Will a Clogged Milk Duct Eventually Dry Up

Will a Clogged Milk Duct Eventually Dry Up

Obstruction of a milk duct is a common complication of the breast during lactation.

It is one of the main difficulties that lead to a mother’s inability to breastfeed her child. It can be a distressing situation and can affect your milk supply.

With proper treatment and care, a plugged duct is likely not to turn into a big issue.

When you spot the symptoms and act on them fast, you will soon return to breastfeeding as normal after having a clogged milk duct.

While you do have a clogged up milk duct, it makes sense to wonder if it will dry up completely?

And if it does, will that become a big problem? Well, thankfully we’re going to have all of the answers for you here.

Let’s find out the answer to will a clogged milk duct eventually dry up?

Will a Clogged Milk Duct Eventually Dry Up?

The mammary ducts are a set of thin tubes in the breast that carry milk from the mammary lobules to the nipple during lactation.

The number of ductal orifices is between 4 and 18. One of these small orifices is likely to become clogged during the breastfeeding process.

There are several causes of an obstructed duct but all are perfectly manageable by the mother and her support group at home, even without attending the specialist.

Only 6% of the cases of breast duct obstruction can turn into an infection.

If it happens, the treatment suggested by an attending physician should clear up the problem within 10 days. 

Staying calm and avoiding anxiety is crucial to preventing a blocked duct from becoming a bigger issue.

That’s easier said than done when you’re worried about feeding your child which is why we have the answers you need her. 

The first concern that arises in the mother is that a blocked duct will prevent the baby from breastfeeding. We want to tell you that this is false.

During the recovery process of a blocked duct, part of the treatment is to continue breastfeeding the baby with emphasis on the complete emptying of the breast.

Another common concern is that the duct will dry up, and there will be no more nourishment for the baby.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

A nursing mother’s breasts can dry up if you can’t breast the baby, if you dilate breastfeeding periods, or if you take pills to inhibit prolactin.

But your breasts will never dry up just because a duct becomes clogged.

Blocked ducts are annoying and uncomfortable but once you resolve the blockage, you will return to normal breastfeeding.

The body continues to produce milk to ensure the feeding of the newborn.

This process is only interrupted if the mother voluntarily does not breast or consume hormone-suppressing drugs.

1. Causes of a Clogged Milk Duct

Although a plugged duct will not cause you to stop feeding your baby, this condition occurs in 5% of women in the first year of breastfeeding.

Plugged orifices can occur for the following reasons:

  •         If the breast does not empty each time you breastfeed your baby, it can cause milk to accumulate
  •         If the mother does not give the baby enough time to nurse
  •         If the baby does not latch on correctly or forgets to breastfeed
  •         If the mother does not breastfeed very often or if the baby has an irregular breastfeeding pattern
  •         If the baby sleeps through the night or if the mother is busy with work or travel
  •         If the mother exerts pressure with her fingers while breastfeeding or if the bottom of a large breast drains inappropriately because of the way it hangs down
  •         If the mother wears clothes that can put a lot of pressure on the breast tissue, such as very tight bras
  •         If the nipple pores become clogged with dried milk secretions

2.  Symptoms of a Plugged Breast Duct

When looking at will a clogged milk duct eventually dry up, it’s good to look at the symptoms of a plugged breast duct. 

  •         Tender to the touch or painful lumps in the breasts
  •         Reddening of the skin
  •         Feeling of swelling in the breast, even after breastfeeding
  •         The breast may feel warmer than normal
  •         A white dot on the nipple
  •         Slower milk flow

If you have any of these symptoms then there is a good chance that you’ll have a plugged breast duct and you need to take action. 

3. Treatment

Treatment for plugged ducts should be prompt to avoid a breast infection.

The first recommended measure is that, before breastfeeding, the mother should apply a warm, wet cloth to the area of the blockage for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

She can also take a shower or bath with warm water. It may help remove the blockage and increase the flow of milk.

Massage the breast over the painful area before or after the baby breastfeeds or during a warm shower.

Massaging the breast in front of and behind the lump and then from the lump area to the nipple.

The baby can breastfeed 8 to 12 times a day. Therefore, it should occur at least every hour or following free-demand breastfeeding.

This habit will facilitate breast emptying, thus clearing the clogged duct.

The ideal scenario is to nurse the baby first from the breast with the blocked duct because the baby empties better the first side from which he feeds.

But if the pain is severe, you should start from the unaffected breast (as the pain may prevent the oxytocin reflex) and change as soon as the reflex returns.

To empty the breast, hold the baby so that his nose points toward the swollen area of the breast, thus helping to drain the breast milk from the clogged duct.

Change position at each feeding. It helps empty the milk from different parts of the breast equally.

A recommended position is: to place the baby in the center of the bed, or on a quilt on the floor.

