Have you ever had a plugged milk duct? There are a few different methods to help unplug ducts, like heat compress and hot showers, but what can you do if you’re out of the home and suffering from a plugged duct? If you have your breast pump with you, you may be able to unplug the blocked duct by dangle pumping. Dangle pumping is a simple method that uses gravity along with your breast pump’s suction to help pull the clog out. Continue reading to learn how to do this must-know technique…
Signs you may have a plugged duct
A plugged duct will occur when the fatty solids in the milk build up and block the duct. Think of it like a blocked drain. The duct is not able to empty, so it becomes engorged. It will feel tender to the touch, and you may feel something like a pebble under the skin. The important thing to know about plugged ducts is that they are generally isolated to one area, and one breast. If you’re feeling it throughout the entire breast, or both breasts, please contact your care provider as it may be another issue such as thrush or mastitis. The following symptoms may occur with a plugged duct:
- You may feel or see an isolated area of engorgement on the breast. It may feel like a marble under the skin
- You may feel tenderness, heat, swelling or see redness in an isolated area.
- You may feel localised pain or tenderness, and it may feel worse while breastfeeding or pumping.
Everything you need to dangle pump
To get started, you’ll need your regular pumping supplies including your breast pump and a fully-assembled, clean milk collection kit (the milk you pump, even if there’s some clog residue in it, is totally safe to feed to your baby). You may also wish to prepare with a few extra paper towels or rags because dangle pumping can be a bit messy, especially if you have a forceful letdown. You will need to find a place to pump that will allow you to lean all the way forward, to get your nipples to ‘dangle’ towards the floor.
Dangle pumping positions
To dangle pump, you’ll need to lean forward far enough so that your breasts are dangling toward the floor – you’ll want your nipples pointing straight down. Position the breastshield over your nipple and begin pumping as normal. You’ll want to do breast compressions and massage, especially in the effected area, to help work the plug out. Here are a few positions you can try:
- In front of a desk / table: Sit in the chair while pumping, and lean all the way forward so that your head is resting on your desk.
- In a chair without a desk: If you don’t have a desk or table available, you can sit in a chair while pumping, and lean forward using one elblow and forearm to rest across your knees providing support while pumping.
- Resting your shoulders on your knees: While sitting, spread your knees apart to about shoulder width, and lean all the way forward so that your shoulders are resting on your knees. Work your arms around the underside of your legs to access your breasts while pumping.
- With a bolster: You can use a bolster or bed pillow folded in half to lean over while in a chair. Place it under your lap and against your belly, and lean forward over it to hold yourself in the correct position.
How to know a duct is unplugged
When the plugged duct becomes unplugged you should feel an immediate sensation of relief. You may even see milk begin flowing more quickly while you’re pumping. The plug may be visible in your expressed milk and will either look stringy or clumpy. This is completely safe to feed to baby (it is just milkfat, afterall).
You may still feel tender or bruised for a few days after the duct becomes unplugged, but it’s important know that when the duct is unplugged, it will feel different and hurt less.
When to get help
If you’re unable to unplug a duct within 2 days, you should contact your care provider. Plugged ducts can very quickly turn into mastitis – or worse, abscesses – so treating a plugged duct is something you absolutely should not delay! If you begin experiencing feelings of fever, chill, or nausea it could mean mastitis, and you should contact your care provider for treatment.