This post is based on personal experience and not to be taken as medical advice. Consult with your doctor when making medical decisions.
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Breastfeeding can be really hard.
You can battle with everything from a low milk supply, to cracked nipples, or clogged milk ducts. Clogged ducts and/or cracked nipples can result in mastitis, so they’re issues that you really want to address as soon as they show up.
Trust me, mastitis is not fun. I had it twice with my first son, so when I ended up with clogged ducts a week after my second son was born, I was anxious.
These are the things I did in order to clear my clogged ducts
You’ll want to apply a warm, preferably moist, compress to the lump for 5-10 minutes prior to breastfeeding or pumping. If you don’t have something like a heating pad handy, you can dampen a fresh diaper with hot water and apply the diaper to the lump.
Warm shower and massage
If you have a clogged milk duct, this might be a good chance for you to take a nice, long shower. The heat will help to loosen things up and then you can take this opportunity to either use your hand or a breast massager apply pressure to the top of the lump and drag your hand or massager toward the nipple. I didn’t have a massager with my first son, but it was a total gamechanger with my second son.
Drain the breast
Nurse frequently and in varied positions
If you’re a breastfeeding mom, you’ll want to nurse your baby frequently. You’ll probably want to start with the breast with the clogged duct as frequently as possible. If you’re still struggling to clear the duct, try varying your feeding positions so that you’re stimulating different ducts.
Again, the primary focus here should be to empty the breast.
Use a Haakaa
Use a haakaa on the breast with the clog when feeding on the other side
A hakka can be a great tool to use on the breast with the clog while you’re feeding on the side without the clog. It will help to release some of the clog when your milk lets down and keep you from getting too full.
Use a haakaa filled with warm water and epsom salt
Another helpful way to utilize your haakaa is by filling it with very warm water and a heaping spoonful of epsom salt. Then, you can attach the haakaa with the water and epsom salt mixture to the breast. The haakaa should be full enough for the water to touch your nipple. Leave the haakaa on your breast for 5-10 minutes as milk releases into the water.
Once you’ve softened the breast and cleared the duct, apply ice or a cold compress to the affected area. This will help to offset any swelling.
What if its more than a clogged duct?
If you think that you may have mastitis (ie. an infection of the breast), call your doctor or OB right away. Some of the signs for mastitis include a fever, flu-like symptoms, and/or your breast becoming red or hot to the touch (aside from just the spot where the clog is located).
It is far better to be safe and contact your OB if you think you may have mastitis than to try to remedy it at home if you’re not sure. Mastitis cannot be treated at home and will require an antibiotic to clear up the infection.
How can you avoid getting clogged ducts in the future?
Make sure that you’re emptying your breast frequently. If you have to skip a nursing or pumping session, you can manually release the milk from your breast. You also should avoid wearing any tight, constricting tops or bras.