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Blocked ducts

Breast feeling lumpy and tender?



Read all about how blocked ducts happen and what you can do.

Close up of baby feeding

In your breast, milk flows through ducts to a number of tiny openings on the nipple. Sometimes these ducts can become blocked, milk builds up behind the blockage and you get a lump. 

You may notice: 

  • An area of your breast is lumpy or swollen.   

  • It may look red and feel tender. 

  • It may be painful especially when your let-down reflex happens. 

Having a blocked duct is different from general engorgement.

blocked ducts

How did I get a blocked duct?

Blocked ducts can happen at any time during breastfeeding.  

  • Going longer between feeds.  

  • If your baby sleeps for longer or sleeps overnight. 

  • If feeds are rushed or baby doesn't drain your breast fully.  

  • Some mums who make too much milk are more likely to get blocked ducts. 

  • Due to injury, bruising or external pressure on the breast, eg tight bra, seatbelt, sleeping on stomach. 

Relieving a blocked duct

Start treatment as soon as you feel a lump or sore spot. Taking the following steps may prevent the blocked duct from progressing to mastitis.  

When feeding: 

  • Feed as often as you can. 

  • Feed from the affected breast first, when baby's sucking is stronger. 

  • Check that your baby is attached well 

  • Try different feeding positions to help empty the breast. 

  • Gently massage the lump toward the nipple during feeds. 

Before feeding: 

  • Apply warmth to the affected breast before a feed to help your let-down reflex and encourage your milk to flow. 

  • Try to relax to help your milk flow.  

  • Make your breasts as comfortable as possible by taking off or loosening your bra during feeds. 

After feeding: 

  • Hand express after feeds if needed. 

  • Cold packs after a feed may help relieve pain and inflammation. 

See your doctor if you cannot clear the lump in a few days, or sooner if you develop a fever or feel unwell. Mastitis can result from a blocked duct that doesn’t clear.

How can I prevent it from happening again?

  • Feed your baby often. 

  • Wear comfortable clothing so there is no pressure on your breasts. 

  • Rest when you can, eat well and drink enough water. 


© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2022