Health conditions

Blocked milk ducts

Blocked milk ducts is a medical condition that can be experienced by breastfeeding mothers.

What is a blocked duct?

A blocked duct causes tender or painful lumps as a result of milk building up in the breast behind a duct.

Terms explained

Milk ducts are small tubes inside the breast that carry milk through to the nipples.

Signs and symptoms

A painful red lump or swollen spot on the breast. You might also see a white spot on your nipple which is another sign that a duct may be blocked.

Management of blocked ducts

  1. Feed frequently from the affected side first.
  2. Gently stroke your breast towards the nipple during the feed. This may assist the let-down reflex.
  3. For comfort and to reduce swelling from excess fluid apply a cold cloth or cool gel pack.
  4. Express after feeding.
  5. If there is a white spot on your nipple – soak the nipple with a warm moist cloth and rub or scratch off the spot with a sterile needle to allow the duct to open and the milk to flow again.
  6. Use paracetamol or anti-inflammatory tablets according to directions until the lump clears.
  7. If the lump has not cleared after the next breastfeed, therapeutic ultrasound treatment (by a physiotherapist) of the affected breast may help clear blocked ducts – contact the Breastfeeding Centre to arrange.
  8. It is important the breast is well drained within 20 minutes of having the ultrasound treatment. This may be either by breastfeeding or expressing the breast.
  9. Seek professional help if a blocked duct hasn’t cleared within 24 hours

How can blocked ducts be prevented?

Prevention

  • Ensure correct positioning and attachment.
  • Frequent drainage of the breast.
  • Alter your position during breast feeds to include underarm position, cradle position or lying on your side.
  • Check for a white ‘spot’ on the nipple as this may be blocking the milk duct.

Avoid

  • Sudden long gaps between breastfeeds or expressing for your baby.
  • Tight or restrictive clothing such as a bra.
  • Pressing or holding one area of the breast too tightly, especially close to the nipple.

Where to get help

Breastfeeding Centre of WA

  • Counselling and appointments 8.00am to 4.00pm Monday to Friday
  • Phone: 9340 1844
  • More information about Breastfeeding Centre of WA

Ngala Helpline

  • Phone: 9368 9368 – 8.00am to 8.00pm 7 days a week
  • Outside metro area – Free call 1800 111 546 (free from land line only)
  • Visit the Ngala website (external site)

Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA)

You can also:

  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222

Acknowledgements
Breastfeeding Centre of WA

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

See also

Link to HealthyWA Facebook page