12 JanPlugged Milk Duct Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Plugged or clogged milk ducts happen when one of the milk ducts, or localized area in the breast, becomes blocked causing an obstructed flow of milk. Symptoms  include tenderness in a localized area accompanied with a firm or hard lump. The area usually is hot to the touch, swollen with possible redness. Plugged or clogged milk ducts do not cause a fever.  Plugged ducts tend to come on gradually and usually only effect one breast. The clog may appear at the very tip of your nipple, known as a “Milk Bleb” which is clogged pore, or the clog could be further back in the ductile system. Either way, it isn’t a very pleasant experience. Some mothers may notice that the lump feels more painful before feeding, tender during “let down” and less severe post feed.

Plugged ducts can be caused by:

  • Inability to adequately empty the breast
  • Engorgement
  • Skipped feedings
  • Inflammation due to breast infection, or candida (yeast)
  • Continuous added pressure on a specific duct restricting complete milk flow (Most Common Reason) This can be caused by wearing a tight underwire bra, constantly holding the breast with your hand and fingers while feeding, or from placing a finger between the breast and the infants nose.

Some mothers fear their baby can’t breath being that close to the breast. So, they follow their instincts, using their finger as a barrier to push the breast tissue away from the infants nose. However, babies are obligatory nose breathers and do not have the same amount of cartilage in their noses like we adults do. Because of this most babies can breath side ways. All that to say that if your baby can’t breath he/she will come off the breast. By placing your finger in between, it not only will cause for a more shallow latch that can lead to un-needed nipple soreness, but it will also increase your chances of developing a plugged duct in that specific spot.

So what do you do if you develop these pesky little plugs? First and fore most, keep breastfeeding! One of the best ways to remove the clog, is to have your baby feed through it. Be sure to get plenty of rest, and drink tons of fluids! The more you increase your fluids, the better your chances are for moving that clog out. If a clog is left untreated it can lead to mastitis, a breast infection which requires medical attention. Here are some recommended steps to help you.

  1. Just prior to feeding, apply a moist heat to the affected area either with a moist warm towel or by taking a shower
  2. Soak the breast is a bowl of warm water and gently massage the area.
  3. If you have a “Bleb” or clogged pore on the nipple, then after soaking the breast in warm water, take a cotton ball saturated with olive oil and apply to the tip of the nipple. This will soften the blockage and allow it to unclog. NEVER use a needle to try and unclog the bleb. This can lead to increased damage and risk of infection.
  4. Massage the area before and during the feeding. Stroke the breast in a downward motion from chest towards the nipple during the feeding.
  5. Frequent feedings ensuring adequate emptying of the breast. It is really important that you are able to remove as much milk as possible from the effected breast.
  6. Start feeding on the effected side, and if possible nurse a few minutes longer.
  7. Avoid adding constant pressure with your finger or hand as mentioned above.
  8. Position the baby so that his/her lower jaw  is in alignment with the clogged duct. The baby’s chin should be facing toward the plugged duct to allow the suction to be maximized toward the blocked area. Change positions to allow for adequate drainage of all ducts.
  9. Have someone massage you between the shoulder blades to help aid in relaxation resulting in better milk flow.
  10. As mentioned above: Take care of you! Drink plenty of fluids, rest, and if possible decrease your stress levels…which I know is easier said then done.
  11. Avoid tight restrictive clothing, bras especially with under wire.

***SPECIAL NOTE*** If the clogged duct does not go away and you begin to develop flu-like symptoms including chills and fever, call your doctor. You could be developing a breast infection known as mastitis.

If you have recurring plugged ducts, you may need to change your diet. Sometimes what we ingest makes our milk almost too thick and sticky. The following steps can help resolve recurring plugged ducts:

  • Decrease your fat intake to only eating polyunsaturated fats.
  • Moderate your salt
  • Add Lecithin to your diet. This is an over the counter food supplement  that works by decreasing the viscosity or stickiness of the milk.

*** If you have a history of depression, take caution as lecithin can increase your chances of developing postpartum depression sympotoms.

