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You are watching: How to tell the difference between a clogged milk duct and breast cancer


All night feeding sessions, engorgement, chest pumps, leaking, and also more. You probably thought you’d heard that all when it concerns the joys of breastfeeding your baby. (Yes, there really are some amazing and also sweet moments, too!)

And climate you feel a hard, ache lump. What’s this? It might be a clogged milk duct. However don’t freak out simply yet — you have the right to actually commonly clear the clog in ~ home and get ago to her normal regimen fast.

Of course, the always possible that the lump might be progressing right into something much more serious, choose mastitis. Let’s take it a look in ~ what you must keep an eye the end for when it pertains to a clogged milk duct and when you should see her doctor.


Clogged or plugged milk ducts occur when a milk duct in your breast gets blocked or otherwise has poor drainage. You can experience one if your chest isn’t totally emptied ~ a feed, if her baby skips a feed, or if she under stress and anxiety — i beg your pardon a lot of of new moms are, if we’re honest.

Symptoms deserve to come top top slowly and generally influence just one breast. You might experience:

a lump in one area that your chest engorgement approximately the lumppain or swelling near the lumpdiscomfort the subsides ~ feeding/pumpingpain during letdownmilk plug/blister (bleb) in ~ the opened of your nipplemovement the the lump over time

It’s likewise common to view a momentary decrease in her supply when you have a clog. Girlfriend may also see thickened or fatty milk once you express — it might look like strings or grains.

Related: exactly how to boost milk supply as soon as pumping


Here’s the genuine bummer: If you carry out nothing, the clog isn’t likely to settle itself. Instead, it may progress right into an infection referred to as mastitis. Take note that heat is no a symptom you’ll experience with a clogged milk duct. If you have pain and also other symptom accompanied through fever, friend may have an infection.

Symptoms the mastitis may come top top suddenly and include:

fever the 101°F (38.3°C) or higherflu-like symptoms (chills and also body aches)warmth, swelling, and tenderness of the whole breastbreast lump or thickened breast tissueburning emotion and/or discomfort while nursing/pumpingredness ~ above the influenced skin (may it is in wedge-shaped)

Mastitis affects approximately 1 the end of 10 breastfeeding women, therefore you’re far from alone. If you’ve had it before, you’re more likely to obtain it again. Untreated mastitis may cause a arsenal of pus — one abscess — that requires surgical drainage.


Again, the root cause of plugged milk ducts is generally something that prevents the chest from draining fully. This may be something from press on your chest from a too-tight sporting activities bra or feedings that are too infrequent.

Clogged ducts and mastitis may even be caused by the means you feed her baby. For example, if her baby likes one breast over another, it may result in clogs in the less commonly used breast. Latching issues and also sucking difficulties are other situations that may promote a back-up of milk.

There room also certain risk components that may make you an ext likely to develop plugged ducts and mastitis:

history that mastitis if nursingcracked skin top top the nipplesinadequate dietsmokingstress and fatigue

Related: What to eat while breastfeeding

What if you’re not breastfeeding?

Much that the info you’ll find around clogged ducts and mastitis revolve about breastfeeding women. However you deserve to occasionally gain these problems — or similar ones — also if you no nursing a baby.


Stop, drop, and roll. No, really. At the an initial sign the a clogged duct, you have the right to start functioning on the issue.

One the the most reliable treatments is massage, an especially while you feeding or pumping. To massage, start at the external of the breast and apply push with your fingers together you relocate toward the plug. It might also assist to massage if you’re in the shower head or bath.

Other advice to clean a clog:

Continue breastfeeding. The idea is to proceed draining the chest frequently.Start feeds with the affected breast come ensure it gets the many attention. Babies often tend to suck the hardest ~ above the first breast they’re readily available (because castle hungrier).Consider soaking your breast in a bowl of warm water and then massaging the clog.Try transforming the location you usage to breastfeed. Sometimes relocating around permits your baby’s suction during feeding to much better reach the clog.

If you build mastitis, possibilities are the you’ll require antibiotics come treat the infection.

Medications might be offered for a 10-day period. Be sure to take every medication together directed come guard versus recurrence that the mastitis. Inspect in through your medical professional if symptoms proceed after you end up your meds.Over-the-counter pain relievers deserve to also aid with discomfort and inflammation of the chest tissue. Your doctor may indicate you take Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil/Motrin (ibuprofen).

Redness or the feeling of bruising ~ above the breast might last a week or slightly much longer after did you do it cleared the clog or cure mastitis. Still, if you have concerns or feel your clog or infection simply isn’t healing, do an appointment to view your doctor. In some cases, you may need another course the antibiotics or added help, choose drainage of an abscess.

If symptoms are ongoing, your doctor may suggest a mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy to dominance out inflammatory chest cancer. This rare form of cancer can sometimes cause comparable symptoms come mastitis, prefer swelling and also redness.


Since clogged ducts are usually caused by a backup in milk, you’ll want to make sure you’re feeding your baby or pump often. Experts recommend 8 to 12 times a day, especially in the beforehand days that breastfeeding.

You may additionally try:

massaging her breast during feeding/pumping sessions to encourage drainageskipping tight clothing or bras to provide your breasts some room to breath (loungewear is the best, anyway!)loosening tight baby carrier straps (same idea, but obviously make sure baby is safe)varying breastfeeding location from time to time to ensure suction is hitting every ductsapplying a warm/moist compress prior to feeding to locations of the chest that often tend to clogapplying a cool compress come breasts ~ feeding sessionsasking her doctor about lecithin additionally (some ladies say they assist with recurring issues)

Cracked nipples and milk duct openings may provide straightforward entryway for bacteria from your skin or baby’s mouth to go into your breast, resulting in mastitis. So, be sure to save your breasts clean and dry, and shot using something choose lanolin cream to safeguard cracked nipples.

And when it might seem difficult — specifically if you have actually a child — take treatment of you yourself as lot as possible.

Ask for help, sneak in some naps, or go to bed at an early stage — even if you understand you’ll it is in up feeding a few hours later. In general, execute all the self-care things that aid you stop feeling run-down.

Purchase lecithin supplements and also lanolin cream online.


Clogged milk ducts can be uncomfortable and annoying to deal with — however keep at it. Usually, girlfriend should have the ability to clear the plug at house without occurring infection or needing other intervention.

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If the clog persists despite your efforts for longer than 2 job — or you uncover you’re enduring frequent problems — take into consideration making an appointment through a lactation consultant (breastfeeding specialist) or your doctor. You may be maybe to adjust some points in her feeding regimen to help with far better drainage of your breasts.

If friend do construct mastitis, your physician can help by prescribing medication and also giving you other suggestions to prevent future infections. And since mastitis may recur, be certain to head to the medical professional as soon as you suspect you can have an infection so you deserve to treat the promptly.