How Painful Is A Blocked Milk Duct?

A blocked milk duct is common among nursing moms and often affects only one breast. The anatomy of the breast consists of several ducts, which transport milk from the mammary glands, down to the nipples where the baby then feeds on the milk. These ducts can sometimes experience obstructions, which, in turn, result in intense pain in the breast. Breastfeeding mothers with a blocked milk duct will also exhibit symptoms such as a lump inside the breast, sensitivity to touch, itchiness, and redness around the breast. As much as a blocked duct is painful, it is not entirely a serious issue, as it can easily be treated with various home remedies. Nevertheless, one should not assume a painful blocked milk duct as it can worsen and develop an infection known as mastitis. Most mothers who experience blocked milk ducts are usually in their first year of breastfeeding. However, that does not necessarily mean that first-time mothers will experience blocked milk as the odds are really low.

How Painful Is A Blocked Milk Duct?

How Painful Is A Blocked Milk Duct?

A blocked milk duct also referred to as a clogged/plugged milk duct is usually painful due to the obstruction of the milk-transporting ducts. Mothers who produce milk at a fast rate should feed their babies often so as to make room for more milk being produced. After birth, the mother’s body produces colostrum, but with time, the mammary glands then start producing breast milk. Different women will produce milk at different times, so it cannot be said that a blocked milk duct is due to the fast production of milk.

Anyways, if a mother is producing too much milk than the baby can consume or a baby is not feeding well, then the mother can experience a blocked milk duct. As a result, the milk can move back up the duct causing the tissue around the duct to swell. That is why one of the symptoms of a blocked milk duct is a lump in the breast.

The swollen tissue then presses on the neighboring ducts leading to an obstruction and pain around the affected breast region. After milk production and prior to feeding, a plugged milk duct will be more painful and after feeding, the breast will feel less tender and less painful.

Possible Causes Of A Blocked Milk Duct

Other than overproduction of milk and poor feeding from the baby, a blocked milk duct can be attributed to by several other factors. Other reasons as to why mothers can have blocked milk ducts is the use of a not, so powerful milk pump, a compressed duct due to sleeping on your stomach or wearing a nursing bra that does not fit well thus squishing your breasts. A plugged milk duct can also be as a result of stress which leads to the improper release of milk due to low oxytocin levels, illnesses such as flu and cold that make one not feel like breastfeeding, or a recently done breast surgery, which may interfere with milk drainage around the operated region.

What To Do For Blocked Milk Duct?

A blocked milk duct will not need any medical attention unless the pain is unbearable and the mother cannot entirely release milk from the breast side with the obstructed duct. Other complications that may need a doctor’s expertise include a high temperature and development of mastitis. One can unblock a duct by heat massage either using a warm compress or taking hot showers and allowing the warm water to soothe your breast. Constantly massaging the breast can also help relieve the obstruction.

This should be done by massaging from the edge of the breast towards the nipple, in addition to that, ensure that you feed your baby regularly or pump often so as to avoid further compression on the blocked duct from the produced milk.


A blocked milk duct is usually painful due to the underlying obstruction in the milk duct. The pain may be intense prior to feeding, but after feeding, it might not be as painful. It is important that you do not ignore a plugged duct as it could lead to a breast infection. To take care of the blocked milk duct, a mother should ensure she feeds often, and massages the affected breast alongside a heat massage to relieve the obstruction.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 5, 2018

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