It’s happened many times in my 5+ years of breastfeeding. I wake up in the morning to a painful sensation in my breast. I put my hand over my breast to confirm. I feel around and narrow down which part of my breast is sore. I think, “Oh crap, another clogged duct.”

If this has happened to you then let me give you a cyber fist bump in solidarity. Breastfeeding is a major part of my household, but it’s not all glamour shots and nipple nap-times. We suffer a lot as well. Something like a clogged milk duct can be tricky to treat and cause great discomfort.

First off, you might be concerned that you have Mastitis. Mastitis and Clogged Milk Ducts have similar symptoms such as pain in one breast, a tender lump in the breast, this area of the breast may be hot, swollen or look red. But Mastitis will come with a more intense pain, heat and swelling, as well as possible red streaks in the area of the pain. And with Mastitis comes flu-like symptoms; fever, aching and malaise. An untreated clogged milk duct can lead to Mastitis.

Clogged milk ducts occur when there is restricted milk flow due to engorgement, latching problems, limiting breastfeeding/skipping feedings, oversupply, sleeping on your belly, nursing strikes, baby sleeping longer, tight bra, etc. The trick to treatment is to get the milk flowing to draw out the clog.

Some tricks to treat the clogged milk duct are:

  1. Start treatment right away.
  2. Heat: Warm the breast with a towel, shower or bath. You can even fill a bowl with hot water and submerge your breast in it.
  3. Massage: Massage the area in the direction of the nipple. You can do this in the shower or bath. You can alternate the hot compress and massage every few minutes.
  4. Nurse frequently: Do not restrict your feedings. Nurse on the affected breast first. Massage while nursing in the direction of the nipple. You can even dangle your breasts over your baby and nurse in that position to allow gravity to assist.
  5. Pump or hand express: When your baby is full continue to express milk by using a pump or you can hand express. The more milk you can drain from your breast the faster the healing time.
  6. Increase your fluid intake and get as much rest as possible. Use cold compresses in between treatment measures for pain management.

Once you have drawn the clog to the nipple you might notice that it looks stringy, grainy or fatty. This is not at all harmful to your baby. The tenderness in your breast may continue for a few more days.

As with any breastfeeding issue, be quick to get help from a lactation consultant.

You can read more about Clogged Milk Ducts here.