Milk ducts can become blocked when the lactating breasts become very full (engorged) and are not emptied regularly. A blocked milk duct feels like a tender lump on the breast.
You can treat a blocked duct with self-care measures. To help unblock milk ducts, you can:
- Take a warm shower or apply a warm, wet compress several times a day for 10 to 15 minutes. To make a warm compress, soak a hand towel in warm water. Wring out the excess water and place the towel on the affected breast. Cover the compress with a second, dry towel to trap the heat.
- Massage over the area of the blocked duct, moving toward the nipple, before and during breast-feeding.
- Breast-feed more frequently.
- Use a variety of breast-feeding positions.
- Feed from the affected breast first. This moves the milk through the breast more effectively, because the baby's sucking is most intense at the beginning of a feeding session.
- Take ibuprofen to reduce swelling. Before you take any kind of medicine, ask your doctor if it is safe for you to use while you are breast-feeding.
A blocked duct can become infected (mastitis). If you have signs of a breast infection (mastitis), you may need to call your doctor right away.
By Healthwise Staff Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology Last Revised April 30, 2013