Dangle Pumping – Use Your Breast Pump to Unplug a Clogged Duct

Use your Spectra breast pump to clear a plugged duct with dangle pumping

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.

Use your Spectra breast pump to clear a plugged duct with dangle pumping
To dangle pump you will need to lean forward so that your breasts are as close to hanging straight down as possible. Your nipples should be pointing at 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.

11 thoughts on “Dangle Pumping – Use Your Breast Pump to Unplug a Clogged Duct

  1. Shruti says:

    This post is amazing! I got my clog cleared in few seconds. I took a hot shower and massages my breast while pumping and it cleared in 2 seconds with dangling pumping. Thank you Spectra team!

  2. Hannah says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this technique. It really works!

    I am a first time mom and has been pumping for 1 month. Within a month, I have 7 plugged ducts, occasionally back to back. I have 2 electric pumps that I use: Madela symphony hospital grade and Ameda purely yours. My plugged ducts appear more frequent when I use Madela more,but certainly I remember having 1 clogged duct when I just use Ameda. I have tried different flanges sizes with both pumps and nothing is helping. I am pumping every 3 hours and nursing 2-3 times a day.

    I have seen lactation consultant and she suggested lecithin which hasn’t been helping so far after been in it for almost 1 month. Please help! I am getting new plugged duct literally everyday lately. Any suggestion/tips are welcome.

    • Erika says:

      Hello,
      I just wanted to say you are a strong mama and you are doing your best , what a lucky baby to have you . I wanted to share what my lactation consultant suggested for me. First measure your nipple to get correct flang size, the get yourself Pumpin pals flanges, and lubercate with coconut oil to pump . Made a world of difference for me. This empties me out better than ever before . Best regards.

  3. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this info! I’ve been breastfeeding for 7 months and had no idea about dangle pumping. I’m on vacation without my baby, got a clogged duct and didn’t know what to do since I usually nurse to relieve it! This method helped instantly!

  4. Lisa says:

    My daughter has clogged ducts a lot. She is mostly pumping because her son has a soft cleft palate. She does try to nurse him sometimes. Problem with that is, he can’t really get filled. The weird part is that when he suckles for only a little bit, it unclogs it. Pumping regularly doesn’t really seem to help the clog.

    • Spectra Team says:

      Hi Lisa, thanks for your comment.

      The type of pump – if the right kind for her needs, shield size, routine, technique etc are all things that influence clogged ducts and mastitis. It is important to be consistently draining the breast consistently several times a day.

      If she wants to shoot us a message, we would be more than happy to help you work through a few tips that I am confident will make a difference. 🙂

  5. Annie says:

    Thank you so much for this! I was suffering from pain for more than 24 hours due to blocked duct. I tried warm compression, hand expression etc but nothing worked. I came across this post at midnight and immediately I tried this method of dangle pumping. Within seconds, I pumped out 2 ounces of milk and the pain subsided. Thank you again, Spectra. I could go to bed now.

    • Spectra Team says:

      Hi Mamta, thanks for your question.

      I think this might be a question for your doctor, given we are not clear on what has occurred for you, and it would be irresponsible for us to advise given that. Your doctor will be happy to tell you the best way forward for you. 🙂

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