Blocked Milk Ducts
ON THIS PAGE
What is a blocked milk duct?
Some signs and causes.
Ideas to help
Taking further advice
Infection, fever or baby feeding problems.
Information on this site is for educational and personal use only, and is not intended in any way as prescription or diagnosis. It is not a substitute for medical advice. If you have a medical condition, or take prescription medication, do not neglect good quality medical support.
The terms ‘treat’ and ‘treatment’, or similar, do not promise or imply cure.
Information given about products or their ingredients refers to research-based evidence; some sources of evidence are on the Links pages. It would be impossible to fit the information in these references onto each page.
Reference to ‘traditional use’ reflects well-documented common use, by ordinary people, over many years, often in more than one country. ‘Traditional use’ does not imply any research evidence or safety level, it is included for information only, and is not a recommendation.
No manufacturer or supplier has any financial interest in this website, or my business, nor do I have any financial interest in them. Although I sell Viridian products, they are also widely available elsewhere.Always read instructions on any product. Do not neglect medical guidance or treatment.
Please read Terms and Conditions before using this website.
WHAT IS IT?
A blocked milk duct is quite common during breastfeeding. It is often called mastitis, but it is not the same as true mastitis because there is no infection. It need not stop you breastfeeding your baby.
It is caused by the milk from one segment of the breast not being completely drained.
Some of the milk in the blocked area may leak into surrounding tissues, causing mild inflammation. This is NOT the same as infection, but may lead to it. These natural measures help prevent that.
Blocked milk ducts do not require antibiotics if they are not infected. Please see Take Further Advice if you suspect infection.
SIGNS YOU MAY NOTICE:
o Tenderness or bruised feeling.
o Lumpiness in one area.
o Pain as your milk lets down.
o Redness. This is inflammation - may not be infection.
POSSIBLE CAUSES are anything which has interrupted or blocked the flow of milk, even once:
HERE ARE SOME IDEAS TO HELP YOU CLEAR THE DUCT:
o A hurried feed or missing a feed.
o Baby having a cold, leading to difficulty feeding.
o Unusual food has made your milk taste different, and baby did not like it.
o Pressing your finger on the breast to allow air to baby’s nose.
o Tight bra, clothes, seatbelts.
o Sleeping in a position that squashes the breast.
o Milk dried into one of the ducts in the nipple.
Suggestions only. Do not neglect medical guidance or treatment.
About your baby:
- Feed often, and always from the blocked breast first, until it clears.
- Try different feeding positions; especially try to position baby’s chin opposite the
- blocked duct. It is always good to vary feeding positions anyway.
- Try a ‘gravity feed’ position, allowing your breast to hang into baby’s mouth.
- Try feeding in a warm bath.
- Check baby is well latched on. It's natural to be nervous if your breast is painful, but essential to check, as a poor latch-on can make things worse. Look to see that baby has your whole areola in their mouth. This is the coloured skin around the nipple. It is easiest to achieve if baby opens wide before taking in your nipple.
- If you need to allow air to baby’s nose, lift the breast from underneath with your whole hand, rather than pressing on the surface with your fingers.
- Make sure you support the whole of baby’s body during a feed, so baby can relax fully.
- If baby has a cold, clear her nose as well as you can before a feed. You can use a tissue or cotton-bud; don’t push it right inside the nose. Moistening with warm water, oil, or breast milk helps. Pharmacies sell nasal aspirators to help clear excess mucus.
- Check baby isn’t trying to feed with her head turned to one side, or with her chin tucked in, both of which are more difficult and may cause her to stop feeding sooner.
TAKE FURTHER ADVICE or see your doctor or midwife, if you have a fever for more than 24 hours; if your nipples are cracked or your breasts are very painful; if there is blood in your milk; if baby often vomits your milk; if baby is dehydrated or does not gain weight. Always maintain contact with your midwife, doctor, health visitor or other health professional.
- Hot and cold compresses can be useful. Try hot and cold flannels, micro-waveable hot packs, hot water bottles, packets of frozen peas (wrapped in a cloth!). Using heat and cold alternately stimulates blood flow, which helps clear the area. Using heat at the start of a feed may help the milk flow. In between feeds, alternate hot and cold compresses every few minutes, for a ten minute period, every 2 hours.
- Massage the blocked area. Massage from the outside of the breast towards the nipple, as if expressing milk. You can massage during a feed, in between feeds, and in a warm bath.
- Some women find it easier to massage with a comb. Use a wide-toothed comb, or one without sharp teeth; soap the blocked area, and ‘comb’ from the outside towards the nipple. This can help break up the blockage. Try not to leave soap on your nipple.
- Arm-swinging exercises encourage circulation: washing windows or cleaning the car!
- Check your nipples for a white ‘spot’ that may be dried milk. Gently squeeze or pick it out.
- Rest more, perhaps you have been overdoing things.
- Homeopathic remedies have traditionally been used for blocked ducts. Call a homeopath, or contact me.
- Contact a breast feeding counsellor, numbers below.
NCT : www.nct.org. Breastfeeding helpline: 0870 444 8708, 8 am – 10 pm 7 days.
La Leche League: www.laleche.org.uk. Helpline 0845 120 2918
Breastfeeding: Natural and Homeopathic Remedies
Tips on encouraging breast milk, and more.
BACK TO Pregnancy and Childbirth Intro page and full list
Creative Commons license, some rights reserved. You may use or share this text for certain non-commercial purposes, subject to conditions. Read more here.
Images copyright belongs to the individual artists, not to me. Do not copy or use images without their permission. Please see Picture Credits.