10 Ways to Clean a Clogged Milk Duct

Learn how to clear a clogged milk duct and get the relief you need as a new mom!

A clogged milk duct (also known as breast engorgement) can make breastfeeding a challenging experience.

The first few days as your milk comes in can feel absolutely unbearable. Rock hard breasts is enough to leave a woman in tears for days!

But thankfully there are some things you can do to help clear your milk duct before seeking help from your doctor. In most cases, a woman’s milk duct can clear on its own.

But if left untreated, you run the risk of getting a breast infection or a clogged milk duct.

Try some of these home remedies that have worked for many moms. I know it’s painful mama, but there is an end to it!

First, let’s make sure you have a clear understanding of what your milk duct is and its function.

What is a Milk Duct?

Your milk ducts are the tubes that transport your breast milk from where it is made all the way to your nipples (where your baby feeds).

Your breast has between 15 and 30 milk ducts. When your baby feeds, his or her suctioning (while latched on properly) draws the milk out of your breast.

Basically, your milk ducts help deliver the milk your body produces to your baby.

Here’s a video explaining more about you milk ducts –

Causes of Clogged Milk Ducts

Clogged milk ducts usually happen during the first year after baby is born. It happens to mothers who breastfeed exclusively as well as those who don’t.

As a mothers milk comes in, her body goes through a stage of adjusting to her baby’s feeding needs.

If a mother chooses not to breastfeed, or stops breastfeeding, she may experience clogged milk ducts as a result of her baby not feeding on the milk her body has been supplying.

Mothers who breastfeed exclusively may also experience clogged milk ducts as a result of their baby not feeding often enough.

In other words, her breasts can become engorged when her body is producing more milk than baby is actually consuming.

Here are a few other common causes for a clogged milk duct:

Symptoms of a Clogged Milk Duct

When a milk duct is clogged, I don’t think there will be anyone on the planet that can convince you otherwise! It’s just that painful and uncomfortable.

Sometimes so much so that sleeping on that breast or even giving a hug hurts way too much!

When your milk ducts are clogged, you may experience some of these common symptoms.

  • Heat and swelling in the breast
  • Itchiness in the breast
  • Slower milk flow
  • Lumps in the breast
  • Pain in certain areas of the breasts
  • Heavy breasts

How to Clean a Clogged Milk Duct

1. Regular Feedings

The fastest way to clear a clogged milk duct is to feed your baby regularly from the breast that has the clogged milk duct.

It is important to make sure that you drain the breast completely of milk during each feeding.

After each feeding, your breast should feel lighter. Sometimes newborns fall asleep before they’ve finished eating. This is common in newborns that have jaundice. In such a case, you’ll need to wake your baby up to continue feeding.

2. Shower

Warmth is a wonderful relief for engorged breasts. Try standing in the shower and allowing the warm water to flow over your affected breast.

You’ll probably notice that your milk starts to let down on its own right then and there! After your shower, try pumping or nursing your baby (if you can). This can make a huge difference.

3. Use a Warm Compress

You can also apply a warm cloth or heating pad to the clogged breast.

This can help the milk to flow easier and also offer you relief if you’re experiencing a painful, itchy, burning sensation in your breast.

If you’re using a warm cloth, apply it on the clogged breast for 20 minutes at a time.

4. Cold Potatoes

While it may sound a bit weird, this actually works! Refrigerate a fresh, raw potato for several hours.

Then grate it up and apply the pieces directly on the affected breast.

Cover the breast with a clean towel for about 5 minutes.

Do this about every hour. This should help significantly with the pain and discomfort as well as clear your duct!

5. Pineapple Juice

Drinking pineapple juice can help you clear your duct as well (so I hope you like pineapples, mama!).

Drink one cup of pineapple juice everyday to reduce inflammation and unclog your duct.

Keep in mind that you should drink freshly extracted pineapple juice that is not from concentrate.

6. Remove Your Bra

The underwire in your bra can sometimes make it harder for the milk to flow through your duct. Remove your bra to improved circulation.

Since you don’t need your milk to be leaking all over your shirt, consider getting a maternity bra, if you don’t already have one.

The big difference is the absence of underwire.

Maternity bras also make it easier to access your breast to nurse your baby without having to lift your entire bra up. Very comfortable too!

When you’re just around your house, try removing your underwire bra as often as you can. At least until your milk duct is clear.

7. Hand Express By Massage

A light, gentle, massage may also help you, mama. Whether you’re working long hours away from your baby or in any other case, you can hand express your milk by massaging your breasts. This is encouraged before and after feedings.

You can also do this when you’re away from your baby or whenever you need to clear you milk duct. I know it probably hurts to touch your breasts right now, but give it a try.

Start gentle and do what feels most comfortable for you!

8. Change Positions

Gravity really helps us moms in many ways. Not just in labor, but in helping us clear our clogged milk ducts as well!

Have you tried adjusting you and baby into new breastfeeding positions?

Try laying baby on his or her back with you hovered over and your bodies parallel.You should be on your two hands and on your knees.

Make sure your baby’s chin lines up with your clogged duct. Allow baby to get a good latch and let gravity pull the milk down for you!

9. Garlic

Mash up one clove of raw garlic and eat it every 2 hours for a period of 24 hours. You can drink it with water (and honey if you’d like).

This should help clear your duct as well as reduce the risk of you getting mastitis.

10. Pump

If your baby is having a hard time latching on properly, you can try pumping your breast milk to allow your baby to feed through a bottle.

Again, it’s very important that you drain your affected breast of all the milk during each pumping session (just as you would during breastfeeding).

Give It A Try!

I know it can feel like the pain will not end soon enough! But hang in there, mama! Try these natural remedies and you should see a difference really soon to your breastfeeding problems.

This is just one of the humps many of us women have to get over in our mothering journey. A clogged milk duct happens to a lot of us, so you’re not alone.

If you are unable to clear your milk duct in 1 or 2 days, make sure to reach out to your doctor. It will get better!

Over to you, mama. Share with us which of these methods did you find worked well for you? Share with us in the comments below!

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Elna is a mom to twins who blogs and writes for a living. She loves all things mom. While she's not blogging, you can find Elna meal planning, organizing and helping other moms in her Facebook group, Mom to Mompreneurs.

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1 Comments

Hey Elna, I had no idea that a cold potato could be a way to unclog a milk duct what a great natural way to do that! I exclusively pumped and so wish I had that hack when I had a clogged duct. Thanks for sharing and letting moms know!Reply to Rosie