Children & Adolescents Clinic

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Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0

Breast-Feeding Problems: Plugged Ducts

One or more of the milk ducts may become blocked. This is usually caused by incomplete emptying of the breast. A plugged duct can also be caused by stress, fatigue, or a tight bra. In addition, it appears that some women are simply more prone to plugged ducts than others.

Because a plugged duct can lead to a breast infection, it needs to be unplugged as soon as possible.

If you feel a hard, tender lump in your breast:

  1. Nurse on the tender side first when the baby is hungriest and sucks more strongly. This will ensure complete emptying of that breast.

  2. Massage the breast with the lump, expressing extra milk and trying to unplug the duct.

  3. Between nursing sessions apply moist heat to the breast. (The best is to soak in a hot bath while massaging your breast and expressing milk. A hot shower or a heating pad is also helpful.)

  4. Be persistent! With a plugged duct you have to work with massage, expression, nursing, and moist heat until it clears.

  5. Sleep on your side instead of your back to assist the flow of milk down the ducts in your breasts.

  6. Since stress can be an important factor in plugged ducts, make sure you get plenty of rest and relaxation.

  7. When the plugged duct unclogs, you may feel a burning or pinching.

WARNING: If a clogged duct is accompanied by redness, a painful lump, and/or a fever and flu-like feeling, you could have a breast infection. Call your physician immediately!


  • Nurse frequently.
  • Empty each breast at each nursing.
  • Avoid tight or poorly fitting bras.
  • Sleep on your side instead of back.
  • Get plenty of rest.

Written by Kate Capage.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems