plugged duct is formed when some of the milk inside a duct dries up and
stops the rest of the milk from flowing; it is mostly due to a mother not draining the breast properly; this usually happens in the early
days of breastfeeding, when a mother is still engorged.
Blocked Milk Duct Symptoms
A plugged duct happens progressively, and is usually only found in one breast.
It is sometimes felt as a hard lump, that may be hot and tender.
A blocked milk duct mostly feels worse before a feeding, while the
breast is still full, and feels less sore after a breastfeeding session.
Nursing on the side that has the lump could be painful, especially during a let-down.
It is typically not associated with a fever. If you have a temperature
of more than 38,5°C, you should contact your doctor. It could indicate a mastitis infection.
Milk supply may decrease temporarily.
You may see some thick, grainy milk.
You may feel some bruising in the area, for about a week after the lump has disappeared.
If the breast is too painful to breastfeed, you should use an electric breast pump.
A warm, moist compress will increase the flow of milk; this
can be done before you nurse or pump. You can also soak your breasts in
warm water with some Epsom salts added. (One handful of Epsoms with
every 2L of water) Remember to rinse your breasts afterward, to
remove the saltiness.
Take a warm shower and
your milk while massaging the swollen area from the top of the breast, towards the nipple.
Do not wear tight bras. Tight bras restrict the flow if milk, resulting in blocked milk ducts.
If the plugged duct does not clear within two days, you can try
therapeutic ultrasound at your local physiotherapy office. (2 watts/cm2,
continuous, for five minutes to the affected area, once daily for two
For pain relief, a mother can use Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen. The mother does not need to use an antibiotic if she has blocked ducts.
If you think you might have
(usually recognized with a high temperature and flu-like symptoms), you
should see your physician.
Mothers should take a
blocked breast duct seriously and start using the advice above. A
plugged duct if not treated, can turn into mastitis, which can turn into a
breast infection (infected milk ducts) and ultimately into an
Most of the time, if a mother continues to breastfeed on demand, a blocked breast milk duct will disappear within two days.
Recurrent Plugged Milk Ducts
What about preventing recurrent plugged milk ducts?
The mother can take a daily supplement of Lecithin (1200mg), three times per day to prevent blocked ducts.
NB – Important fact Do not stop breastfeeding because of a blocked breast duct, this will make it worse, and might even cause mastitis.