LECITHIN 6 WEEK TREATMENT PLAN

Week 1-2 week: 3600-4800mg a day (1200mg capsules: 3capsules 3 times a day with food)

Week 3-4: 2 capsules 2 times a day with food

Week 5-6: 1 capsule in the morning with breakfast

(May need to continue 1-2 capsules a day if stopping leads to additional plugged ducts)

Consult your doctor if symptoms persist or worsen

Copyright© 2011 Danielle Gauss/ JustBreastFeeding.com. All Rights Reserved

43 Responses to “Plugged Milk Duct Symptoms, Causes and Treatment”

  1. jamie says:

    Are the lecithin pills 1200mg each or 3 pills total 1200mg. Also does sunflower lecithin work just as well as soy lecithin? Thanks

    • Admin says:

      The each pill is 1200mg. If you have trouble finding that dosage, you can round up. Either option, soy or sunflower, is fine. Soy is more common, however because soy is a phyto-estrogen, and there are soy allergies, the sunflower will also work. The key component is the fact that the lecithin is a poly unsaturated fat which makes your milk less “Sticky” allowing it to flow through the ducts more smoothly.

  2. jamie says:

    So do I take 3 pills 3 times a day for a total of 3600 Mg for the first week? Thanks

    • Admin says:

      The usual recommended dosage for recurrent plugged ducts is 3600-4800 mg lecithin per day, or 1 capsule (1200 milligram) 3-4 times per day. After a week or two with no blockage, mom can reduce the dosage by one capsule. If there is no blockage within another 2 weeks she can reduce it again by one. Mom may need to continue taking 1-2 capsules per day if stopping the lecithin leads to additional plugged ducts.

  3. Priya says:

    I get recurrent plugged ducts every 10 days or so. I exclusively pump and feed my daughter . So I was thinking that I didn’t empty my breast properly each time I get the plugged duct . I do NOT have a plugged duct right now . Can u start taking lecithin in the mentioned dosage to prevent future clogged ducts ? Kindly let me know

    • Admin says:

      Yes you can absolutely take lecithin to help treat recurring clogged ducts. I would be sure to use a warm moist compress first to help work out any current ducts, but the lecithin is a poly-unsaturated fat so it will work by making your milk less sticky, thus minimizing the likelihood of the milk clogging. I wouldn’t start with the treatment dose of 3600mg a day, I would just do the preventative dose of 1200mg a day. If you develop a clog then you can up your dose at that time. Hope this helps

  4. May says:

    I am not breastfeeding. can I still taking this medicine to solve the galactocele problem? Thanks

    • Admin says:

      Lecithin works by making milk less sticky, and flow better. Same reason why doctors recommend the vitamin for people with high cholesterol as it reduces plaque in the blood stream. If you are having galactocele issues, I would recommend prim rose oil 500mg 2-3 times a day. This will help reduce the pain associated with tender fibrocystic breasts.

  5. May says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for your response. I just delivery 6 weeks ago and I am not breastfeeding and just notice galactocele in my right breast. My left breast still leaking milk and my right breast didn’t therefore it develop a galactocele. Am I still ok to take prime rose oil?

    • Admin says:

      Your breasts may be leaking milk for awhile. Even though your not breastfeeding, your breasts don’t know that so it will begin to produce milk, and it can last for several weeks later. Prim rose oil, is absolutely safe to take. I highly recommend it for any woman, breastfeeding or not as it promotes good breast health, and reduces any breast tenderness. If you are having recurring clogged ducts, or you feel like your milk is not drying up, then I would recommend peppermint tea, peppermint altoids, as that will help decrease the milk production. If the problem persists, your doctor may recommend a decongestant like Sudafed to help “Decongest” your breast. Hope this helps.

  6. May says:

    is sunflower lecithin only for breastfeeding mom? How to dry up milk quickly?

    thanks

    • Admin says:

      Lecithin is for anyone, it is a poly-unsaturated fat so it helps by lowering the plaque in our blood, reducing cholesterol, and it works in breastfeeding mothers by making the breast milk less sticky so it will flow better, reducing the risk of clogged milk ducts. If you are wanting to dry up your milk quickly, visit my article on “weaning” which provides instructions on how to dry up your milk supply with the use of peppermint and cabbage, along with medications that your doctor may recommend such as a decongestant. Hope this helps!

