Blocked Milk Ducts and Mastitis

expert tips on treating & preventing

Blocked Milk Ducts and Mastitis

Clogged (aka blocked or plugged) milk ducts can occur if breasts aren’t emptied regularly or completely, causing a small hard lump in the breast tissue that feels tender and swollen. It is usually more painful before feedings and can lead to an infection called mastitis if not addressed. ~20% of breastfeeding moms get mastitis at some point, usually in the first few weeks. Mastitis symptoms include intense breast pain, swelling, and redness with fever, chills, and flu-like aching. Treatment for blocked ducts and mastitis are similar, but for mastitis you should also call your doctor for antibiotics.



Apply a warm compress to the affected breast for 2-3 minutes directly before nursing

Or, stand in a warm shower with water hitting your back, not directly on breasts

The warmth helps blood vessels dilate, encouraging milk flow

Avoid heat between feedings as it can worsen swelling and engorgement


During nursing sessions and while in the shower, gently massage the area above and below the clog, working toward the nipple

This helps encourage milk drainage

Empty the breast

Keep breast as empty as possible to lessen build up:

Breastfeed and/or pump often (every 2-3 hours)

Empty breasts thoroughly

Use different positions

Breastfeed from affected breast first (if it hurts to start there, start with the other but switch to affected one after letdown)

Try hand expressing or pumping a little milk after nursing to aid milk drainage (just enough to relieve the pressure; pumping too much can prolong cycle of engorgement)

Rest, ice, and medication

After and between feedings, rest to help your body heal and use cold compresses up to 20 minutes at a time to ease pain and inflammation

Ask your doctor if they advise ibuprofen or acetaminophen to ease swelling and pain

Some moms have success taking sunflower lecithin to loosen fat cells in the milk and to help prevent the recurrence of clogged ducts

For mastitis: Call your doctor for antibiotics to treat the infection

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