Blocked Milk Duct

In the case of a blocked milk duct the pain comes and goes. If left untreated it may develop into a breast infection or mastitis. There are many factors that can lead to this problem:

An incorrect latch (correct latch)

Overfull breasts or engorgement.

Inadequate drainage of milk

Pressure on the breast

Treatment and prevention of a blocked milk duct

What is a Plug?

It contain cells and milk matter that was shed inside of the breast tissue.

It is localized in the breast and will not cause symptoms related to breast infections or mastitis

Breastfeeding mothers often notice that their breast tissue is lumpy, especially under the arm. Tender or painful lumps are usually an indication of plugs or infection.

When treatment for this problem goes on for a week and the lump does not go away it should be checked by a medical doctor. Most lumps turn out to be benign but should be checked by a physician to be sure.

Signs and Symptoms

Pain or lump is most noticeable after a feeding

It is usually localized in one area of the breast

Reddened skin above mildly sore and tender lump under the areola

No fever in the mother

Mother feels well and may notice a white head or plug in a nipple opening

To unplug a blocked milk duct and prevent infection always remember the number one rule for preventing engorgement and infection and other problems: MOVE THE MILK!

The key to blocked milk duct treatment and prevention is to remove the milk by breastfeeding your baby frequently and according to feeding cues.

Blocked Milk Duct Treatment and Prevention

Nurse Frequently

Nurse frequently and long enough to make sure baby is removing enough milk.

Remove the milk by breastfeeding your baby on the affected side. If your baby has not emptied your breast, use a breast pump or hand express your milk.

Use Optimal Positioning Techniques

Make sure the baby is latched on well and try different breastfeeding positions.

Drain the breast better by nursing with baby's chin pointing towards the affected area.

Apply Heat and Massage

Rub and massage the area while in a warm shower or bath.

Apply moist hot packs to your breasts before feeding. The heat enables the milk ducts to open better and allows for better milk drainage.

You can make your own reusable heat pack.

Use massage and heat packs on the affected side while you breastfeed. After applying heat and your breast is still warm, massage from your armpit down to your nipple.

Get enough rest (I know that one is easier said than done!).

Avoid putting pressure on one area of the breast for an length of time and wear a comfortable and well fitted nursing bra.

Use Cooling Techniques for Pain Relief

You may apply cool pads or Cool Relief Packs for pain relief

Creams and Ointments

It is best to wash breasts with warm water and to stay away from most soaps and creams which may irritate you or the baby and could even cause an allergic reaction.

The only recommended ointment is a highly purified lanolin for breastfeeding mothers that has the allergens removed.

Remove Milk Plugs

It is safe to squeeze out the milk plugs as long as it is done gently and hygienically. It is sometimes possible to massage the affected breast until a white head at the end appears at the end of a duct on your nipple. Apply moist heat and carefully pop the blister with a sterile needle. By gently squeezing you will unplug the nipple opening. Use an antibiotic ointment for a few days to prevent infection.

Don't overdo it in the gym with vigorous upper arm exercise if you are prone to plugged milk ducts.

Often women who are more prone to getting plugged or blocked milk ducts notice an improvement after 5 or 6 months of breastfeeding.

Signs for Concern

When a plugged duct persists and is accompanied by additional symptoms, it may be a sign of an infection that requires medical treatment.

Always consult with your doctor if you experience the following:

Fever for 24 hours

Sudden onset of chills

General feeling of being unwell


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