Plugged Ducts

Breast massage.A plugged duct usually feels like a tender lump in the breast. It may be warm and have some redness over the lump.

Plugged ducts can happen when milk is not drained well from the breast. This can happen when there is too much pressure inside the breast.   

Examples: 

  • Baby sleeping for longer periods of time
  • Baby not sucking well
  • Not “emptying” the breast
  • Skipped feeding
  • Breast too full
  • Oversupply of milk
  • Weaning too quickly
  • Outside distractions that prevent or delay breastfeeding
  • Using an ineffective breast pump 

Pressure outside the breast may also cause a plugged duct. A few examples:

  • Tight fitting bras
  • Bunched clothing pushing on breast
  • Car seats or baby carrier straps
  • Mother’s fingers if pushing on breast in one spot for prolonged time
  • Sleeping on stomach 

Breastfeed more frequently, starting with the breast with the lump. It may help to have your baby’s nose or chin pointing to the blockage.

  • Change position of baby during feedings to ensure drainage of all the milk ducts.
  • Use warm, wet washcloths on the area for a few minutes.
  • Massage breast during the feeding or in the shower. Try pressing behind the lump and massage toward the nipple. You can also soak the breast in a bowl of warm water.
  • After breastfeeding, express some milk by hand or pump to help milk drainage.
  • Take care of yourself; get rest, eat and drink fluids.

You should call a certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) or health professional trained in lactation support if you are not improving within 24 hours.

Plugged ducts can lead to mastitis. If you are having flu-like symptoms (achy, fever, chills) and a red, hot area over the lump or red streaking, call your doctor to get antibiotics.

For additional information on this Health Topic, call the Center for Breastfeeding Medicine at 513-636-2326.


Last Updated 10/2012