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5 Tips for Treating Mastitis and Clogged Ducts

5 Tips for Treating Mastitis and Clogged Ducts


Many breastfeeding moms experience clogged milk ducts (also referred to as blocked ducts or plugged ducts). A milk duct is a pathway for breast milk to travel through the breast and out the nipple. A clogged duct occurs when milk becomes stagnant in the duct, and it can be fairly easy to treat. 

Symptoms of blocked milk ducts can include breast tenderness, breast pain, nipple pain, redness, heat, decreased milk supply, tender lumps, and palpable lumps. Occasionally, babies will be fussy at the breast due to the decreased flow of milk caused by the blockage.

Sometimes, a blocked duct can turn into mastitis (aka lactational mastitis or lactation mastitis), which is inflammation of the breast tissue that may or may not involve an infection. Those with mastitis may have the symptoms above as well as flu-like symptoms such as fever (101.3 °F or above), chills, fatigue, and an overall unwell feeling.

It’s always best to consult your healthcare team (as soon as possible if you develop a fever), but as a team of moms with lots of breastfeeding experience, we wanted to share some of our tried-and-true at-home solutions. So without further ado, here are our top five tips for how to treat clogged ducts and mastitis (we’ll leave the medication advice to your docs!). And for more in-depth info, check out this blog.

best nursing bra for clogged ducts

1. Nurse or pump frequently.

One of the most common solutions–and one of the hardest when you’re in pain! Ineffective emptying of the breast is a major cause of engorgement, clogged ducts, and mastitis, so work to empty the affected breast often, whether that’s by nursing, hand expressing, or using a breast pump. Emptying your breasts as often–and as completely–as possible will help promote drainage and can help prevent mastitis and clogs. It will also help maintain your milk production.

how to treat mastitis with side lying breastfeeding position

2. Change breastfeeding position.

Struggling with frequent feedings? Worried your milk flow isn't sufficient or that your baby isn’t getting enough? Try switching your nursing position to provide a new angle for proper milk duct drainage. Feed your baby with their chin pointed toward the clog/affected area. There are several effective breastfeeding positions, and having mastitis or a plugged duct might push you and your baby out of your comfort zone. Speaking of new positions, have you tried dangle feeding/pumping? While on your hands and knees or leaning over a bed or table, allow your breasts to dangle freely and nurse, pump, or hand express. This allows gravity to help drain the breast and pull the clog free.

best heat pad for nursing gel pack

3. Use heat therapy.

Applying heat before breastfeeding can help milk move freely and relieve clogs and pain. Warm washcloths, compresses, and gel packs or hot showers and baths can provide heat that may help treat a plugged duct. Try doing an Epsom salt soak, hanging the affected breast in a bowl, or taking a full Epsom bath. Some moms prefer ice packs for pain relief. Just remember whether you're using cold therapy or warm therapy, always exercise caution and place a cloth layer between your skin and the cold or heat source to prevent injury.

4. Massage your breasts.

Therapeutic breast massage may help to dislodge clogs, promote lymph drainage, and encourage milk removal. We love massaging after heat therapy or during a warm bath. And if you’ve heard of using an electric toothbrush, you heard right. Turn on your electric toothbrush, and use the back (flat) part of the head to gently massage and help loosen the clogged area of the breast. Go slowly–it can hurt!

best nursing sleep bra best nursing crossover bra

5. Wear a great sleep nursing bra.

You’ll certainly hear that you need lots of rest when you have mastitis. That’s true. But that can be hard if you’re nursing or pumping in the middle of the night, and even harder if you’re breastfeeding your little AND leaking. That’s why we think a comfortable nursing sleep bra that can fit soft breast pads is essential for good rest. 

We’re obsessed with our new-and-improved French Terry Racerback Nursing & Sleep Bra. It’s our fan-favorite crossover nursing bra, and it’s the perfect sleep bra for a new mom dealing with a plugged duct or mastitis pain. Pair it with our Organic Bamboo Reusable Nursing Pads for a leak-free night. (Also, a great wireless nursing bra like the French Terry that doesn't constrict your breasts can help prevent you from developing mastitis in the first place.)

While mastitis and clogged ducts can be painful, it doesn’t mean you have to stop breastfeeding–or that your breastfeeding journey has come to an end. Until you heal or treat clogged ducts, your breast milk supply may dip, but it should rebound after the clog has resolved, allowing you and your baby to breastfeed for as long as you want.

If you feel like you may have a clogged duct, recurring clogged ducts, or mastitis, it’s important to act quickly. Don't hesitate to call your doctor, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), your midwife, or your obstetrician (OB). You may need a physical exam, further assessment, and possible treatment (it's not uncommon for doctors to prescribe antibiotics for mastitis). Sending you love and a speedy recovery–and remember to drink extra fluids!

Additional Resources:

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice reviewed by medical reviewers. Please reach out to an IBCLC or your healthcare team with any questions.

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