Plugged or blocked milk ducts are caused by plugging, blockage or poor drainage of a milk duct or section of the breast. It often follows incomplete drainage, skipped feedings or stress.
One symptom of a plugged duct is a tender lump in one area of the breast that causes pain, but no fever. A blocked milk duct may also include a tiny white milk plug (bleb) seen in an opening on the nipple. Onset of the plugged or blocked milk ducts — and the pain that accompanies it — may be gradual but if the condition is not treated it can lead to breast mastitis, a more serious condition.
Tips to prevent plugged milk ducts
- Breastfeed or pump often, at least 8-12 times per day
- Manually massage the breast during feeding or pumping to help milk drain
- Avoid tight clothing, underwire bras or tight straps on a baby carrier
- Avoid exhaustion and fatigue
What to do if you get plugged milk ducts
- Continue frequent breastfeeding or pumping
- Begin feeding on the affected side to help drain the breast
- Massage before and during feeding to help milk flow
- Apply firm pressure starting at the outside of the breast moving towards the plug
- Massage the plug while in a hot shower or bath
- Soak the breast by leaning over a bowl of warm water and massaging the breast
- Change breastfeeding positions
- Some women report that lecithin prevents recurrence of plugged ducts