Plugged Ducts

Why do plugged ducts occur?

Plugged ducts are caused by milk and fluid build-up. It can be more severe if the baby does not nurse very frequently or is having trouble removing milk. A common trigger is when your infant starts sleeping longer at night. Other triggers can be tight fitting bras. Pumping does not remove milk as completely and efficiently as the baby does, so you may find that you get more plugged ducts when you’re pumping frequently.

How can I relieve the plugged duct?

Try some of these simple steps:

  • The best way to prevent plugged ducts is to nurse and/or empty your breasts more frequently!
  • When pumping, use hand expression and breast massage to more fully empty your breasts.
  • Prior to latching: massage the breast toward the arm pit (this decreases swelling). Check out the Breastfeeding Medicine of Northeast Ohio video online for our hand expression and massage demonstration:Click here
  • When nursing, gently massage the area with the plugged duct, focusing on moving the milk toward the nipple and decreasing swelling by massaging toward the armpit.
  • Apply cold compresses to your breasts between feedings (ice packs, bags of frozen vegetables).
  • Apply moist heat before feeding (warm shower, wet wash cloth, diaper with warm water in it) to help the milk let down.
  • Try nursing in different positions. Pointing your baby’s nose or chin toward the plugged area may help to empty the area better.
  • Ask your provider about the use of an anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen.
  • Call your provider if you develop a fever over 101, flu-like symptoms, redness and pain in the breast, or if the plug lasts for more than 2 days.
  • We can help at Breastfeeding Medicine of Northeast Ohio with in-office breast massage if you are unable to resolve your plug at home! Click here Give us a call if you need assistance.

What if I have recurrent plugged ducts?

  • Consider hand expression and more hands on when pumping. This video shows this technique of “hands-on pumping”: Click here
  • Some women find benefit from taking lecithin to prevent recurrent plugs.
  • Check your bra and consider wearing more loose-fitting clothing.
  • And don’t forget regular daily breast massage between pumping to help minimize milk stasis and prevent plugs.