Clogged Milk Duct Popping: Symptoms And Ways To Clear Milk Ducts

Clogged Milk Duct Popping

If you are breastfeeding or did in the past, you may have noticed that you could feel a tender lump in your breast if you changed your normal feeding schedule, skipped a session, or even overslept. These knots are clogged milk ducts that occur because milk has solidified, and now it cannot get out. Although a clogged milk duct is mostly harmless, at first, they are painful and uncomfortable, and you need to pay attention to them.

Clogged milk duct popping is something anyone should not do unless they are a medical specialist. So no matter how tempted you are to relieve yourself from this situation, do not ever try popping it yourself. There are many things you can do to unclog the duct and prevent mastitis in the process.

Why do we get clogged milk ducts?

Milk ducts transport milk from where it is produced in the breast to the nipple so the baby can nurse. They are very thin and narrow, so many reasons can cause them to get blocked.

For example, if you do not empty your milk supply while breastfeeding or pumping, the remaining milk can become solid and act as a plug, causing a clogged duct.

The same happens if, for whatever reason, you skip feeding sessions because your body will produce the milk, and with no way out, it could start to solidify. Even wearing a tight bra or too tight clothes that apply excess pressure to the breasts can cause clogged ducts because it restrains normal flow. Stress can also cause clogged milk ducts.

So, how do you know if what you have is a clogged duct and not something else?

Symptoms of a clogged milk duct

You will notice a lump in an area of your breast (it can be anywhere from your armpit to your areola) that typically bulges outward and may feel hot to the touch and painful. The area around it may also show some swelling. It will become more uncomfortable during a let-down, and you will feel some relief after feeding or pumping. Milk blisters or milk blebs may appear at the opening of the nipple.

Symptoms such as redness on the skin, malaise, breast pain and rash, and fever indicate you have a more severe situation called mastitis, which is an inflammation of the breast and should be taken care of by a medical specialist to prevent complications. If you suspect you have mastitis, call your doctor or visit urgent care to get prescribed antibiotics as soon as possible.

Clogged Milk Duct Popping

Milk blister explained

Milk blisters and milk blebs are not the same as a clogged milk duct, although you may get milk blisters if you have a plugged duct. The baby’s poor or shallow latch of the baby on your breast causes milk blebs because it applies too much pressure on one part of the breast.

A milk blister occurs when the skin grows over a milk duct, which can happen because your baby’s latch and tongue movement are improper. There is an excessive milk supply or pressure on one side of the breast or as a result of a yeast infection in the baby’s mouth called thrush (if it is thrush, you will likely experience multiple blisters at once).

Both the milk blisters and milk blebs look like tiny white head pimples across the tip of your breasts caused by thickened milk. If you have milk blisters, your treatment methods include keeping the nipple area moist between feeds. You can try placing olive oil on a cotton ball inside your bra, applying vinegar to your breast pad, or letting your breasts soak in warm water with Epsom salt multiple times a day.

Just so you are prepared, if your doctor determines you need a milk blister popped, the process is simple. They will sanitize the blister area and poke the blister with a sterilized needle in a side motion (stabbing it may cause bacteria to enter the wound) to allow the backed-up milk to flow.

Sometimes they need to cut extra loose, blistered skin with small sharp scissors or tweezers. Then they will sanitize the area again after it has been completely drained. Your doctor will probably prescribe medications and antibiotic ointment to apply after feeding sessions to prevent infection.

Will a clogged milk duct dry out on its own?

A clogged milk duct may dry out on its own, but this will take a lot of time, especially if you are constantly breastfeeding. And waiting for it to dry up by itself may put you at risk of developing mastitis. Not to mention that breastfeeding will become very uncomfortable, so it is not advised to wait around to solve it.

How to clear a clogged milk duct

You can do many things to relieve clogged milk ducts, so let us explore them.

1. Nurse often

Usually, babies can dislodge the clog by suctioning them out during breastfeeding sessions. Try different breastfeeding positions to see what works better and get the milk moving to push the clog out. While nursing or pumping, apply some pressure or gently massage the area with an outward motion where the blocked milk duct is located to get it moving.

If your baby does not want to keep nursing, try pumping and massaging the area. However, nursing and pumping may confuse your body and signal that it needs to produce more milk, so do not overdo it because it may complicate things further.

2. Offer the affected breast first

Babies tend to suck more strongly at the beginning of a feeding session, so nurse them with the breast with the clogged duct first so the extra pressure can pop a clogged milk duct. The same principle applies when using a breast pump: first, get the clogged breast fully drained. It will not be completely pain-free, but it may render better results.

3. Apply heat

The heat helps with inflammation, so applying a warm compress to the area or taking a warm shower before treating clogged milk ducts may help get it out, plus it will soothe your breast and relax you. After you apply heat, try nursing or massaging the area to get things moving. If you can hand express breast milk, then that may also help.

Clogged Milk Duct Popping

4. Dangle feed

If what you have tried has not worked, allow gravity to help you. Lay the baby on their back on a secure flat surface and get on all fours over the baby so your breast dangles above them and nurses this way. It is not the most comfortable or glamorous position, but this can help with the clogged duct.

5. Use vibrations

While showering with hot water or in a warm and steamy environment, use an electric toothbrush or a vibrator on the affected breast to see if the vibration loosens the clog. Also, applying slight pressure with a fine-tooth comb over the clog can break it up and dislodge it, but be careful you do not bruise yourself.

Whichever you choose to do, pay special attention to the front of the clog because more likely, it is the hardened part of the clog, and the rest is backed-up milk.

Clogged Milk Duct Popping: Final thoughts

When your breastfeeding journey turns uncomfortable and painful, it may be very tempting to find a fast and easy solution to the problem, but you need to be careful not to make things worse.

Clogged milk duct popping without the proper precautions or knowledge about what we are doing can lead to infections or more severe complications. So instead of reaching for a sterile needle yourself, try safer methods to restore milk flow on the blocked duct.

Make sure you keep your breasts soft and fully drained by extracting as much milk as possible after each feeding session. Let your baby feed freely and pump the excess out afterward.

Reach out to your local lactation consultant or breastfeeding support groups if you need extra help preventing and treating a clogged milk duct, milk blister, or milk bleb. Remember that these are natural and quite common occurrences, so they will likely have some knowledge and experience with them.

And if things do not improve and you notice signs of infection, call your healthcare provider right away.

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