How to clear blocked breastmilk ducts: A step-by-step guide

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A pain in the boob, literally. But with this breast massage, it will help you improve blood circulation in the breasts and the flow of milk, leading to increased milk supply!

When it comes to reduced breast milk supply, the reasons are aplenty — from formula feeding, low nutrition, insufficient glandular tissue, pre-existing medical conditions and more. But what happens when your milk ducts start to clog and add on to your stress in breastfeeding? No doubt that it becomes more painful and challenging for you. But fear not, mums! We share how to clear a clogged milk duct through breast massage in 5 gentle, simple steps.

But before that, do you know what are the symptoms of a clogged milk duct?

Symptoms Of A Clogged Milk Duct

  • pain in a specific location in the breast
  • a swollen, tender lump in the breast
  • heat and swelling in the breasts
  • slower milk flow on one side
  • skin that looks lumpy in one area
  • a small white dot on the nipple called a milk bleb

Leaving your ducts blocked could lead to a low fever in some cases. And doing so could lead to mastitis, a painful infection in the breasts. 

As such, if you experience a fever alongside breast pain, it is recommended to visit a doctor.

How To Clear A Clogged Milk Duct Through Breast Massage: A Step-by-step process

When you're facing clogging of the breast, your breast can tend to look solid, thick or lumpy in some areas. The skin surrounding the nipple could also swell red with white spots on the nipple as well.

Here's a massage technique that involves 5 simple steps you can do on your own, mums, to help you ease the milk flow through your milk ducts. Besides, you know your bodies best.

Step 1: The back and forward motion

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Place your breast between your hands while holding them horizontally. Keep that position while moving the gland tissue back and forward — as shown in the picture.

Afterwards, repeat the same procedure by placing your breast between your hands held vertically (more on the next picture).

Step 2: Massaging in circular motions

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Support your breast with one hand and place three to four fingertips of your other hand flat on the breast. Do all of that while massaging the gland tissue in a circular motion.

Shift the fingertips 2-3 cm from time to time and repeat the procedure, until you have massaged the entire breast.

Step 3: The gentle caress

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Use your fingers to gently caress the breast from the base of the areola (the area surrounding the nipple) to the nipple. Through this movement, you can induce the milk to flow.

Step 4: Applying slight pressure

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Place your thumb and finger behind the areola and press slightly in the direction of the chest; gently try and squeeze out a drop of milk.

After doing so, gently squeeze the breast. Then, move your thumb and finger towards the nipple without rubbing the skin.

Step 5: Release the tension through "rhythmical repetition"

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You can wet your nipple with the resulting drop of breast milk and encourage your baby to suck the breast. The rhythmical repetition around the areola can help to relax your tense breast or even unclog it.

Alternatively, you can use a gently-functioning breast pump to help stimulate and express the breast milk.

How To Clear A Clogged Milk Duct: What To ALWAYS Take Note Before A Breast Massage

Here are some things to be mindful of:

1) Timing is key 

Perform this massage briefly before any breastfeeding session.

It's advised to do this particularly in the first days and weeks after your little one's birth so as to prevent engorgement. If you want to prevent breast inflammation, this is especially useful. 

2) Watch out for the signs

Breast massage should always be carried out gently.

If it's painful, then you're not doing it right. There's always a good and a bad kind of pain, but don't let the pain be a sign that things are working out. Always go with what your body is telling you and stop if it gets out of hand. 

3) Keep your hands clean!

A simple but often overlooked step. Always remember to wash your hands before any breast massage and make sure to wash them thoroughly!

Sources: Ardomedical, Medical News Today, Australian Breastfeeding Association

Images: Ardomedical screengrabs. 

Other articles you might be interested in if you've enjoyed this one on how to clear a clogged milk duct: 

'Breast milk helped my premature baby overcome meningitis and surgery'

Mum breastfeeds daughter for 9 years, says it "cements their bond"

A Singaporean mum's story of tandem nursing and extended breastfeeding

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