  7. May says:

    Hi,
    Thank you for your answer.
    May

  8. May says:

    Hi,

    I am currently taking evening primrose oil, peppermint tea, and Benadryl since Thur. My left breast still leaking milk, and my right breast didn’t leak milk and still has galactocele.

    1)Should I use my hand to squeeze small amount of milk from my right breast to prevent the galactocele getting bigger?

    2)Should I take sunflower lecithin to get rid of galactocele?

    3)Will the galactocele gone on its own once lactation end?

    I am very worry about that. I don’t know what will it happen next if it is still inside my breast.

    Thanks

    May

  9. Mama Bebe says:

    Hello,
    I am looking for advice on how to get rid of a milk blister I have had for about two months. It seems to be making it hard for my baby to nurse on one side. I have tried hot compress, sterilized needle, frequent nursing. Would lecithin make sense for me? Thank you.

    • Admin says:

      Have you tried putting olive oil on the nipple first, letting that soak in, then apply the warm moist heat for 10 min, while nursing your baby and doing breast compressions? If that hasn’t worked, then yes I would say you are probably a good candidate for lecithin. The only time I say not to do a lecithin treatment is if you have a history of depression as some report that it can make a woman feel melancholy. However, at this point, it may seem like your best option. If you have questions about the dosage, don’t hesitate to ask.

  10. Grainne says:

    Hi,
    I have been feeding my baby for 15 weeks and gradually reduced to 2 feeds a day, the first and second of the day, on Monday morning I woke up and had a pain under my arm, presumed I had blocked duct (first time ever) and tried to feed, but about an hour later started to feel very unwell, flu like symptoms with high temp, I went to doctor yesterday and she said I have infection and on antibiotic, have tried feeding and using heat and massage but I still have lump and I’m in a lot of pain, any suggestions?

    • Admin says:

      If you have swollen tissue, such as the lump you are feeling, I would do a cold compress first, then add the heat to it and massage while feeding the baby or pumping. If the clogs continue then you can add lecithin into your diet which will make the milk less sticky and flow better. Lecithin is an over the counter poly unsaturated fat that is used to treat clogged duct. The dosage instructions are mentioned in my website. Please let me know if you have any further questions. Best of luck.

  11. Lauren Finch says:

    I am on my fourth day of weaning cold turkey (I know I shouldn’t have done that) the pain is finally not excruciating, but I stopped because I got four plugged ducts in the span of two weeks even with taking lecithin. I decided I couldn’t continue working and devoting all my time to trying to get them out. I am severely engorged still, and can’t tell if I have plugged ducts yet, but am pretty sure since I was getting them when I was actually feeding and pumping. I know engorgement causes them as well and I haven’t pumped much at all in four days. Should I wait till the engorgement goes down to see if there are any, or should I be proactive. I don’t want to experience the intense pain I had in the first two days, so I don’t want to stimulate milk production at all. I don’t want to put heat on it either. Will they eventually reabsorb.

    • Admin says:

      I would try icing your breasts to bring down some of the inflammation. You can always take a decongestant with your doctor’s consent as this will “decongest” the breast as well. I would not massage as that will stimulate the breast causing more milk production to occur. Ibuprophen will help as well to bring down some of the pain. Keep up with the cabbage treatments and peppermint and sage as that will help eliviate some of the discomfort too.

  12. Angela says:

    I had a clogged milk duct about 2 months ago but was able to have my baby nurse it away in a couple of days. After about 4-5 days I noticed I had a few white spots on my nipple. I thought this was due to my son getting new teeth. Then I started experiencing excrutiating pain in my breast. It started out as a sharp pain in my nipple and then sort of radiated through my whole breast. It would only be painful right after I nursed on that breast and 90% of the time it was at night. I went to my doctor and they ordered an ultrasound which came back normal.they gave me prescriptions for an infection and for a yeast infection. They did not help with the pain. Now I’m starting to think the spots were milk blisters. They are not really white anymore, more like a pink and they are sort of ‘swollen’ looking after I nurse. Will the warm compress and olive oil work for me or has it been too long? I’m scared that the tissue has really grown over the duct opening. Please help.

    • Admin says:

      It would most defintely help. I would also suggest taking lecithin to help make your milk flow more smoothly. The dosage instructions are listed in the plugged duct article. Sound like you would be a great candiate for that. Also, if you are having increased pain all over the breast, you could also try prim rose oil capsules, 500mg 1-3 x a day as needed. Both of those vitamins should help decrease some of the pain you are feeling. But yes, anytime you have a clogged duct the warm moist heat will help decrease the clogs. Best of luck and I hope you feel better soon.

  13. Deb says:

    I am so happy I found your site! You have great information and are so patient in all your responses! My second child had an overactive gag reflux and never learned how to eat solids til about a year ago. I had to breastfeed him strictly for 2 years. With my first child, I did not have issues that I recall with Mastitis. With my second one I had at least 5 with antibiotic treatment. Ugh. I wondered it if had to do with my breasts being naturally pretty lumpy. I finally completely weened him several months ago, but still have one duct on one side that seems to be holding milk and I cannot express it. I started to get another infection tonight and wonder how I can get the milk out. This duct has always been troublesome and am so surprised that I can still, after this much time has passed, begin to get an infection. I’ve read how I could take Benedryl, Lecithin, Peppermint, Sage, and Prim Rose. What do you recommend for one problematic duct? Thank you so much for your time!

    • Admin says:

      Hi there Deb. First off congrats on breastfeeding and sustaining your son so well for 2 years! Well done girl! I am so sorry to hear about your troublesome duct. It is unusual for you to be having issues with mastitis this long after weaning, but not unheard of. You can leak milk for over a year after weaning. However, with you get mastitis, we want to make sure there isn’t anything else going on. I would recommend lecithin and most definitely peppermint, but I would also consult with your OB/GYN and have them do an ultrasound to rule out any underlying causes such as a cyst. Benadryl and other decongestants will certainly help “Decongest” the breast, but again all these things you want to do with your doctor’s permission. The lecithin will help make milk and other bodily fluids less sticky so that it doesn’t clog as easily. Being that we aren’t wanting to get milk out per say may make lecithin not as productive. The cabbage treatment would work really well in diminishing one solo duct, as would taking peppermint oil capsules such as you would find online from DoTerra oils. If you find that these are not working, there is ultrasonic therapy you can use to help break down any problematic spots and hopefully help break up some of the scar tissue left behind from your previous bouts of mastitis. Hopefully this helps, please let me know if I can be of any further help. Best of luck.

  14. Bria Berry says:

    So will it help a plugged duct I already have?

  15. Mahmooda Bano says:

    I stopped breast feeding my baby and am pumping the milk out every secong day.. still milk is getting formed now its 3rd week since I left breast feeding. When I press to remove milk I find small small balls like thing. Please say me how to get rid of this continues milk formation. My baby is 2.6 yrs old.

    • Mahmooda Bano says:

      Please say me how to get rid of these small small balls too

    • Admin says:

      What you are feeling is your milk ducts full of milk, and they may be feeling clogged. Since you have decided to wean your baby completely the best thing to do is to stop pumping all together. Your breasts work by supply and demand, the more you stimulate them the more milk you will make. If you keep pumping you will keep producing milk. You can use cold compress to reduce the engorgement. Visit my blog on weaning to help you understand what you need to do to reduce your milk supply all together.

  16. Kemi says:

    I found the information on this site useful. This is my first baby and I never heard of clogged duct until now. I planned exclusive breast feeding for my baby but I couldn’t continue cos I heard bad bleeding 5days after delivery. While at the hospital my breast was really full and hard. Before my baby was brought to me. After some days u started having pains in my left breast, it became hard, sore breast and a feel of lump in my earolar. Am really scared. What do I do? Cos I try feeding him on that breast always and it’s still the same.

    • Admin says:

      Use some cold compresses, like ice packs to help bring down the swelling, for 10 minutes. Then I would use a warm moist washcloth to help relieve the lumps. If you have a pump, I would pump out the milk while you massage the breast to help relieve some of the discomfort you are feeling. You can always pump and provide your baby the breast milk in the bottle if you find that easier. This way the baby is still getting the benefits of breast milk. Hope this helps. You don’t have to be scared, what you are experiencing is normal, and is just your body trying to make perfect milk for your baby.

