Your breast has ducts, or ‘pipes,’ that carry breastmilk from the alveoli, grape-like structures that produce and store breastmilk, to your nipples during breastfeeding. It is common to experience a plugged milk duct during breastfeeding, especially if your breastfeeding technique needs improvement.
I’m going to walk you through the ins and outs of plugged milk ducts to help you know if you have a plugged milk duct, manage the pain of a plugged milk duct, and prevent future plugged ducts.
What are plugged milk ducts?
A plugged duct occurs when milk builds up within your milk duct. Plugged ducts happen because your breastmilk didn’t drain properly, and breastmilk began building up and created a blockage.
Other causes of plugged ducts can be wearing a tight-fitting bra or other tight clothing, a sudden decrease in breastfeeding, and engorgement. The most common cause of a plugged milk duct is a poor feeding technique where you do not empty your breast during a breastfeeding session, the baby doesn’t latch properly, or the baby’s position to your breast isn’t optimal.
Plugged milk ducts are common and also very preventable. Consulting with a lactation consultant or taking my Online Breastfeeding Basics Course will help you master your breastfeeding technique to manage and prevent plugged milk ducts.
How to tell if you have a plugged duct while breastfeeding
You might have a plugged duct from breastfeeding if you feel a painful area or lump in your breast. You may also see a white spot or obstruction on your nipple, a milk bleb. Most of the time, plugged milk ducts are not associated with a fever or other flu-like symptoms. If you have a fever, you may have Mastitis. Click here to read more about Mastitis.
How to manage plugged ducts while breastfeeding
Plugged milk ducts can be extremely painful, and you may want to slow or stop breastfeeding, but that is the last thing you should do. If you stop or slow breastfeeding, your breasts may become engorged, which will be more painful. The best way to get rid of a plugged milk duct is to remove the blockage and thoroughly drain the breast.
There are many ways to accomplish removing the blockage and draining your breast.
Use warm compresses or warm showers and massage your breast to remove the blockage. Massage your breast starting at the nipple and working your way toward the painful area (always massaging toward the nipple). This will help remove the blockage and drain your breast.
Vary your positions during a breastfeeding session, and try to position your baby’s chin near your breast’s most painful part. Doing these things will help remove the blockage and get breastmilk flowing again in that milk duct.
If you are able, hand expressing or pumping breastmilk after breastfeeding will help drain your breast and help manage your plugged milk duct.
Consult with your doctor about taking mild pain medication such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen to manage the pain if you have a plugged milk duct.
A plugged duct should usually only last about 48 hours. If you’re still experiencing pain after 48 hours, please contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
How to prevent plugged ducts
The best way to prevent a plugged milk duct is to work with a lactation specialist on your breastfeeding technique. In my Breastfeeding Basics Online Course, I cover different breastfeeding positions and latch techniques to help you breastfeed with confidence. Take the class today and start your breastfeeding journey on the right track.
If you find that you get plugged milk ducts frequently, then taking a supplement called Sunflower Lecithin can help prevent future plugged ducts. Sunflower Lecithin can help decrease the “stickiness” of the fat in your milk and help so that it does not stick to your milk ducts’. Start by taking 3600-4800 mg of Sunflower Lecithin daily, or 1 capsule 3-4 times a day. After 2 weeks of no plugged milk ducts, you can decrease the dosage by one capsule daily. Repeat this process until you are taking one capsule daily to prevent plugged milk ducts.
If you have any questions or concerns about plugged ducts, mastitis, or breastfeeding, schedule a FREE 15-minute phone consultation with me today.