Clogged Milk Duct Popping: Advice from Real Moms

Breastfeeding can be the best times and breastfeeding can be the worst of times.  The best of times because you’re able to nourish and bond with your baby in indescribable ways. The worst of times because it can be incredibly painful–especially if you have a plugged milk duct. If you’re currently experiencing this, and wondering about clogged milk duct popping, this article is for you.

What Does a Clogged Milk Duct Look Like?

Let’s first clarify whether you are dealing with a milk bleb or a clogged milk duct. A milk bleb, or nipple blister, in the form of a white or yellow dot on your areola. This form of clogged duct is due to a blockage in your nipple pore. See the white dot on the nipple in the picture below:

Clogged milk ducts tend to form as a hard lump the size of a pea (or sometimes larger) that feels swollen and/or tender. It may appear red and feel warm to the touch.

Clogged Milk Duct Causes

Clogged milk ducts can occur for a variety of reasons:

  • Wrong sized breast pump flange (see our article on Determining Your Correct Flange Size)
  • Shallow or incorrect nursing latch
  • Tongue or lip tie
  • Oversupply
  • Tight clothing or other compression of the breast (sleeping on your stomach, purse strap pressing against it)
  • Thrush

Related article: Strawberry Breast Milk: 6 Causes of Blood In Your Breast Milk

Can I Pop A Clogged Milk Duct?

Unfortunately, it is not recommended to use a needle to pop a clogged milk duct when breastfeeding. It is important to handle the breast with care to avoid causing further damage or introducing infection. I personally have tried popping a clogged milk duct before, and it didn’t work despite my best efforts. It was also incredibly painful.

Using a needle or any other sharp object for attempted clogged milk duct popping can cause bleeding and make the situation worse.  It ultimately can cause more harm than good–which is what happened to me. Additional reasons why it is not recommended to use a needle for clogged milk duct popping include:

1. Risk of infection

Using a needle to pop a clogged milk duct can increase the risk of introducing bacteria into the breast tissue. This can lead to an infection that may require medical treatment. Additionally, the use of unsterilized needles can also lead to infection.

Related article: Breastfeeding Pain? Here Are the 10 Top Reasons & Remedies.

2. Breast tissue damage

Breast tissue is delicate, and the use of a needle for clogged milk duct popping can cause damage to the tissue, including bruising, swelling, or bleeding. This can lead to further complications such as increased pain, inflammation, and infection. That leads us to our next reason.

3. Pain and discomfort

Using a needle to pop a clogged milk duct can be very painful and uncomfortable for the mother. It may also cause psychological distress and anxiety. Pain may linger due to the breast not having proper time to heal between breastfeeding and/or pumping sessions.

Related article: One Breast Producing Less Milk Than The Other? Mine, Too!

4. Ineffectiveness

Popping a clogged milk duct with a needle does not address the underlying cause of the blockage. It may provide temporary relief, but the blockage is likely to recur if the underlying issue, such as poor latch, ineffective milk removal, or fatty milk is not addressed.

Clogged Milk Duct Remedies

The good news is there are several treatment methods for a clogged milk duct that do work and are much less invasive than clogged milk duct popping. We cover them extensively in our article Clogged Milk Duct: 12 Methods to Treat It Fast so make sure to check it out. Our tried and true remedies include:

Related article: Pros and Cons of Power Pumping – Everything You Need to Know

There are many safe and effective techniques that can help to clear a clogged milk duct without the need for invasive methods like clogged milk duct popping. It is important to seek medical advice if the symptoms persist or if you experience any signs of infection. Your healthcare provider can provide further guidance on treatment options depending on the severity of your blockage, as well as strategies to prevent future blockages.

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Shannon Tisdale
Shannon founded Work Breastfeed Mom in 2019 during her second round of pumping at work. She was tired of googling the same pumping questions over and over again, and discouraged at the lack of websites aimed at working breastfeeding moms. So, she created one herself. Shannon lives, works, and doles out Puffs to her little people in sunny Florida. She has her MBA and works as a strategic planner for a large healthcare system. She is passionate about coffee, memoirs, paddle boarding, and skincare routines. Shannon is mom to Scarlett and Ivy, and hopes to have more babies if her career allows.