  17. Kemi says:

    Tanx so much for the response. What do I do to relieve me of the sore nipple. Cos it hurts after every feed. Tanx a lot

    • Admin says:

      Sore nipples can be due to several reasons, poor latch, bad positioning, thrush or a clogged duct. I would recommend making an appointment with a lactation consultant near you to check on your baby’s latch and rule out any underlying condition.

  18. Louise says:

    Hi I have a question and it would be amazing if you could help. My son is 13 weeks old and exclusively breast fed. Whilst feeding my first son I was prime to blocked ducts but learnt to solve the issue quite quickly. However this time round I have had no issues whatsoever until 10 days ago when I got my first blocked duct. I did everything I could to relieve it massage, compress, heat, more feeding etc and it wouldn’t budge then 3 days ago it became mastitis. I have antibiotics for that but I am still unable to clear the backlog and my milk supply has diminished. I have also been pumping a lot more and noticed that thick mucous like milk has started to come out one pore I think this is the backlog but its just do thick it can’t come out slowly. Again I am trying everything massage , different feeding positions, heat, expressing and can’t seem to unblock the duct properly. There are definitely no white dots/blend on my nipples so think the blockage is further up. Do you have any other suggestions? Thanks do much!! It’s driving mr crazy!!

    • Admin says:

      What you are seeing come out is the clog, it almost looks like cottage cheese. I would recommend taking lecithin tablets which is an over the counter poly-unsaturated fat vitamin. They are 1200mg capsules. I would take 1 capsule 3 times a day for 2 weeks then 1 capsule a day for 2 more weeks. This will help unclog and make the milk less sticky preventing further clogs. If you have a history of depression however, it can cause you to feel temporarily melancholy that first day, but otherwise it should help with the clogging.

  19. Monya says:

    Hi, your site is really great. Thank you for all the information. This page in particular made a lightbulb go off for me….the relationship between galactoceles and yeast. Perhaps you could offer some advice for my unique situation. Last June, two unusual things happened…I had a bout of yeast infections. It was also the start of recurring plugged ducts. Last June, my daughter was 3 years old and usually nursed in the morning, before nap, before bed and 2 to 4 times in the middle of the night. Note, she has several food allergies so the night nursing has been consistent for as long as I can remember. I would get the plugged duct on my left breast, right behind the nipple. I would do heat, massage, extra nursing on that side and it would go Away after a week or two. In august, it was back for three weeks. Each time, I would feel it unplug. I kept expecting to get mastitis, but have yet to, phew. After that, the lump never went away. The tenderness, during let down, or to touch, comes and goes, but the lump remains. This January, I had a sonogram and that’s when they told me about galactocele.

    About the same time, my daughter cut back on nursing, and napping, so since January, she more or less breast feeds before bed, and one to two times at night. The lump was still there, but felt sooo much better.

    Just last week we did a few food challenges and she has doubled her nursing probably due to not feeling well and eating much. I also got a very light yeast infection. Now the lump hurts to touch and during let downs. I am so sick of this. I haven’t tried lecithin since my daughter is allergic to soy and I am prone to depression…but should I?

    I also remind her to relax her jaw and ask her to stop if she starts to leave teeth marks. Could that be similar interference? Also, I wear no underwire bras.

    Any thoughts you have would be enormously appreciated! Thank you!!!

    • Admin says:

      It sounds like you have had quite a journey. It does sound like you would benefit from lecithin. You can get sunflower lecithin which would work better and help eliminate the soy issue. I would get 1200mg capsules and take 3 a day (a total of 3600mg) for 2 weeks, then 1 capsule once a day for the duration of your breastfeeding history. Make sure you keep up with the moist heat (dry heat will not help) and massage towards the nipple as she feeds. You can also help by increasing fluids, eliminating processed sugars, and see if that makes a difference as well. Let me know how it works!

  20. karan says:

    Hey,
    I had a milk lump 3 weeks after the delivery of my baby. I was put on antibiotics but it turned into an abcess and a surgical insicion and drainage was done. I started breastfeeding again a week after the surgery. I have again developed a lump which is not as bad as the first time but its slightly red and painful. Doctors have started antibiotics again. Its been almost four days and it’s still hard. Should I continue breastfeeding?

