Clogs. If you have one, then you know they suck. If you haven’t had one, then it’s best to be prepared for the possibility. A clogged milk duct happens when the milk gets too sticky to freely move through the breast. This can happen for several reasons.
Clogged milk ducts can affect anyone, though they seem to affect exclusive pumpers more often than women that are nursing. I’m sure it has to do with the fact that a baby is much more effective at moving milk than a pump will ever be.
So since I don’t have a baby to help me out of my sticky situations (no pun intended), I have found my own ways. These are some of my tried and true solutions to help get rid of clogs to help prevent the horror that is mastitis.This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy something through one of my links I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I will never suggest a product or service that I don’t use and love myself because that’s just wrong. If you like reading legal mumbo-jumbo then you can check out my disclosure policy HERE.
Check Your Flange Fit
Tight fitting clothes or bras can cause the milk to become constricted and get stuck (aka clogged). I used to get small ones from my breast shields because I was holding them on too tight. Even a sleeping preference can cause clogs. So check for outside factors that may be causing your issue and remove them, then go on to the next steps. Maymom has a great printable ruler that you can use to help measure.
Start Using Lecithin
If you aren’t already, start taking lecithin. Lecithin helps to make your milk less sticky so it’s easier to come out. Whether soy or sunflower, it doesn’t really matter. I personally have the NOW Sunflower Lecithin and it works great.
For clogs I’ll increase the dose to 2 tablets 4 times a day. I will say that since I started taking 2 tablets twice a day regularly I haven’t had a single clog. (Knock on wood) It also helps me to empty faster so win-win.
Pump More Often
If you have a clog then the milk is, by definition, not flowing. You need to get that milk flowing again to be able to remove the entire clog. Pumping more often will help with that.
Sometimes the clog will come out all at once. Sometimes it’ll come out in bits and pieces. Either way you need to get it out as soon as possible before it gets infected. Trust me, you do not want mastitis.
Pumping more often, even if it’s for shorter sessions, is better than longer sessions spread out. You don’t want that milk sitting too long.
Use a Manual Pump
I love my manual pump for getting out clogs. I have the Medela Harmony and it is awesome! I have a little more control over the suction and the placement which makes it easier to manipulate it how I need to.
Pro tip: Use your manual in the shower. Get the water as hot as you can stand and then go to work. Doing this always helps me get my clogs out.
Massage Your Breasts
Massaging during pumping can help to loosen up the clog. You want to apply firm pressure to the area to try to push it out. Be firm, but don’t torture yourself. If you’re hurting yourself then it’s just going to make it harder because it’s going to be swollen and inflamed. If it gets too tender then you can always take some Motrin to help with the pain and inflammation. I’d suggest taking it 20-30 minutes before pumping to help during the next session.
Apply Heat When Pumping
A heating pad, a hot shower, a hot towel, anything will work. I’ve even filled a diaper with hot water before. (It totally works) Heat will help to loosen up the clog to allow it to move through. You want to use the heat in conjunction with the massage while pumping.
Take an electric toothbrush, or a vibrator, and dig it down into the clog. You want pressure. The vibration will help to really break up the clog so that it can slip out.
Get your pump all set up, preferably with a pumping bra. Once you’ve created the suction, transition to a leaning over position. You basically want your boobs to be pointing at the floor. You can do this by getting on all fours or leaning against something and letting the girls dangle that way. Once you’re there, if you can, unhook your bra and let gravity do the work.
Your pumps will stay on as long as the bottles aren’t too full and heavy. Having the extra force of gravity can really help to move the clog in the right direction. Some women even swear by dangle pumping for each pumping session just to empty more thoroughly. Something to consider.
Drink More Water
I know you’re already drinking a ton of water, but start guzzling more. Being really hydrated will help that clog thin out a bit which makes it easier to move. So go on, drink up! I’ve also noticed that on days where I am a little light on my water I’m more likely to clog or take a really long time to empty. Water is vital!
Check for Milk Blebs
A bleb is a blister caused by trapped milk rather than a blister caused by friction. It will usually be white or yellow and will generally bulge with milk if you apply pressure behind it. It is caused when a layer of skin grows over a nipple pore. They are painful and can definitely be the cause of your clogged duct.
To remove them, try putting your breast in a hot Epsom salt bath prior to pumping. This will help it heal as well as to help soften the skin to allow the milk to get through. Try that a few times, and if nothing is happening then you may need to remove the excess skin.
Gently rub on the area with your finger or a wet wash cloth. I like to do this in the shower. The hot water will help loosen the skin. If that doesn’t work then you may need to get it drained. Don’t do this yourself! You will need to see your doctor to prevent infection.
If the clog is there for more than a week or so, or if you start running a fever and getting flu-like symptoms, then you need to go to the doctor ASAP. You’ll need to check for an abscess or mastitis.
When dealing with clogs, it is definitely better to remain on the offensive. So drink plenty of water, take some lecithin, and empty fully and completely and you should be fine.
Have you had a clog? What have you tried to get it out? Leave me a comment below.
Until next time!