How to Prevent Clogged Milk Ducts

Clogged ducts are painful… and hard to get rid of.  

They feel like a sore, engorged lump in the breast and may be red and warm to the touch.

OUCH!

Knowing this, you probably want to know what to do to stop them from ever happening!

We’ll give you 13 things you can proactively do so you never have to worry about getting a plugged milk duct!

 
How to prevent clogged milk ducts
 

Clogged milk ducts happen when an area in your breast ducts get ‘plugged’ up (or blocked) and milk is prevented from flowing. 

If not treated, it can lead to inflammation and may lead to more serious issues like mastitis or a breast abscess.


Clogged milk duct pictures

 
clogged milk duct picture
 
 
clogged milk duct pictures
 

13 ways to prevent clogged milk ducts


1. Keep your breasts properly drained

When breast milk is left behind, it can block the ducts.

Make sure baby has a good latch so they can empty your breasts well enough during each breastfeeding session.

Also, try not to interrupt feedings or cut them short. A newborn can take awhile to empty the breasts so patience is key!

Use a pump or hand express if your baby doesn’t empty your breasts.

Also, make sure your pump is in good working order. Change out any old or damaged pump parts and change your duckbills and membranes often (shoot for once a month).

During breastfeeding or pumping, THIS little device is designed to help move the milk forward and improve drainage (bonus! It even helps work out clogs!)


2. Don’t skip a milk draining!

Try not to get engorged!

Missing a feeding, not breastfeeding often enough, supplementing with formula, or waiting too long between pumping/breastfeeding sessions will make milk build up in your breasts and may clog your milk ducts.

Women who have an oversupply of breast milk are at a higher risk of engorgement and are more prone to clogged ducts.

If you have an oversupply, meet with an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). They can help you manage an excessive milk supply.



3. Keep pressure off your breasts

Any excessive pressure on the breast tissue can lead to plugged milk ducts.

Things that can add pressure to your breasts:

  • Sleeping on one side or your stomach

  • Restrictive clothing

  • Heavy front carriers/slings

  • Tight-fitting bras

  • Bras with an underwire

  • Heavy purse/diaper bag



4. Switch-up your nursing positions.

Try to allow baby to drain milk from all areas of the breast. By changing breastfeeding positions, baby will be able to drain different areas of your breasts and minimize future blocked ducts.



5. Consider taking a lecithin supplement

Soy or sunflower lecithin has shown to be very effective to prevent future clogged ducts. Discuss taking the supplement with your health care provider if you’re interested.

THIS is our favorite brand of lecithin!

 
 

6. Reduce saturated fat in your diet

A diet low in saturated fats (especially animal fats) may help prevent clogged milk ducts from forming.


7. Stay hydrated

Becoming dehydrated can contribute to clogs. Keep up with your water intake throughout the day.



8. Manage stress

You may be more prone to clogged ducts if your immune system is compromised. Getting enough rest, managing stress, and taking care of yourself is always recommended!


9. Avoid certain repetitive exercises

Repetitive motions of the upper arm may lead to plugged ducts



10. Check your breasts often

-Every so often in the shower, check your breasts for sore or hard areas. If you find a spot, gently massage it toward the nipple to avoid it developing into a clog.


11. Check your nipples for dried milk

If you notice dried milk accumulating on your nipple openings, apply a warm washcloth until the milk peels off.


12. Avoid nipple shields (unless absolutely necessary)

Nipple shields should only be used under the supervision of a trained lactation consultant. They place a barrier between your breast and baby and may impact your baby's ability to empty your breasts properly.


13. Wean your baby slowly

If you’re weaning - attempt to gradually reduce your milk supply so you don’t get engorged. It’s recommended to cut out one breastfeeding/pumping session every few days.

If you have repeat clogged ducts, discuss it with your IBCLC and check with your healthcare provider doctor for additional treatment options.

Related post: 15 Ways to Clear a Clogged Milk Duct

Last but not least, don't miss these breastfeeding freebies!

(Use the coupon code milkology1 to grab any of the following for free, just pay shipping!)

Free Nursing Pillow

10 Pairs of Reusable Breast Pads

Nursing Cover