Overcoming Breastfeeding Challenges: Clogged Milk Ducts and Mastitis

Updated on January 26, 2019
Leiahm profile image

I am a mom of four breastfed children! It hasn't always been easy, but it has been worth it.


What Are Clogged Ducts and What Is Mastitis?

A clogged milk duct is exactly what it sounds like. You may notice an engorgement, a lump in the breast, or a just a tender spot. You may also notice a decrease in output in breast milk. If a duct becomes clogged you may develop mastitis, which is an infection that presents itself with flu like symptoms.

If you get mastitis it is advisable to seek medical help. I have gotten over a small bout of mastitis on my own without antibiotics, but I still called in to make sure I would have some antibiotics if I needed them. Basically, if you develop a fever, take it seriously!

Prevention of Clogged Milk Ducts

You can try to prevent a clogged duct from happening.

If you notice your breast are becoming engorged you should try to...

  • nurse more
  • massage the breast working towards the nipple before and during nursing.
  • Make sure you are staying hydrated!
  • Wear only comfortable, well fitted bras, I personally recommend a cotton nursing bra that does not have any underwire or anything else that may cause irritation.

How to Help a Clogged Duct

  • Nurse or pump often! This is very important... keep trying to nurse. If you try to give the breast a break this could cause the clog to get worse!
  • Massage the area before and during nursing to help loosen the clog
  • Take a hot shower or apply a moist warm compress right before nursing. This you milk flow. Only apply the heat for a few minutes as heat can increase the inflammation.
  • Apply cold compresses throughout the day to help with inflammation. I recommend you use a cold wet rag for about 20 minutes at a time or try placing cabbage leaves in your bra.
  • A may find that a little Lavender essential oil may help with the pain and inflammation. Use some with a little carrier oil and rub it in gently to the affected area being careful not to get it on the nipple where the baby will ingest it. I recommend you do this right after your baby has nursed so that will be adequate time for the scent of the Lavender to fade away before the next nursing session.
  • Rest and eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water!
  • Avoid anything strenuous and put off most exercising till you feel better. If you want to take a light walk or do something that does not cause the breast to bounce or move about much this is ok but be gentle and if anything causes you more pain stop doing it!
  • Use gravity. Lay baby on the floor and get on all fours to feed baby. This may look weird but just may be what is need to help the clog loosen.
  • Wear loose fitted bras if needed.

How to Help Mastitis

Mastitis is a clogged duct that has become infected or a clogged duct caused by infection. Therefore all the above tips for clogged ducts also apply for mastitis.

Here are some additional tips I use for mastitis:

  • Call and/or visit the doctor to get antibiotics.
  • In addition to the lavender essential oil mentioned above you may try tea tree oil. This may help with the infection
  • Take probiotics at a separate time than you take antibiotics to repopulate the gut with good biotics that are killed off when you take antibiotics.
  • Use sliced potatoes on the breast. Thinly slice them and apply them area of the breast affected. Leave them on for a least two hours. This might sound weird to you but this really does seems to help. Try and true method! I put mine in a loose fitting sports bra and left it on all night. And woke up feeling much better!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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