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How to Clear a Clogged Duct

Throughout your breastfeeding journey you might experience a lump or hardened area on your breast, stringy milk, or a clump of hardened milk when expressing. If you're not exhibiting other symptoms, these may be signs of a Clogged Duct.

What is a Clogged Duct?

A Clogged Duct (also known as clog or plugged duct) is an area in the breast where the breastmilk flow is blocked.

What Causes a Clogged Duct?

Clogged ducts are usually caused by poor milk transfer while nursing or insufficient milk removal from pumping (or hand expressing). It may also be caused by compression to the milk ducts such as wearing a tight bra.

Do I Have a Clogged Duct?

You might have a Clogged Duct if you have a hard -- often painful – lump or area on your breast. The area is usually swollen with milk but you don’t exhibit other symptoms.

How to Clear a Clogged Duct

Below are some tips to get that clog out! Ideally a clog will move closer to the nipple with every feeding or pump session and clear within 24-48 hours.

Try this if you’re nursing: 
  • Nurse often! Start by nursing baby on the side with the clog (suckling is the most efficient)
  • Make sure baby's latch is correct and try changing baby’s position while on the breast to see if that encourages the clog to clear
  • Allow baby to nurse until they spontaneously release
  • You can also incorporate a light hand massage to encourage milk flow

Try this if you’re pumping:
  • Stick to a good pumping schedule! Double pump until your breasts are fully drained; about 15-20 minutes (this time may vary)
  • Make sure you’re using the right flange size! If you need help sizing you can book an appointment here.
  • Try a light hand massage while pumping to encourage milk flow

Try a silicone manual pump like Haakaa! Add 2 tbsp of Epsom Salt and about 1 cup of warm water to the Haakaa (water should touch your nipple) and suction it to your breast.You can also try incorporating heat (warm shower or LaVie heated massagers) before pumping, nursing, or hand expressing.

Things to Note:

When the clog clears, milk may appear stringy or as hardened milk, it's ok for baby to consume that. If the clog hasn't cleared after 48 hours, or you start to develop other symptoms (fever, flu-like symptoms, red spot on your breast, etc...), contact your healthcare provider for a full assessment.



Witt AM, Bolman M, Kredit S, Vanic A. Therapeutic Breast Massage in Lactation for the Management of Engorgement, Plugged Ducts, and Mastitis. J Hum Lact. 2016 Feb;32(1):123-31. doi: 10.1177/0890334415619439. Epub 2015 Dec 7. PMID: 26644422. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26644422/

Jiang L, Hassanipour F. In Vitro Flow Visualization in a Lactating Human Breast Model. Ann Biomed Eng. 2021 Dec;49(12):3563-3573. doi: 10.1007/s10439-021-02892-y. Epub 2021 Dec 3. PMID: 34859325. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34859325/

Cadwell, Karin, Turner-Maffei, Cindy. Fourth Edition Pocket Guide for Lactation Management. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2022. Book.

Featured Image Courtesy of: Timothy Meinberg