How to Unclog a Milk Duct

Claire Dowell
March 22, 2022

When you’re breastfeeding, your body is doing some amazing stuff. But even if you’re a pro, there can be some snags along the way! Just like with mastitis, complications like clogged milk ducts sometimes just happen! A blocked duct can cause discomfort, and if not treated properly, infection, so it’s important to learn how to deal with it. A recent survey showed that around 7% of breastfeeding mothers experience clogged ducts in just the first two weeks of breastfeeding.1 So what exactly is a clogged duct? And how can you get rid of it? Let’s find out!

Clogged milk ducts are a normal occurrence when breastfeeding that may present as a small lump accompanied by a sore feeling, and potentially red irritated skin.2 Milk ducts may clog when they are unable to properly drain. This can be caused by many things including tight clothing, a quick change in feeding habits, or not varying feeding positions. A clogged duct can be painful and irritating, and if not dealt with properly, it can lead to infection.2 If your duct becomes clogged, it can be tempting to stop breastfeeding immediately, but this will actually lead to engorgement. Try to keep breastfeeding, taking extra care to completely drain the breast. There are many ways to treat a clogged duct from home, but if the problem persists or worsens, it’s important to be seen by a medical professional.

Resolving a clogged duct can often be done by yourself, just using what you have at home! Before expressing milk, apply heat for a few minutes, and then gently massage the area to try and break up the clog. Move from the outside of the breast inwards towards the nipple. While breastfeeding, you can continue to massage the area and use a warm compress. In addition, taking a bath with a little epsom salt may provide some additional relief. Finally, oral ingestion of sunflower lecithin has also been shown to have benefits for breaking up clogged ducts.3 Lecithin is an organic compound similar to the naturally occurring phosphatidylcholine (woah) that is found in breast milk. Lecithin supplements have not been rigorously studied in a clinical trial, but were found to be generally safe and effective by the FDA.3 The use of sunflower lecithin can be a useful tool for breaking up clogged ducts and preventing complications that could arise.