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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
Click Image to Enlarge

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. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
Online Medical Reviewer: Mary Terrell MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
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