I think I have a plugged milk duct. What should I do? Breastfeeding


woman breastfeeding cafe

If you're breastfeeding your baby and not completely emptying your breasts during feedings, milk can back up and lead to a plugged milk duct. This can be truly painful and even lead to a serious infection if left untreated. Thankfully, there are a variety of strategies you can try to relieve the issue. 

Nurse or Pump More Frequently

"Plugged milk ducts are fairly common in nursing mothers. The condition, which can be painful or uncomfortable, is caused when milk gets backed up in the ducts and because the milk is being made faster than it is being expressed. Nursing or pumping more frequently can help open up the ducts." -- Lisa Liu, MD, physician at Loyola Center for Health at Gottlieb, assistant professor of family medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Melrose Park, Illinois 

Try This Breast Massage

"Massage the breast from the outermost portion along the duct towards the nipple, before and during a feeding. Try to vary the position your baby is in while breastfeeding. You should also avoid wearing tight-fitting or underwire bras that may compress the milk duct and cause plugged milk ducts. Missed feeds and engorgement may also contribute to plugged ducts." -- Maria Lombardi, DO, pediatrician at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network in Valhalla, New York 

Apply a Warm Compress

"Take a hot shower and massage the area to help drain out the breast. Apply a warm compress or heating pad to help alleviate the pain and inflammation." 

Connect With a Lactation Consultant

"Contact your lactation consultant. If you don't have one, call the birthing center at your nearest hospital and explain your situation. Someone there should be willing to help you. The best thing to do? Nurse, even though it's painful, and stay super-hydrated!"

Be Aware of Complications

"You want to apply heat, then knead it like crazy, then cool. Do this every hour until the clog is busted up. If you need a friend to knead for you ... call in help! And if it doesn't go away after a couple of days, call your doctor. You may be at risk for developing mastitis and may need an antibiotic. Unattended, it could lead to serious issues and even require surgery. So attack it early and often, and push through the pain to avoid other issues."

Try 'Dangle Feeding'

"Breastfeed on all fours, so you're dangling above the baby! Gravity helps release the clog."

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.