I’ve had a lot of questions on Instagram about plugged ducts, causes and management. I address this topic in detail in my Breastfeeding Hurdles and How-to’s class. I’m going to answer a few of your questions on the topic directly today!
“How do I know if I have a plugged duct or mastitis?”
Mastitis means inflammation of the affected breast tissue, and comes in different forms, including plugged ducts. A plugged duct means that a milk duct is not draining properly and milk flow is stopped up in that area. If a plugged duct is managed improperly, it can lead to an infection of the breast tissue and has the potential to decrease your breastmilk supply. Many breastfeeding moms will encounter a clogged milk duct during their postpartum feeding journey.
Here are some signs that you have a plugged duct (1):
- tender lump
- sore lump
- no fever
- comes on gradually
- may shift in location
- little or no warmth to the touch
- feel generally well
“I keep getting plugged ducts! What do I do?”
Like I mentioned, it’s important to manage plugged ducts properly, so you don’t develop a breast tissue infection. Prioritizing effective breast draining through deep latch and hand expression in the early days is ideal. This proactive approach will help you protect your milk supply and avoid severe engorgement. Another thing to keep in mind if you are primarily using a breast pump ensure proper flange fit and hands on pumping to effectively drain. The biggest thing while managing a plugged milk duct avoid extra pressure on the affect area of the breast . This extra pressure can come from: poor fitting nursing bras, diaper bags, baby carriers and any tight clothing.
Here are some ways to treat and alleviate plugged ducts (2):
- ensure a good latch via an IBCLC consult (asymmetrical latch technique)
- frequent nursing (at least every 2 hours on affected side)
- alternate breastfeeding positions
- “dangle” feeding position (lean over baby and feed the affected breast)
- gentle breast massage in circular motion (start in front of and move towards blocked duct)
- warm compress 10-20 min before feeding or pumping session
- warm shower before a feeding or pumping session
- avoid tight clothing/nursing bras (no underwire bra)
- warm water and plain epsom salt soaks to affected area
- Try gentle hand expression
- take sunflower lecithin supplements (1,200 mg) 3-4 times daily
- Get more rest
- Try ibuprofen for pain relief
- Decrease stress
If you have plugged duct or blockage with progressing symptoms like: hard lump, red streaking, body aches and flu-like symptoms notify your healthcare provider. These are signs/symptoms of mastitis a breast infection and could require intervention to prevent an abscess. Remember to listen to your body and get help when needed. Plugged ducts can be tricky to navigate. If things are not clearing or you are having frequent recurrent clogged ducts work directly with one of our lactation link IBCLCS via a 1:1 consult.
Thanks for coming today!
Aubri Lutz, IBCLC, RN