Blocked Milk Ducts and Breast-Feeding

Milk ducts can become blocked when the lactating breasts become very full (engorged) and are not emptied regularly. A blocked milk duct feels like a tender lump on the breast.

You can treat a blocked duct with self-care measures. To help unblock milk ducts, you can:

  • Take a warm shower or apply a warm, wet compress several times a day for 10 to 15 minutes. To make a warm compress, soak a hand towel in warm water. Wring out the excess water and place the towel on the affected breast. Cover the compress with a second, dry towel to trap the heat.
  • Massage over the area of the blocked duct, moving toward the nipple, before and during breast-feeding.
  • Breast-feed more frequently.
  • Use a variety of breast-feeding positions.
  • Feed from the affected breast first. This moves the milk through the breast more effectively, because the baby's sucking is most intense at the beginning of a feeding session.
  • Take ibuprofen to reduce swelling. Before you take any kind of medicine, ask your doctor if it is safe for you to use while you are breast-feeding.

A blocked duct can become infected (mastitis). If you have signs of a breast infection (mastitis), you may need to call your doctor right away.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Current as ofJune 4, 2014