Breastfeeding: Do you have a plugged duct?

I noticed a large area of my breast had hardened and become tender. This morning I woke up (after six hours of not draining my breast) with another hardened area. After feeding my five month old, expressing the rest and massaging in the shower, I noticed a small white "head" on my nipple of the affected breast. Do I have a plugged duct?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

It does sound as if a plugged duct could be causing the difficulty you are experiencing. It is important to begin to treat a plugged duct promptly, with moist heat, massage and frequent feeds.

Unresolved plugged ducts can lead to mastitis. Since your baby is fussy at your breast, it could be that your breast is not draining properly or you may already have a case of mastitis. With mastitis, the sodium content of your milk increases and usually babies do not like the taste of salty breastmilk.

To treat a plugged duct, many mothers find relief in soaking their breast in a basin of warm salt water for about 10 minutes (using one half teaspoon of salt to each cup of warm water) prior to each feed. Combine the soak with breast massage and before you know it you should see the plug clear and your milk begin to flow. Of course, regular nursing/expression of your milk is very important in helping to resolve a plugged duct.

If you are unable to resolve a plugged duct on your own and/or you see a reddened, warm area on your breast or develop a fever or flu-like symptoms that are not improving within 24 hours, it is very important for your condition to be evaluated by your Health Care Provider.

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