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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. Usually they go away within a few days without doing anything. They often happen when a mother makes more milk than normal.

What can be done

Feed your baby on demand instead of scheduling feedings. See if the time between one or more feedings or pumping sessions has recently changed for any reason. Sometimes a mother gets busy with a task and doesn't 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 cool compresses on the area. Massage very gently above and then over the affected area when breastfeeding or pumping as well. Hard or excessive massage can make the problem worse. If you are pumping often, it is important that you are using the correct flange size. Don't try to completely empty the breast every time you pump.

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

When to get help

Contact your healthcare provider right away if:

  • The lump doesn't 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: Angela Morrison LPN IBCLC
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Tennille Dozier RN BSN RDMS
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2021
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