Plugged milk ducts can occur when the pathways for breast milk become obstructed, leading to difficulties in milk flow. This results in the retention of milk within the breast, often causing certain areas to harden or develop noticeable lumps. These changes typically affect only portions of the breast rather than the entire area. The skin above these lumps may become tender or exhibit redness, though fever is usually absent. Changes in the shape of the nipple and areola may also occur, alongside the potential emergence of white spots on the nipples and more prominent blood vessels on the breast skin.

Common Causes of Milk Duct Obstruction

Several factors can contribute to the development of plugged milk ducts:

  • Incomplete draining of breast milk by your baby, possibly due to infrequent breastfeeding or restricted feeding duration.
  • Delayed expression of breast milk, leading to accumulation.
  • An excess in milk production not matched by your baby's consumption.
  • Wearing bras that are either too restrictive or too loose, impacting milk flow and ductal pressure.
  • Elevated stress levels, potentially affecting lactation hormones.

Effective Strategies for Treating Plugged Milk Ducts

The following approaches can aid in alleviating blocked milk ducts:

  • Apply warm compresses to the affected breast for 5 to 10 minutes before feeding.
  • Start breastfeeding with the affected side to encourage stronger suction and more efficient milk removal. Following feeding, manually express or pump any remaining milk to hasten recovery.
  • Aim for frequent breastfeeding, ideally 8 to 12 times within a 24-hour period, spending 15 to 20 minutes on each side.
  • Ensure proper latching and position your baby such that their chin is directed towards any lumps, enhancing milk drainage from those areas.
  • Vary your baby’s feeding position to ensure comprehensive milk removal from the breast.
  • Massage your breast gently during feeding, focusing on the area above the blockage, moving downwards towards the nipple.
  • Use cold compresses post-feeding to mitigate discomfort and swelling. If necessary, consider a pain reliever like paracetamol.
  • Opt for a well-fitting, supportive bra.
  • If symptoms persist beyond 24 hours, consult a healthcare professional or visit a Breastfeeding Support Centre.