Tests & Procedures



Plugged Milk Ducts

What are plugged milk ducts?

A plugged duct feels like a tender lump in the breast. Some mothers seem to be more prone to developing them, but usually they occur when a mother goes too long without emptying her breasts, or if insufficient milk is removed during feedings. Review your baby's feeding routine and see if the time between one or more feedings has recently changed for any reason. Sometimes, a mother gets busy again with a task and does not realize feedings are being delayed. Ineffective sucking may contribute to plugged ducts. Also, check that the material of nursing bras or clothing bunched during feedings is not putting pressure on milk ducts in a certain area of the breast.

If you develop a plugged duct, be sure to breastfeed or remove milk often and alternate different feeding positions. It often helps to apply warm compresses to the area or soak the breast in warm water. Massage above and then over the affected area when breastfeeding and after application of warm compresses.

If the lump does not go away over the course of a couple of days, contact your health care provider. Also, if you feel ill or develop a fever or chills, you need to contact your health care provider immediately. This could be a sign that you have an infection and might need to take antibiotics.

Illustration of breastfeeding, massage technique
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Last reviewed: 8/4/2011