How to Tell if You Might Have a Clogged Duct and What to Do
Breast pain is no joke. When you have breast pain and are trying to pump or breastfeed, it can be almost prohibitive. It can also be confusing. You are in touch with your body in a way that you’ve never experienced before. Discovering these new things about your body, your breasts, and connecting with your baby, there will be things that you do not know.
For some reason we often think that when we become a mother, we suddenly unlock this trove of knowledge and we’ll be able to do everything on our own. Or that it is super easy and nothing difficult, like pain and confusion, will ever happen.
What is a Clogged Duct?
Many of us have a very limited understanding of the actual anatomy of our breasts. What seems like a simple part of our body is beautifully complex. With this limited knowledge when we hear of a clogged duct we assume it’s a “milk duct” when what we are really thinking of is two pieces of a system. Inside your breast, there are mammary glands which is where the milk is produced, and lactiferous ducts which are responsible for transporting the milk through your breast.
The clog in this case is happening in the lactiferous gland. This can also be called a plugged duct. For a great resource on the composition of your breast, check out this HealthLine article. When you feel your breast, a clogged duct will feel hard to the touch and they can be very painful.
There are a few reasons that a duct can become clogged or plugged. If your baby is having trouble latching, if you miss one or more nursing or pumping sessions or if you are separated from your baby (NICU mamas we see you), or clothing that restricts the flow of milk can cause a clogged milk duct.
Try This At Home First
The first step when you identify a clogged duct, aside from calling a certified lactation professional, is to continue nursing or pumping. When you continue to move milk through your breast, that can help unclog the duct. Adding gentle massage into your nursing or pumping routine can also help.
If you are nursing, try changing your position. You can also try nursing positions that use gravity to assist with this. Some moms use a position called dangle feeding where you lay your baby on the ground, and position yourself over him or her on your hands and knees.
Take stock of what you’re wearing. Have you been wearing restrictive bras that possibly could have caused the clog? Try looser fitting clothing.
Lastly, try gentle heat. We love Lillemer Lil Buds breast comfort packs. This weighted little heat pad can be a great companion when dealing with a possibly clogged duct.
When to Seek Professional Help
BeauGen always encourages moms to seek professional help. Breastfeeding and pumping is a brave new world for many moms. We can’t expect ourselves to know everything and be able to solve everything. And when it comes to something as important as your maternal health and feeding your baby, you deserve the very best help, advice, and information.
International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) and Certified Lactation Consultants (CLCs) are a great resource but underutilized -- whether it’s mommy martyrdom and putting ourselves dead last, or because we just don’t want to bother someone. However, it’s imperative that we seek help. A clogged duct could actually be a clogged pore . If untreated, it can most definitely turn into something more serious.
Many insurance providers cover IBCLC or CLC visits. Call your health insurance provider to find out if they do. If you aren’t covered, there are affordable -- and sometimes even free -- options available.