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Breastfeeding and Plugged Ducts


A plugged duct is a milk duct in your breast that is blocked. Milk ducts carry breast milk from the glands (small sacs) where it is made down to your nipple. When a duct is blocked, the flow of milk from the duct to your nipple may decrease or stop. Milk may build up and cause a tender lump to form in your breast.


Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever with chills or body aches.
  • Your breast is red, swollen or hard, painful, and feels warm or hot.
  • You have a new tender lump in the same area that you have had a lump before.
  • You have pus or blood draining from one or both of your nipples or mixed in with your milk.
  • Your signs and symptoms do not get better within 24 hours.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Manage plugged ducts:

  • Breastfeed every 2 hours from the breast that has the plugged duct. This will help loosen the blocked duct and get your milk moving. Feed your baby from the side that has the plugged duct first. Frequent breastfeeding may remove the blockage in your milk duct.
  • Position your baby to help empty milk from the plugged duct. Hold your baby so that his or her chin is pointing toward the area of your breast with the plugged duct. This helps drain breast milk from the plugged duct.
  • Massage your breast before and during breastfeeding. You may also do this while you take a hot shower or bath. Massage your breast with firm pressure from the area just behind the lump to the nipple.
  • Express milk after you breastfeed. Use a breast pump or your hand to drain extra milk after your baby is done feeding. You can also express milk if your breasts are too full for your baby to latch on.
  • Apply warmth to your breasts before you breastfeed. Put a warm, wet cloth on your breasts, or take a warm shower or bath. You can also lean over a sink or basin of warm water and place your breasts in it. This may help remove the blockage and increase your milk flow.

Prevent a plugged duct:

  • Help your baby get a good latch. Hold the nape of his or her neck to help him or her latch onto your breast. Touch his or her top lip with your nipple and wait for him or her to open his or her mouth wide. Your baby's lower lip and chin should touch the areola (dark area around the nipple) first. Help him or her get as much of the areola in his or her mouth as possible. You should feel as if your baby will not separate from your breast easily. Gently break suction and reposition if your baby is only sucking on the nipple. Talk to a lactation consultant if you need help with your baby's latch.
    Correct Latch-on Breastfeeding
  • Empty your breasts completely. Breastfeed your baby 8 to 12 times each day or any time he or she shows signs of being hungry. Use a pump if your baby cannot empty your breasts. Do not hurry through your breastfeeding sessions. Take your time when you breastfeed to allow your baby to empty your breast. Try not to switch breasts too early.
  • Decrease pressure on your breasts. Do not wear tight bras, underwire bras, or clothing that places pressure on your breasts. Try not to sleep on your stomach. Pressure can pinch your milk ducts and cause a plugged duct.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Breastfeeding and Plugged Ducts (Aftercare Instructions)

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