Milk ducts tend to get clogged if the milk production by your breasts is more than the milk consumed by your baby. Surplus milk stays in the ducts and causes swelling, redness, and inflammation in the surrounding tissues. It can also be caused by skipping or incomplete feeding, poor latching when the baby breastfeeds, wearing tight items of clothing, common cold, stress, lack of sleep, and sleeping in positions that put pressure on the milk ducts.
Blocked milk ducts should be treated at the earliest as it can lead to mastitis, which is a bacterial infection in the tissue of one or both of the mammary glands inside the breasts. When the milk ducts are clogged, the milk stagnates inside the breasts, creating an environment for the bacteria to thrive.
The symptoms of blocked milk ducts include:
• Presence of a hard lump near areola or nipple in the breast(s).
• The lump is painful.
• Redness in the skin around the lump.
Here are some remedies that will help to unblock the milk ducts naturally:
A Hot Shower and Massage
A hot shower helps in relieving the pressure off the breasts. While doing that, you should firmly stroke the breasts with your hands. After the massage, try squeezing out the blockage with the help of your index finger and thumb. Keep your fingers at the edge of the areola and squeeze your fingers towards the nipple taking out the excess milk. It is one of the easiest and most effective remedies for relieving pain and blockage.
Change Your Nursing Technique
You can change your nursing position and let gravity do its work for you. Place the baby on the bed. Get on your hands and knees above the baby, and gently drop down supporting yourself by your elbows. Nurse your child with your breast hanging down directly into their mouth. This technique will increase the area latched by the baby and ease the pain.
Breastfeeding should also be carried out on time to avoid stagnant milk in the breasts. Having a routine not only makes the baby less fussy but also helps you since the ducts are regularly emptied.
Potato juice softens swollen tissues and reduces pressure on milk ducts to unblock them. Cut potatoes in the form of thin slices and place it on and around the blocked ducts on the affected breast. Place a clean cloth over it and then wear your nursing bra. This keeps the potato slices in place. Leave it like this for an hour and replace with fresh potato slices. You can then wash the breasts with warm water.
Lavender Tea or Aloe Vera
Place 3-4 lavender tea bags into 2 cups of hot water. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes to make a concentrate solution. Soak a small towel or cloth in the tea mixture and apply it to your breasts. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes. You can reuse the tea bags by applying them to the breast tissue. If you don’t have lavender tea, real aloe vera also works as an excellent remedy for blocked milk ducts.
The consumption of garlic aids in treating the clogged breast and reduces the risk of mastitis as it is rich in antibiotics. Eat one raw, mashed garlic clove after every couple of hours till the pain diminishes. You can add honey and warm water to it if you do not like the taste of garlic.
A word of caution
All these natural remedies will help to unblock the ducts within a period of 24-48 hours. If the situation doesn't improve within this period of time, it is essential that you visit your doctor for treatment.