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In this Post: Are you experiencing clogged milk ducts? This painful condition can be relieved with some simple self-induced massage techniques. Learn how to unclog your milk ducts with massage.
Breastfeeding can be hard! Is the baby latching correctly? Has your milk come in? Figuring out how to use a pump. The dreaded mastitis or clogged milk ducts, all of this can be torture to a new mother! I’ve been there when it feels almost impossible to continue with something so horrific.
But guess what the torture does get better.
I would describe myself as one heck of a Mama Bear! My job on this earth is to protect my little man! I have made some serious sacrifices to provide him with a safe, healthy, and nurturing environment!
All that being said, I have had some pretty negative thoughts when my pain threshold has been more than I can bear. Like when I had clogged milk ducts.
How is it that something you love with every ounce of your being can cause you so much pain? And how is it that your brain can conjure up anything negative towards this being you love most?
When my ducts were clogged, the second he began feeding I would scream in pain. It hurt SO BAD!
But you know what, the thing is, the excruciating part of the pain only lasts a few minutes. Once the milk gets flowing it didn’t hurt nearly as bad.
I would think;
“Suck faster little man!
Just get it over with!
Come on get to it!…
Have you been at your wits-end due to clogged milk ducts? Have you had negative thoughts towards your baby because of the pain caused by these blockages? I hope not, but if so, I hope to help alleviate some of your pain by teaching you how to unclog your milk ducts with massage.
Causes of Clogged Milk Ducts
- Changes to your feeding routine. Maybe you have just gone back to work and can only pump at certain times. Or your baby finally slept through the night, so you weren’t doing as many nightly feeds. Changes such as these react havoc on our bodies.
- Nursing in the same position every time you feed.
- Incomplete drainage of the breast.
- Wearing tight clothing or bras, or a poorly fitting bra.
- Rapidly weaning your babe.
- Exhaustion can reduce the energy your body produces, thus making it harder to pump milk through effectively.
- Sleeping on your stomach.
What to Do For a Clogged Milk Duct
Massage is an extremely effective tool to help loosen obstructions. This took me a while to discover. You would think the benefits of massage for a clogged milk duct would have been instinctual for a massage therapist, but they weren’t. I tried quite a few things before I dug in with petrissage and trigger point therapy. I tried cabbage leaves, hot and cold compresses, and having my son suck it out. All this before I turned to massage. And all I can say now, after the fact, is that massage was by and far the superior method for solving this condition!
How to Unclog Your Milk Ducts with Massage
This self-induced technique should be something you dedicate some time to, don’t rush it! I’m talking about committing 30-90 minutes to the process, depending on how bad your clog is. Added bonus if you can get your spouse or significant other to help in the process!
Begin by firmly apply petrissage to the affected area and the area around the affected area. While clogged ducts typically are pretty close to the nipple, they can spread further out into the breast tissue. Remember you are the authority on your own body. If the pain is not where you feel it “should be,” trust your instincts and work on the area you feel the pain is stemming from.
Petrissage – A French word meaning “to knead”. These massage moves are performed with the padded surface of your palm, fingers, and thumbs. Slow, rhythmic kneading and squeezing motions characterize this technique.
Spend some time on this one. Really get the tissue warmed up. Use lotion, cream, or oil to give yourself more glide. My favorite is Sacred Earth Cream, it provides great glide without being absorbed to quickly into the skin.
Trigger Point Therapy
Next, hone in on the areas that are most painful. Find a spot that is hard and hurts, then stick with it. If you are a massage novice, you may find it hard to feel the different texture in the tissue. Basically, you should be looking for the spot that is the most painful. You will notice that if you move over by the slightest mm you may no longer be on the spot. Pay attention to the specific location of your finger or thumb.
Use TPT (Trigger Point Therapy) to bust up the stagnant accumulations. Begin gently but firmly applying direct pressure with your thumb or finger to the spot of origin. You want to be in the “it hurts so good” pain scale, somewhere between a 4-7 on a scale of 1-10.
- Locate a specific pain spot you want to focus on.
- Hold the spot for a while (around a minute, maybe more).
- Back out for a few seconds, this allows oxygen-rich blood to flow through the area providing nutritional healing.
- Then go back into the same spot. This time go in a little deeper. Again hold the spot for a minute or two. Every time you go in a little deeper, you should feel the hardness lessening. Visualize the tissue melting beneath your finger. Some deep breathing can also help accelerate this process.
- Repeat this process until you no longer feel tightness.
- Now move on to the 2nd most painful spot. Repeat the above steps.
- Continue this process until you can no longer find hard and painful spots.
Lastly, end again with some nice petrissage. Gently palming around the treated area, add more lotion so that there is minimal friction for your skin. This is like, making nice to the tissues that have just taken a massive beating. You are telling your body that you still love it even though you just put it through yet more pain than it was already enduring.
If you have performed this technique correctly, you will probably be a little sore the next day! I don’t know about you, but I’d take tender sore over clogged ducts any day! Consider icing the area, immediately after the massage to ease some of the tenderness.
Again, this whole treatment should be a slow process. 30-90 minutes, or more depending on how severe your clogs are. Get comfortable after your babe has gone to bed, hunker down with a podcast, or a movie you have been wanting to watch and then commit to give yourself this much-needed treatment.
Don’t cheat yourself. Be slow and deliberate in your moves. Get specific with where the pain is actually coming from and agree to gently bludgeon out these unwanted guest.
How To Prevent Clogged Ducts In The First Place
- Frequently switch up nursing positions.
- If you still have milk after your baby has nursed, pull out the pump and let the suction do its thing until no more milk comes out.
- Get fitted for a bra that fits properly. I know it is tempting to make due with the bra you already have after spending 1000’s on your favorite new addition to your family. But it’s not worth it, go to a store that does proper fittings and treat yourself!
- If you choose to abruptly stop breastfeeding altogether, continue to pump for a while to prevent clogs.
- I know it can be so tempting to sleep on your stomach as soon as your body allows, but avoiding this position aide in preventing this condition. Sleeping on your back is also a healthier position in general. If you have historically been a stomach sleeper maybe now is the time to ditch this problematic posture, your back and whole body will thank you in the long run!
- Frequently change milking positions.
- Increase your fluid intake.
- Breastfeed, this allows the baby to suck out the clogs.
Now that you have learned how to unclog your milk ducts with massage you can rest easy until the next issue. Like when your baby has their newly formed teeth, and they decide to chop down on your raw and sensitive nipple, or finding childcare for your precious little one. Oh, the joys of motherhood!
- Boulder College of Massage Therapy Graduate
- Nationally Certified through NCBTMB
- Colorado Licensed Massage Therapist
- Certified CranialSacral Level 1 through Upledger
- Certified Herbal Therapist through Nutrition Therapy Institute
- Certified Fujian Massage through Barefoot Masters
- Fort Lewis College - Majored in Art, Minored in Business Administration
- 6 Year Winner of Best Massage Therapist for "Best of The Boat" Competition
- Massage Business Owner Since 2008