Preventing and Treating Clogged Milk Ducts: Lactation Expert Advice

If you’ve ever experienced the painful and itchy feeling that comes from a clogged milk duct, then you’ll know what we’re talking about. A clogged milk duct is when liquid accumulates in your nipple or areola and causes irritation, pain, and even infection. While there can be many causes of a clogged milk duct, the most common ones include:

  • Frequent use of breast pumps to relieve engorgement
  • Lactation medication usage
  • Breastfeeding older infants or younger toddlers who have smaller nipples
  • Sweaty conditions during the day
  • Illness like thrush

While there is no single solution to preventing clogged milk ducts, there are several steps you can take to help prevent this uncomfortable condition from arising or getting worse if it does arise. Keep reading for more details.

The Importance of Preventing Clogging in Ducts

There are many different factors that contribute to the formation of a clogged milk duct, including frequent breastfeeding, certain medications, and certain illnesses. However, the majority of cases of a clogged milk duct can be prevented. If you experience frequent engorgement, frequent use of a breast pump to relieve engorgement, or if you fail to release your breasts completely within an hour of feeding your baby, you are putting yourself at a higher risk of developing a clogged milk duct. These are all signs you should be more careful of your feeding routine. If you’re suffering from frequent engorgement, there are some steps you can take to relieve the pain and discomfort. Make sure you’re eating nutritious foods, drinking enough water, and taking ibuprofen or other pain relievers as needed.

Staying Fresh is Key for Preventing Clogging

As a breastfeeding mother, you have the power to prevent clogged milk ducts by staying hydrated and eating nutritious foods that help to keep your ducts hydrated. By staying hydrated, you keep your ducts more open and prevent more irritation from occurring from blocked ducts. Since there is a direct correlation between hydration and duct health, staying hydrated is crucial in preventing clogged ducts. To stay hydrated, aim to drink at least 2 liters of water every day while breastfeeding. Additionally, make sure you eat foods like salads, fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes to help prevent dehydration. By eating these foods, you’ll be keeping your ducts hydrated and preventing more irritation from occurring.

Maintaining a Clean Environment is Important too

When you’re cleaning your breasts, it’s important to remember to clean your nipples as well. If your nipples are dirty, they can’t properly suck the breastmilk, causing the liquid to build up in your ducts. Clean your nipples regularly with a warm water solution to keep them hydrated and prevent clogging. Additionally, it’s important to remember to clean your breast pump, your baby’s bottle, and bottle nipples regularly to prevent bacteria buildup. A dirty environment can cause more clogged ducts because it encourages bacteria growth.

Stay Away from Harmful Things

When it comes to staying healthy during your breastfeeding journey, there are many things that can harm your lactation experience. One of these things is harmful bacteria. Bacteria can cause a great deal of irritation and inflammation, which can cause a clogged milk duct. To keep harmful bacteria at bay, you need to clean and sanitize your bottles, breast pump parts, nipples, and breast pump thoroughly every day. Additionally, you should avoid using harsh scents and products while breastfeeding. If you’re struggling with a clogged milk duct, you can try to ease the pain by gently massaging the area with a warm washcloth or your finger.

Keep Your Breastfeeding Equipment Clean and Dry

Whenever you’re not using your equipment, make sure to keep it clean and dry. Dirty equipment can cause bacteria to grow, which can lead to a clogged milk duct. Additionally, it can also cause your equipment to become rusty and unusable. When you clean and dry your equipment, you help to prevent bacteria from growing on the parts of the equipment, keeping it clean and usable for longer. If you do experience a clogged duct, you should try the following:

  • Dry your equipment with a clean towel after every feeding.
  • Clean your equipment regularly with a dish cleanser or a bottle brush.
  • Do not use harsh scents or products when cleaning, as these can cause more irritation and inflammation.

Treating a Clogged Milk Duct

If you notice a clogged milk duct, don’t try to force it to drain. Instead, follow these steps to help ease the pain, promote healing, and prevent infection.

  • Massage your breast gently for 5 minutes.
  • Wrap your breast with a towel to keep it warm and make it more comfortable.
  • Drink at least 3 cups of water during this time.
  • Wash your hands before touching your other parts.
  • Once you finish the steps above, you can try using breast massage cream or warm compresses.

If the pain persists, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant for an alternative clogged milk duct treatment.

Wrapping your Nipple with a Burp Wrap or cloth wrap

If you’re experiencing pain during a clogged milk duct, you can try using a burp wrap to help ease the pain. A burp wrap is a cloth that you wrap around your nipple that has a built-in valve. This valve allows air to pass through the wrap, which helps to draw out the liquid. You should only use this method if the pain is unbearable and you cannot wait for your duct to drain on its own. For example, if you notice a clogged milk duct during a feeding, you can try the following:

  • Hold the burp wrap around your nipple for 10 seconds.
  • Allow the wrap to sit for 10 minutes before feeding your baby with your breast.
  • Repeat the process for 10 minutes.
  • Once you finish, you can try to feed your baby with a bottle.


Clogged milk ducts can be uncomfortable, painful, and even damaging to your lactation experience. However, by following the steps outlined above, you can prevent this condition from occurring and ease your pain if it does arise. If you notice a clogged milk duct, don’t try to force it to drain. Instead, follow these steps to help ease the pain, promote healing, and prevent infection.

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