    • Admin says:

      Yes I would absolutely continue breastfeeding, getting that milk to move is incredible important. I am so sorry to hear about your abcess. You may want to start taking lecithin capsules however on a daily basis to help reduce the amount of clogs you are getting. 1200mg capsules 3 times a day for 2 weeks, then just one capsule a day when no clogs are present. Some moms with recurrent plugged ducts or mastitis have also had good luck with the following homeopathic treatment — 2 doses Hepar Sulphur and 2 doses of Phytolacca (allow pellets to dissolve in mouth). The doses are to be taken as follows:
      First, take Hepar Sulphur 30C – 3 pellets;
      3 hours later, take Phytolacca 30C – 3 pellets;
      3 hours later, take Hepar Sulphur 30C – 3 pellets;
      3 hours later, take Phytolacca 30C – 3 pellets.
      If you do decide to wean, you would most definitely want to do so gradually as your breast tissue is sensitive. Best of luck to you!

  21. katylin says:

    Hi.
    I had a small amount of previous nipple damage. My nipple had an area of scar tissue where breast milk exits came together and poured out vs sprayed out. This area was the exit for a good amount of my ducts on my breast from (if a clock) from 6pm to 1030pm.
    My baby bit me in his sleep, as he had actually over nursed and had more of my breast in me than typical. He had been sick and I woke with his deep pain and a bite line.
    I had mastitis and was sadly hospitalized by that night. My white count went up to 22 in one afternoon. My baby nursed at the hospital but it appears that the SCAR TISSUE closed off that exit, and those ducts appear to have quite. The result is I went from producing about 40 oz daily to about 2 ounces. Yes, that is what I am saying, I am down 38 oz. I am on reglan and realized today with the swelling down, and the peeling gone (my breast peeled like a snake from the extreme and fast swelling) that my shine new nipple is the cause of some of my issues.
    How can I if at all, change this new scar tissue so that my over other pumping can “get too” those closed off ducts- closed off from the nipple?

    Help. Help. What a sad sad week for my baby. He is beside himself and has refused all other supplementation other than water. His diapers are not wet enough or often enough.

    • Admin says:

      I am so sorry to hear about all the trouble you have had. You poor thing. Okay….first off I am so glad you are feeling better, and what a wonderful mommy you are to be so dedicated to providing the best supplement you can to your baby. As you know your breasts work by supply and demand, the more you stimulate the more milk you will make. So I would start pumping. Reglan is not my favorite choice of medication if you are going to be increasing your supply as there are a lot of neurological side effects for both mom and baby. If you feel you needed to take medication to increase milk then I would recommend Domperidone (motillium). It works far better, is much safer for you and baby, and is what is approved by the AAP unlike Reglan. The problem with it however is that due to political and financial reasons, it is not FDA approved in the US. However you can get it online through a pharmacy in Canada, and most pediatricians and OB’s are on board with it.
      As for your clogged nipple area. I would use some warm olive oil on the nipple 10 min prior to you feeding or pumping to soften the tissue. Then I would use a warm, moist compress for 10 min prior to help open up the tissue. You can also consider taking lecithin to help prevent the clogs from happening.
      If your supply is still low, I would recommend acupuncture to increase or using herbs such as more milk plus which you can read about in my increasing milk section, prior to continuing with reglan. I hope this helps let me know if you have any further questions.

  22. Nadia Guillen says:

    Hello, my baby girl is 10 weeks old and exclusively breast feed and pump occasionally. About 3 weeks ago I noticed a hard lump in my right breast. I thought nothing of it because I had lumps before and would go away on there own. But now I’ve noticed it hurts more after feeding I get sharp shooting pains for about 30 min.then they go away. I’ve tried massage and heat compresses but nothing works. PLEASE HELP.

    • Admin says:

      If the lump is persistent and does not go away with warm moist heat and massage you may want to visit your doctor to make sure it is in fact a clogged duct. You can of course take lecithin which is an over the counter vitamin that will help make the milk less sticky and should help reduce the clogs. If the pain is getting worst however you should consult with your doctor.

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