The Only Six Things You Need To Know To Clear A Clogged Breast Duct

clear clogged breast duct

Reader Question: I have a severely painful plugged duct and have tried heat, ice, pumping, and of course nursing with no relief. Any suggestions?

Answer: A plugged duct can make even the most calm, collected, breastfeeding-rockin’ mama a hot mess. And they hurt like a B!

That was my way of saying, I am sooooo sorry you’re having to deal with such nonsense. As a mastitis survivor, I firmly believe boobs should be off limits as contenders for bacterial infections, but alas, they are not….

If at any moment you feel woozy, feverish, run down, flu-like’ish, this is not the time to suck it up, be brave and strong, and ride it out. Call your doctor right now. You may need antibiotics. If milk pools in the breast duct for too long, bacteria builds up in that lovely little, warm pool, which could result in a much bigger, nastier infection, i.e. The Mastitis Monster.


Clear Clogged Breast Duct — 1 — NURSE

Always offer the boob with the plugged duct first. The quicker we can get the milk out of that boob the less of a chance those bacteria have to get their party on and multiply. If you tend to nurse in the same position (guilty!), try some different ones. This video is a good quickie:

Or if you need something to hang up as a reminder of all the nursing positions, this PDF is pretty stinkin’ awesome. You can also find a printable copy of it on our awesome Resource Page!

And if you’re realllllly desperate, like I-would-stand-on-my-head-to-get-rid-of-this-plugged-duct desperate, you could try the hands and knees position.

Normally gravity does not a boob’s friend make, but when it comes to getting rid of plugged ducts, gravity is your new BFF {Tweet This}.

To nurse in the hands and knees position, you can either get on your hands and knees or simply lean over a table with baby on his back underneath you. Ideally, the baby’s lower jaw will be in line with the plugged duct. And you can place pillows under baby’s head so there is less hunching over on your part. Nurse baby, let gravity do it’s part, and hopefully the one-two punch of nursing + gravity will knock out the clog. I’ve personally never tried the hands and knees positions because well, that would involve me on my hands and knees, but desperate times call for desperate measures!

 2  REST

Easier said than done, right?

Just to be clear, rest does not mean taking your laptop with you to bed to work. It does not mean staying home from work only to do the laundry, wash the dishes, clean the baseboards, mop the floor, you get the picture.

Clear Clogged Breast Duct

Sweet baby snuggles are my favorite form of rest!

It means for 24 hours plant your bootie somewhere comfortable. Do whatever it is you do to relax. The Bachelor, Netflix, whatevs (if you need more suggestions on how to be a worthless lump on the couch, I’ve got plenty =) Do not even think about going anywhere that requires you to look presentable. Do not even think about touching the seven loads of laundry building their own empire in your washroom.

Ok you get it. Rest, nurse, repeat.

And do your best to avoid squishing the boobs whilst you sleep. Squishage of the boobs leads to squishage of the boob ducts.

— 3 — HEAT

Before you nurse, try applying moist heat. That relaxed feeling you get when you soak in a warm bath because your pores open up and your blood gets flowing, we want that effect on your boob. The heat encourages your capillaries to open up and get the milkage moving. For me this is easiest accomplished with a quick, hot and steamy shower. The more steam the better!

The shower is also a great place to try hand expressing by gently massaging the lump, making strokes towards the nipple to try to encourage the milk to move in that direction.

Bonus: leaving little bambino in a bouncer in your steamy bathroom can also help with any respiratory issues. You can also try a bath and even nurse baby in the bath with you. {I am so tempted to buy this guy every time I look at my Amazon Wishlist}.

Or you could just apply a hot washcloth to your boob a couple minutes before you latch.

You can also try this awesome new fashion trend called wear a heating pad all day. I wore one like this. It’s made for the back, but I would just wear it on my chest. I also liked that it was microwavable so I could move throughout the house while I wore it. Any ol’ heating pad, kept on a low setting, and laid on your chest should help clear a plugged duct.

— 4 — DRINK UP

Those hours spent with a baby latched on are important, but the key to breastfeeding in the long run is how you spend the rest of your day.

Fill that water bottle up and chug, chug, chug!

Increase your water intake to a gallon a day. No, really. I mean it. A gallon a day. And prepare to be fully educated on just how decimated your pelvic floor really has become…..just a taste of the geriatric times to come =)


If you feel like you need some help with the pain, choose Advil or Motrin {Ibuprofen} over Tylenol because they’ll help reduce inflammation in addition to helping with the pain.

You may also want to look into trying a 30-day Elimination Diet based on Paleo Dietary Guidelines. It’s been proven not only to reduce chronic and systemic inflammation, but also acute inflammation, like say inflammation of a breast duct.

I’ve personally found a lot of success losing weight, managing my seasonal allergies, and avoiding crappy colds by eating paleo. This one’s not a quick-fix solution for sure, but I think it’s an option at least worth checking out. This book is the best intro to paleo eating in my opinion.


Yes, your once perky set may have now taken up permanent residence in Saggy Sagtown, but don’t be tempted to squeeze them into anything tight or uncomfortable.

You want support, but a plugged duct may be a sign of a little too much support. I’m looking at you Mrs. Underwire. A visit to a local bra shop that does fittings may be your best option.

My current fav is La Leche League’s Pullover Nursing Sports Bra. It’s the only nursing bra I’ve found that doesn’t make me feel like boobs might actually dislodge from my body while running.


Usually if you follow the above suggestions, a plugged duct will clear up within 24 hours. If the infection appears to be getting worse rather than better after 24 hours, call your doctor. If your fever climbs above 101º, call your doctor. If you see anything that even resembles a red streak on your boob, call your doctor. If you pee every time you sneeze, call your doctor. I kid, I kid. That’s pretty much a guar-run-tee.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with plugged ducts in the comments section below. What’s worked for you?

Thanks as always! And if you haven’t signed up for The Good Latch Weekly Insider Connection, I would truly be honored if you did by simply entering your email address in the box below!


  • Amanda

    June 11, 2014

    Clogged ducts are the worst! (Actually, no, mastitis is the worst. There is nothing more unfair than having mastitis AND a baby to take care of, too.)

    I found that I got them more often with the baby I nursed than the one I EPed for, for some reason. What I did was nurse as much as I could and then pumped (just the affected side) afterwards. That combo usually cleared it up in 24 hours. Great advice!

    • Brooke

      June 12, 2014


      That’s so fascinating because in theory a baby should be more effective at draining the breast than a man-made pump but your experience just goes to show that every experience is unique and that ultimately YOU are the expert on what is best for you and baby. I love that you’re able to share from personal experience with both nursing and pumping. And thanks for commenting! You are a huuuuge encouragement, my friend!