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    Home ›› Blocked milk duct: Symptoms and treatment

    Home ›› Blocked milk duct: Symptoms and treatment

    Blocked milk duct: Symptoms and treatment


    Reading time: 8 mins


    Breastfeeding comes naturally to some mothers and babies, but others meet problems along the way. One of the most common challenges that breastfeeding mothers experience is a clogged milk duct. By preparing yourself for potential struggles, you can avoid feelings of disappointment and failure if you have to work at breastfeeding.


    In this article we’ll address all the most common questions surrounding the issue of blocked milk ducts including:


    • What does a blocked milk duct feel like
    • Blocked milk duct symptoms
    • Treatment options
    • Tips on preventative care


    One thing to remember is that most breastfeeding problems are temporary and, with proper support, can be overcome.  Only around 1% of mothers are physically unable to breastfeed. So, let’s get started and discover everything you need to know about clogged milk ducts.


    If you find yourself struggling to feed your newborn, the most important thing you can do is ask for help. Speak to your healthcare provider straight away; they will be able to diagnose the problem and offer you the support necessary to help you continue your breastfeeding journey.

    What does a blocked milk duct look like? The top 4 blocked milk duct symptoms


    To start, you need to understand the answer to questions like, ‘what does a blocked milk duct look like’ and ‘how does it differ from other breast-related conditions, such as mastitis’? So, here’s a few facts about clogged milk ducts:


    • A clogged milk duct, also referred to as a blocked or plugged duct, is when milk is blocked in the breast.
    • A clogged milk duct leads to incomplete drainage of the milk duct.
    • This causes a tender lump to form in the breast and can lead to discomfort in that specific area.1
    • Blocked milk ducts don’t come with any other sign of illness or fever.


    Tip: If there are fever or flu-like symptoms and if the breasts are warm to the touch, it could be mastitis. Find more information about mastitis symptoms and support here.


    Common blocked milk duct symptoms include:2


    • Pain in one area of the breast
    • A tender lump in one area of the breast
    • Only a slight increase in warmth of the affected area
    • A small white blister on the nipple

    Causes of a clogged milk duct


    The cause of a blocked milk duct is usually due to not fully draining all the milk or from putting too much pressure on the breast for an extended amount of time. However, if you want more information, there are a few things that can cause a clogged milk duct:


    • Not fully emptying the breast during a feeding
    • Improper latching while nursing so baby doesn’t extract all the milk
    • Breast engorgement
    • Oversupply of milk
    • Immediately stopping breastfeeding
    • Pressure on the breast

    How to unclog a milk duct


    Now you know exactly what caused clogged milk ducts, and which blocked milk duct symptoms to look out for. The next step is treatment! Here’s how to clear a blocked milk duct:3


    This guide is not a replacement for professional medical advice. It’s important to seek treatment for a clogged milk duct as soon as possible to avoid a breast infection.

    1. Continue breastfeeding


    When it comes to relieving a blocked duct, breastfeeding mothers should continue to nurse their baby and make sure that he or she is fully extracting the milk. They can also try breastfeeding their newborn on the side of the clogged duct every two hours. This will help to keep the milk flow going and may unclog the milk duct.


    Continuous milk flow stimulation is the goal when dealing with a clogged duct. These Avent breast shells can be very useful to keep clothes milk stain-free while nursing on the go. They’ll collect excess breast milk, and their gentle pressure helps to relieve engorgement.

    2. Massage your breasts before each feed


    Before starting each feed, it’s recommended that you gently massage your breast, working toward the nipple. This will help to stimulate milk flow before even beginning to nurse. Once finished with the feeding session, you can express any milk that is still in the breast with the clogged duct to ensure complete drainage.

    3. Express between feeds


    Encouraging milk flow can help prevent clogged milk ducts, but there may be moments when you can’t be with your baby for every feed. Expressing milk during these times is key to promoting milk flow. Consider a breast pump  that allows mothers to comfortably pump their milk anytime, anywhere.

    It’s not just choosing the right breast pump but finding a bottle to combine breastfeeding and bottle-feeding successfully is also key. This is possible with the Philips Avent Natural Response Bottle.

    Not only does it resemble the breast, but the unique teat opening and tip release milk just like breastfeeding, too – only when compressed by your baby’s tongue. This means your baby can experience a calm and comfortable feed each time.

    4. Focus on the position


    It may be helpful to position the baby’s chin so that it is aimed towards the blocked duct. Breastfeeding this way will help the baby to focus his or her sucking on the blocked milk duct, potentially relieving the clog.


    It can also be helpful for you to try different breastfeeding positions so that the baby can better extract all the milk from every area of the breast.

    5. Use a warm compress


    A warm compress can help to relieve some of the discomfort in the affected breast. Simply apply a warm, moist towel to the area of the clogged duct several times a day while gently massaging your breast.

    6. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing


    One of the causes of clogged milk ducts is putting too much pressure on the breasts for an extended period of time. Tight clothes or bras can result in such pressure. Additionally, tighter clothes cause more sweating and can make it difficult for sweat to evaporate, causing clogged pores.


    Aim to wear loose-fitting clothes to help unclog both your pores and milk ducts.


    If trying these remedies doesn’t unclog the milk duct, it’s best advised to contact a doctor or lactation consultant to prevent it from becoming an infection. You should also contact your healthcare provider if you are still experiencing pain 48 hours after onset.

    What you need

    How to prevent blocked milk ducts


    In an ideal world, every mother would like to avoid clogged milk ducts altogether. However, while there’s no sure-fire method you can use, there are a few tips that might help for how to prevent blocked milk ducts.


    Know when to seek professional help


    You shouldn’t panic if you experience a clogged milk duct. While this can be an uncomfortable and painful condition, it is very normal and will usually go away when immediately addressed.


    Remember, most women seek assistance in the early weeks of feeding. Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally. Don’t forget you can speak to your healthcare provider to find breastfeeding support in your local area.


    We can answer questions like ‘what does a blocked milk duct feel like?’, but the internet is no substitute for professional medical care. For further information on how to clear a blocked milk duct, be sure to contact your midwife, health visitor or doctor for support.


    Find more information about other common breastfeeding issues.

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