This technique makes the gravity working for you. You can also try nursing your baby with their chin and nose pointing towards the clog which quickens the unclog. Keep in mind to not ignore the other breast while you are working on the clogged breast.
3. Haakaa + Epsom Salt – One of my favourite and an effective technique! All you need is a haakaa filled with warm water up until you can soak your nipple and a spoonful of epsom salt. This technique works great when you do this right after a heat compress. Haakaa with its suction and the warm salt water pulls out the clog with the force.
4. Use an Electric Toothbrush – Massaging the engorged breast with the back of an electric toothbrush helps as the vibration helps clear the block.
5. Sunflower Lecithin – Do check with your doctor or a lactation consultant before trying this. Because sunflower lecithin is a non-GMO over the counter supplement that helps thin the milk and help with the clogged milk duct to flow easily relieving some engorgement.
6. Ibuprofen – Ibuprofen helps fight inflammation and infection that the clogged duct is causing. And Ibuprofen is considered safe to take while breastfeeding.
7. Talk to your doctor/ Lactation consultant – It is always best to talk to your lactation consultant if you have clogged milk ducts more often as it can be a sign that your baby is not latching properly or there might be a need to check in. Check out the helpful lessons I learned from my lactation Consultant.
How long does it take for breast engorgement or clogged milk duct to go away?
Normally clogged milk duct will go away in 24 to 48 hours provided you are nursing or pumping every 2-3 hours. In some cases it takes up to a week to clear engorgement.
Once the milk duct is clear, you can feel that the breast becomes softer again though it can fill up soon again. At times, you can even feel the clogged duct passing when you are nursing.
Is heat or cold better for breast engorgement treatment?
Most lactation consultants suggest to use warm or heat compress before nursing and to use cold compress after to relieve pain between the sessions.
In theory, heat compress helps with milk let down and cold compress helps relieve pain and swelling.
Clogged milk ducts are uncomfortable, annoying and extremely painful to deal with. But work on it. Nursing regularly is the trick and you should be able to clear up the clog within a day or two.
If the clog persists for more than 2 days, or if you are having clogging issues regularly, or you want a better plan to work out weaning your baby, make an appointment with your lactation consultant. You may be able to work out a better plan with help of a doctor. If you ever experience flu like symptom, do not ignore and consult your doctor to confirm it is not because of mastitis.