Help for blocked milk ducts and mastitis

Blocked milk ducts

Blocked milk ducts may develop during breast-feeding when the breasts become too full. This may also occur if:

  • The breasts are overly constricted, such as from wearing a bra that is too tight or does not fit well.
  • Your baby does not breast-feed often enough to empty your breasts.
  • Your baby breast-feeds in the same position at each feeding, which occasionally causes some ducts to not empty well.

You can help unblock milk ducts by:

  • Taking a warm shower or applying 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.
  • Massaging over the area of the blocked duct, moving toward the nipple, before and during breast-feeding.
  • Breast-feeding more frequently.
  • Using a variety of breast-feeding positions.
  • Feeding 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.
  • Taking ibuprofen to reduce swelling.

Mastitis

Mastitis is an infection in the breast that may be caused by a blocked milk duct or cracked nipples. If you have mastitis, you need treatment from a health professional that often includes taking prescription antibiotics.

It is also important to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Continue breast-feeding on both breasts throughout your treatment. For more information, see the topic Mastitis While Breast-Feeding.

Last Updated: May 4, 2009

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