Blocked Milk Duct – Symptoms and Treatments

Blocked Milk Duct - Symptoms and Treatments

A common breastfeeding problem that breastfeeding mothers may encounter is a blocked milk duct.

If you feel a tender lump in your breast, it may be caused by a blockage in one or more of your milk ducts.

Milk can back up behind the blockage, causing inflammation and pain.

With prompt treatment, most mothers can remedy the blocked milk duct quickly, and resume comfortable breastfeeding.

Here’s everything you need to know about blocked milk ducts (or plugged milk ducts, as they are called in the US!).

Blocked Milk Duct Symptoms

A mother can get a blocked milk duct at any time while breastfeeding. Blocked ducts rarely occur in the first five days after giving birth and most commonly occur within the first few months.

A blocked duct typically occurs in one section of one breast, and the onset is usually gradual.

If you have a blocked duct, you will typically feel/see:

  • A tender hard lump in one section of one breast
  • A patch of redness on the overlying skin
  • Mild pain in the area of the blocked duct, especially when your let-down reflex occurs
  • Mildly feverish. You may have a low-grade fever (<38.5 °C) but otherwise be generally well

Blocked Milk Duct Causes

A blocked duct is most likely to occur when milk is not removed from your breast frequently and/or effectively. For example, a blocked duct may occur due to:

  • Your baby not attaching optimally to your breast
  • If your baby doesn’t remove milk well from your breast (e.g. due to tongue-tie)
  • If feeds are restricted (e.g. due to feeding a baby according to a schedule rather than according to his individual need)
  • An oversupply of milk
  • A white spot on your nipple that may create a blockage at one of the openings on your nipple. This may cause milk to get banked up long the same duct that leads away from your nipple opening into your breast

Speaking with an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor or seeing a lactation consultant can help you work out what may have caused your blocked duct and what you can do about it.

Blocked Milk Duct Treatment

If you have a blocked milk duct, it is important to keep breastfeeding as frequent milk removal will help to clear the blockage. If milk doesn’t continue to be frequently removed, there is a risk the blocked milk duct could become mastitis.

The following tips can help you clear a blocked duct:

  • Apply some heat for a few minutes before breastfeeding (e.g. with a wheat bag)
  • Loosen your bra or take it off during breastfeeds to prevent parts of your breast being squashed as this could reduce how well your baby can remove milk from your breast
  • Feed first from the affected breast because this is the side that a baby tends to suck most vigorously at, and hence remove milk most effectively from
  • During breastfeeds, gently but firmly stroking your breast with your fingertips from behind the blockage, towards your nipple
  • Some mothers find it helpful to perform the above massage combined with hand expressing after the breastfeed, perhaps in the shower
  • Use cold packs after breastfeeds for pain relief, and to help reduce inflammation
  • Some mothers find changing breastfeeding positions helpful to unblock a blockage
  • Rest as much as possible

Speaking with an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor or seeing a lactation consultant can provide you with more tips and information.

When To See A Doctor About Blocked Milk Ducts

If you have any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor:

  • Flu-like symptoms (e.g. muscle aches, fever, chills, fatigue)
  • Nipple damage with signs of infection (e.g. your nipple may be red, hot to touch and thick, yellow pus may be present)
  • Presence of pus or blood in your breastmilk
  • If a blocked milk duct is not cleared within 24 hours
  • 10


Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


  1. i was just reading this information.i have a lump the size of agolf ball in my left breast for 3 days now and is extremely painful i am mainy nursing on that side but it hasnt gone down .is it mastitis or something else?should i ask the gp for a mammogram or anyother tests? thank you

  2. I had mastitis and 13 years later , I had breast cancer.
    I suspect that the blocked duct had transformed into maglinant tumor.

  3. I have found a lump in my breast but its tube shape going from my nipple off to my armpit area, what could this be, I check my breast daily and it literally appeared overnight , I’ve booked a doctors appointment for next week, but its really playing on my mind, as far as im aware I am not pregnant but me and my partner are trying .

  4. I just notice the lump a day ago. I’ve tried hot water, massages. Should I be worried? Today is the second day.

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