Breastfeeding can often be a beautiful and blissful experience. However, like anything in life, there can be occasional challenges. One of those challenges may be plugged milk ducts. According to KellyMom.com a plugged duct is: "An area of the breast where milk flow is obstructed." In order to unplug a plugged duct, you need to express milk often, put a warm compress on the area, and massage. I have found that the best way to unplug a plugged duct is to nurse my baby more, pump and hand express, and use a moist warm compress. A clean diaper filled with water and microwaved for one minute makes a great compress! When you massage, try to massage it toward your nipple, but honestly you just need to massage the crap out of the entire area going any which way you can. Also, use a vibrator to massage it out!
Plugged ducts can be caused by a number of different things. One of the most common causes is failure to remove milk from the breasts after nursing. If milk is allowed to sit in the breasts for too long, it can cause the ducts to become plugged. Another common cause is going too long in between nursing sessions. When breasts are not emptied frequently, pressure can build up in the ducts and cause them to become plugged. Finally, pressure on the area can also cause plugged ducts. This can happen when a woman wears an underwire bra, for example, which can put pressure on the breast tissue and ducts.
A plugged duct feels like a hard, painful lump in your breast. If the area is red and warm to the touch, it might be mastitis, which is a serious infection. Symptoms of mastitis are the same as a plugged duct, but you may also feel flu-like symptoms.
Let's talk more in detail about using warm compresses to clear up a clogged duct. My favorite warm compress is a diaper filled with water that I heat in the microwave for one minute. I then fold it up and apply it to the area that's clogged. I alternate between applying the compress and massaging the area until the duct clears up.
Massaging the area before expressing milk can help to break up the clog and encourage milk to flow from the duct. Massaging during and after expression can also be helpful in dislodging the plug. A lactaction massager is often more effective than using your hands, so consider getting one if you experience a stubborn clog.
When you have a clog, you need to express as much as you can by nursing, hand expressing and pumping. Do not neglect the side that doesn't have the clog, or else you could get another clog. Follow your normal schedule of nursing your baby, always starting your nursing session on the side that you have the clog. If you pump, hand express each time after you pump.
There are other things to keep in mind while trying to unclog a milk duct. Some people find relief quickly while others need to repeat the process for days. If it does take several days, don't panic; just keep repeating the process every day until the clog is gone. A plugged duct temporarily reduces milk supply, but the supply will come back once the plug is removed. When clogs come out it will be obvious in most cases! The hard as a rock feeling goes away and milk will be able to flow better like it did before. It is also normal to feel bruised and sore around the area for a day or so.
In conclusion, to get a plugged duct out: express milk often, put a warm compress on the area and massage it gently. Doing this should help to clear the duct and allow the milk to flow normally again.