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How do I unclog a milk duct if I pump only and do not nurse my baby?

By December 3, 2009 - 5:50pm
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One of my milk ducts are very hard and sore to the touch or to pump. I know many say frequent nursing but I do not nurse my daughter, I pump every two hours and my daughter is three months old and I have not had this problem yet or with my last pregnancy. So is pumping okay if done frequently?

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Kudos to you mama for pumping exclusively for your little one! When I had clogged ducts I'd keep pumping while added a lot of hand compressions and massaging during the session. This usually helped and I just made sure I was really empty.

October 8, 2015 - 10:10am

I think for any one to question how you provide your baby with breast milk is really out of line. The fact that you are willing to pump all day everyday like I do says alot about you as a mother my baby stopped nursing from the breast @ 4 months. nothing i tried got him back on so i decided that however he got my milk was more important. being a nurse my schledule is crazy but i pump everychance I get. and my boy is 10 months and has never had formula. i right now am suffering from a plugged duct and boy is it painful. I had mastitis in both breast when he was about 2 weeks old. had to take antibiotics that my midwife prescribed for 10 days. warm compresses and showers. keep up the good work!!!!!!!! glad you solved you problem~

December 29, 2010 - 10:56am

Yes I actually used a sterile needle and popped it and a huge lump of hard puss came out and instant relief! Thanks

December 14, 2009 - 10:28am

I do not nurse because she is lazy and I get too frustrated so instead of not giving her the breast milk at all I pump every 2 hours and take herbal supplements and she is doing well and is a chunky baby so that must be a good thing :)

December 9, 2009 - 10:34am
(reply to cheersarp2001)

I went through the same. Baby girl wouldn't latch for love nor money. After 7 months of trying her at the breast everyday (lactation consultants, LLL, Breastfeeding Buddy, and checking baby girl for a tongue tie), I gave up. Glad the herbal supplements are working for you - I had to take domperidone by the bucket load. :P
I pumped for 10 months before "weaning". I wish some mothers wouldn't judge those of us that *have* to pump as "failures", at least we're getting breast milk into our babies and not "giving up". I think it's bloody hard work to pump every 2-3 hours! Kudos to us! ;-)

December 14, 2009 - 12:38pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to La Tomate)

I agree, La Tomate! Pumping is very hard work (I did it with my first child - a hand pump - I must have been insane) and just nursed my other children as it was too much work. Consequently, I was with my kids 24/7 without a break but pumping was hard and it kind of weirded me out as I felt like a cow!

Anyway you can breastfeed is fine! Boob, pump...doesn't matter, you are doing a great thing for your babe!

December 14, 2009 - 1:21pm
(reply to cheersarp2001)

Chunky babies are a good thing! :-)

Have you been able to lessen your symptoms with the clogged duct?

December 10, 2009 - 3:20pm

It is great that you are able to provide your baby with breast milk, no matter how the milk gets into your baby's belly!

The best way to unclog a milk duct (ouch! those really hurt) is to use direct heat, massage the area (even though I know this hurts, too), and you can manually express milk from that breast.

As Dr. Tenney said (and my doctor says as well)...keep well hydrated! Any liquid is fine, as long as it is not caffeinated or containing alcohol (both are diuretics). Also, eating lots of fruits and vegetables that have high water-concentration can help hydrate your body.

You can also read the symptoms of mastitis provided above, so that you know when it is time to contact your doctor.

Good luck!

December 6, 2009 - 9:09am

Hi Cheersarp,
I am curious why you are not nursing your daughter and only pumping?

Breast pumps do not provide the same nipple stimulation as a nursing infant and therefore the letdown of milk is not the same. This may be one factor influencing your blocked duct. Another simple thing to consider is hydration, women who are breast feeding should be drinking at least 2-3 liters of water a day.

In addition to the great information already posted i suggest a simple treatment. Apply castor oil topically over the hard duct area and cover with heating pad or hot water bottle for 30 minutes or so. Repeat daily until it softens.

December 5, 2009 - 8:58pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thank you for your question. One thing that tends to work is try standing in a warm shower to try and get the milk duct unclogged. A few things that help also is rest, apply heat, breastfeed often on the affected breast and sometimes the infection should be treated with antibiotics.

If the duct is not draining well, it causes an inflammation which can go away on its own or if it persists, you should seek medical attention.

Breastfeedingbasics.com offers this information that may be helpful:

Other helpful suggestions include:   
Apply moist heat before nursing (compresses, warm shower or bath, or leaning over a sink full of warm water).  This will help increase circulation to the area and unclog the lump.
Sit around with a heating pad on a low setting between feedings, especially during the night.  This can also help dissolve the clog.
Encourage the baby to nurse frequently (at least every two hours) and vary the nursing positions so pressure will be put on different ducts. One very strange but  effective nursing position is “hands and knees”.  Try putting the baby down on the bed or on a blanket on the floor and lean over him on all fours. Let your breast hang straight down, falling freely from your ribcage.  Try not to let anyone see you doing this because they will probably fall over laughing.
Sleep on your back or side without putting pressure on the sore breast. 
Wear a supportive bra, but make sure it isn’t too tight.  Try to avoid under-wire bras. 
Offer the sore side first, but before you do, try to hand express a little to soften the areola and get the milk started flowing before baby starts nursing.  Gently massaging the lumpy area in a circular motion , starting behind the lump and working toward the nipple, can help loosen the plug  Sometimes when the clogged milk is released, you may see something strange coming out of your nipple.  It may look like a strand of spaghetti or a grain of sand.  Don’t be surprised – it’s just the milk secretions working their way out.  If the baby is nursing when this happens, you won’t even be aware of it, and it won’t hurt him if he swallows it.  If you are pumping, however, it can be a little scary if you see this strange stuff coming out if you don’t know what it is. 
Get rest, rest, and more rest.  If possible, find someone to help with the housework and other kids for a day or two and take your baby to bed with you.  If that’s impossible, try at least to eliminate any extra activities and find time to put your feet up for an extra couple of hours while you nurse.  
Usually, if you follow these guidelines after discovering a plugged duct, you will feel better and the lumpy area will go away within twenty-four hours.  Even if you have a low-grade fever (less than 101o), you may want to try the measures mentioned above before calling your doctor. 
Once a plugged, inflamed area has progressed into full-blown mastitis, it is important to contact your doctor immediately to begin antibiotic therapy.  About one third of nursing mothers will develop mastitis at some point.  This most often occurs during the first few weeks after birth (1/3 of the cases occur after baby is six months old, and 1/4 after baby is 12 months old), in mothers aged 30-34, and in women who work outside the home.  Often mothers report unusual periods of stress, extreme fatigue, or a cracked nipple (any break in the tissue allows a route of entry for bacteria) before an episode of mastitis.  The type of mastitis following a break in the nipple tissue usually occurs during the early weeks of nursing.
 Contact your doctor immediately if:
Both breasts are affected
The nipple looks infected, and pus or blood appear in the milk
Your fever shoots up to over 101o, especially if symptoms came on suddenly
There are angry looking red streaks near the sore area
You have tried the suggestions above for treating plugged ducts for 24 hours, and symptoms worsen instead of improve
Here is the website http://www.breastfeedingbasics.com/html/breast_infections.shtml.

I hope this helps. Please keep us updated.

December 5, 2009 - 11:41am
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