Plugged Milk Ducts

Plugged Milk Ducts

What are plugged milk ducts?

A plugged milk duct feels like a
sore lump in the breast. Some mothers seem to be more likely to get them. Often they
happen when a mother goes too long without emptying her breasts. They also happen if not
enough milk is removed during feedings.

What can be done

Review your baby’s feeding routine.
See if the time between 1 or more feedings or pumping sessions has recently changed for
any reason. Sometimes a mother gets busy with a task and does not realize feedings or
pumping sessions are being delayed. The way the baby is sucking may also help lead to
plugged ducts. Sometimes the baby’s latch needs to be checked by a lactation
consultant. Also, check that the material of nursing bras or clothing bunched during
feedings is not putting pressure on milk ducts in a certain part of the breast.

If you have a plugged duct,
breastfeed or remove milk often. And switch different feeding positions. Don’t stop
breastfeeding. This will make the problem worse. It often helps to place warm compresses
on the area. Or to soak the breast in warm water while massaging the lump. Massage above
and then over the affected area when breastfeeding or pumping as well. 

Many women can take
over-the-counter pain medicines such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help with the
pain. Ask your healthcare provider first. 


Illustration of breastfeeding, massage technique

When to get help

Contact your healthcare provider
right away if:

  • The lump does not go away in a few days
  • You feel ill
  • You have a fever or chills
  • The area around the lump looks red

This could be a sign that you have an infection (mastitis). You may need to take
antibiotics.