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5 Natural Ways to Cure a Plugged Duct

As you know, it’s World Breastfeeding Week and for me that means a plugged duct! Yep, that’s right, I woke up Monday feeling feverish and my left breast was throbbing and sore. I was wondering why the night before I had the chills when I woke up once to switch sides. I’d also felt the breast soreness during the night upon switching sides but I was too tired to really think on it.

It was tender to the touch and I could definitely feel a mass inside. It was also a bit swollen.  I still had the chills. I recounted my breastfeeding schedule the day before and realized Clark did not nurse as often as normal. We had a busy weekend. To make matters even worse, it HAD occurred to me that I was wearing an under wire bra. I don’t normally wear an under wire bra but it was the only clean bra I had that day. Plus, I carried Clark in the Ergo baby carrier several times over the weekend which can contribute to pressure on the milk ducts.

In any case, I did not feel well and immediately started applying natural methods to help rid the situation. This is my second go at nursing, my first go my son had thrush but we overcame it and nursed a few months short of baby number two arriving (18 mos.). I’d heard about this happening and in fact I think it might of occurred with my first. I was completely engorged and remember having to massage my breasts in the shower. Oh, the memories! I figure a little plugged duct can’t be bad, right?! Okay, maybe not. A plugged duct can be painful and annoying. I believe, in my case, I’m somewhere in between. I haven’t experienced terrible pain but I do have a “wedge” in my breast and I have to constantly massage it out. I know you’re thinking this can’t be fun…

I’m sharing this with you because breastfeeding isn’t always easy and it does have it’s ups and downs like anything else. I will say, though,  that there is a point though and I do believe it’s different mom to mom/child to child…a point when there is solitude and peace and the bond is strong, a path has been paved and it’s pretty much smooth sailing. My baby is 4 months old and is also teething which means were still in the early stages. Each experience is different.

5 Ways to Relieve a Plugged Duct:

1. Heat: Apply moist heat to the affected breast/area for 10 minutes 4x a day. You can get this done by taking a shower or bath but that seems to be less eco-friendly. Heat will help soften up the plugged duct.

2. Leafy Greens: Cabbage is a great for relieving a plugged duct! Place a warm or cool cabbage leaf inside bra and replace every 2hrs.

3. Brasserie: Go wireless or bra-less if you dare! An under wire bra can be constricting to the milk ducts.

4. Nurse Frequently: Nurse, nurse, nurse the affected breast! Make sure baby’s latch is in the correct position for proper drainage. Baby’s chin pointing toward plug. You can also manually express if need be to keep milk from building up. You want to keep the affected breast drained.

5. Massage: Rub firm spot in a circular motion do this while nursing and in between nursing your baby. Massage will help loosen plug.

Make sure you drink a lot of water and according to my twitter friend @donielle incorporate more vitamin C into the diet too (technically, that’s 6 ways, now!). If you’re drinking plenty of water, get some rest, take a body temp. bath and your low grade fever should go away.

Today, I feel much better about the problem. As long as I continue with the above regimen I feel like it will be gone within the next day or so. The hard spot feels smaller and my breast has not been sore or swollen. Thank goodness. This is just a bump in the road. Oh and in my case… I’ll be waiting to wear Clark in the Ergo baby carrier since the strap puts pressure on my milk ducts!

It’s my breast issue and I’ll cry I want to!

[This post was written by Leslie Quigley.]


  1. Great advice! My baby just turned one last week and is slowly weaning so I also had a plugged duct. I found the heat and lots of nursing to be the best remedies. I used a hot water bottle or hot washcloth. It took about a week to be completely better. So much for weaning!

  2. I just had one this morning! It was so odd because I haven’t had one in a long time but after a warm wash cloth, super massaging (I always apply pressure outside the lump and push with my thumb toward the nipple rather than in circular motions) while nursing (or pumping), lots of pumping because baby didn’t want to nurse, and then finally nursing that baby, it broke free! Much to my relief. I’m relentless though. I used to be plagued by them with my first daughter and so I started tackling them head on right away and since then if I get one they are usually completely gone in an hour or two. If I let them go longer my supply decreases dramatically and nobody likes that!

  3. Leslie, this is such a great resource post! I suffered from a blocked duct several times. Nursing in odd positions helped, as did hot baths and cabbage leaves in my cotton bra. Blocked ducts can be so painful!

  4. Andrea I.-
    Thanks! A water bottle is a perfect heating element. I presume you wrapped it up in a towel after you warmed it! Great idea.

    Andrea- Wow! You are relentless. I thought I was doing good…lol! I totally understand why though. Great tip on pushing in towards the nipple. I’ve been doing a little of that as well. 😉

    Thanks! Yeah, I hear hanging them low helps. Just haven’t figured out how that would work. LOL! *Cotton* bra is also key! At least a breathable fabric anyway.

  5. Leslie-
    Great post! I’m going to add it to my BFing advice round-up (for my other blogsite)!
    When I was young and totally not yet thinking about babies or BFing, I worked in a hospital’s diet office. We actually sent whole cabbage heads up to the L&D ward! I was so confused. The nurses and dietitians told me what it was for, and I loved that we were going so natural. (No joke, though, we also used leaches on another floor. This was in the Chicago ‘burbs. Strange)

    Great advice. I’ll keep passing it on. Hopefully, it will help some women get over the hump that can stop BFing!

  6. Taking lecithin supplements helps too. I had several plugged ducts in the earlier months of breastfeeding – and heat, massage, nursing, pumping and lecithin (recommended by my lactation consultant) did the trick within 1 day usually! The culprit was an underwire bra worn too long while using my baby carrier (like you, Leslie), my baby went on nursing strike at 4 months, and a couple of nights I got to sleep longer than usual and passed out in one position squishing one of my breasts for too long. Oh, what our breasts go through. If they could only talk.

  7. Hi Cate,
    Thank you! I’m honored to be part of the round-up! That’s so strange about the leaches but so cool about the cabbages 😉

    Hi Deborah,
    Thanks for adding to the list! I feel 99% better today. I’m going to keep that in mind for next time though. :) Oh, what our breast go through and what we go through as mothers!

  8. Making sure the baby’s chin is pressing up against the plugged duct I’ve found is the key to clearing them up. It looks funny but my kiddos never seemed to mind it too much.

  9. Cinda Norion says:

    I know this will sound a little weird, but when I was completely desparate with my third child and no amount of heat or massage would help, and frequent nursing wasn’t helping either because the only two week old little guy just wasn’t ready for that much, and the fever and chills were starting to alarm me, I asked my grandmother what to do. She advised that I should ask my husband to “nurse” and to spit the contents if it offended him and told me that that would get things regulated. Fortunately he was a good sport and that indeed did the trick. I was fine for several days and when it reoccurred ( in retrospect probably due to an underwire bra), I immediately repeated the maneuver BEFORE fever and chills set in and voila, instant relief. Once my son began taking more, it was not a problem. Other than amused comments from my husband about his sending me a bill for “specialty services,” there seemed to be no downside. It was much faster, in terms of relief than the increased hydration, hot compresses, showers and massaging.


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