The mother should sit in a yoga pose, or get down on all fours on her hands and knees, leaning over the baby.

This posture may be uncomfortable, but it will allow the breasts to hang freely from the rib cage, allowing clogged ducts to unclog easily.

If the baby does not empty the breasts when breastfeeding, the extra milk needs pumping after feeding.

You can use a breast pump or your hand to drain the excess milk, thus avoiding engorgement.

The mother should place a cold compress on her breasts after breastfeeding, which may help reduce swelling and soreness.

The recommended medications to reduce the pain and swelling caused by this condition are Ibuprofen and acetaminophen, as long as they are prescribed by a physician.

Recent studies have shown that lecithin as a supplement and a diet free of saturated fat has benefited mothers with recurrent plugged milk ducts.

4. Possible complications

A plugged duct can make the breastfeeding period painful, causing the mother to stop breastfeeding altogether.

In addition, if not well managed, mastitis or abscess may develop.

But it only occurs if, during the onset of the first symptoms, the necessary measures are not taken.

Now that you know the treatment, you know a plugged milk duct is completely manageable.

Your breasts will not dry up unless you voluntarily stop feeding your baby.

When symptoms begin, start treatment. Within two days, you will see improvement.

By following the complete breast emptying protocol, you will be avoiding an infection.

If after two days you do not see slight improvements, go to the doctor.

Only in case of mastitis diagnosed by your doctor will it be necessary to use antibiotics.

A rare complication is the development of an abscess following a blocked duct.

Abscesses are accumulations of purulent material that may appear in established skin cavities or cavities produced by infectious destruction of tissues.

To treat an abscess, your doctor will recommend antibiotics and probably an outpatient surgical intervention.


How to Prevent Blocked Milk Duct

If you’re worried about getting clogged milk ducts or recently recovered from one and never want to experience it again, this section will be helpful.

Ways to Prevent Clogged Milk Ducts

Empty Your Breast Fully

You need to breastfeed or pump at regular intervals, and after each time, your breast should be completely empty.

Babies like to feed a lot each day, but some days, they may not be as eager.  Hence, create a feeding schedule and stick to it.  Keeping your breast pump within reach at all times will help you with this commitment and remove more milk.

Use the Correct Bra Size

Using a loose bra will prevent clogged ducts.  Tight bras tend to compress the breasts and lead to clogging.  It’s even worse when the bras have underwire.  So, always shop for bras with the correct fit.

Use the Correct Flange

The size of the flange or shield attached to your breast pump can affect milk supply.  Sizes too small or big will disrupt milk let-down and cause your ducts to clog.


What to Avoid


Yes, you have a baby to care for, and that leaves little time for rest, but your well-being is also important.  Resting regularly between breastfeeding or pumping sessions may save you from clogged ducts.  It will also soothe body aches if you have them.  Feel free to pump your milk into a bottle and have someone else feed the baby once in a while.

Tight Clothing

This is just as bad for breast milk supply as a too-tight bra.  Your clothes, particularly those that cover the torso, should be loose fitting. 

Fatty Diet

What you eat could also negatively affect breast milk production.  Foods with saturated fat or fatty acids can contribute to inflammation in the duct.  Examples of these fatty foods are:

  • Bacon
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Cake
  • Sausage

While avoiding such foods, you should also drink lots of water.


Will a Clogged Duct Go Away When Milk Dries Up?

Drying the milk in your breasts will help remove a clogged duct.  As stated above, regular breastfeeding remains the best way to treat and prevent blocked milk ducts.

In case you can’t breastfeed or pump regularly, there are other ways to dry up breast milk ASAP.

The Cabbage Leaves Treatment

This is a common method used by moms who want to reduce lactation.  It involves the following procedures:

  1. Get green cabbage leaves
  2. Take them apart and wash them
  3. Put them in a container and store it in the refrigerator
  4. Before wearing your bra, put a leaf on each breast (areola and not the entire breast)
  5. You may change the leaves after two hours or when they wilt

The cabbage leaves treatment will not only help to reduce milk supply but also help with swollen or engorged breasts.

Herbs in Diet

Certain herbal teas will help you dry up your milk faster.  Some of these herbs work better than others, so it may help to try out a few to see which ones work best for you.

Some of these herbs include:

  • Jasmine
  • Parsley
  • Peppermint Oil
  • Sage

You may also introduce herbal supplements into your diet for better results. 



A clogged duct is undoubtedly a nuisance and hopefully, now you know the answer to will a clogged milk duct eventually dry up.

As we have seen, it is easy to treat at home.

It is of utmost importance that the mother allows sufficient time for each breastfeeding session, thus avoiding rushing the baby to empty the breast.

Experienced breastfeeders should instruct the nursing mother to check her breasts for lumps, soreness, or redness.

It is also crucial to rest as much as possible, trying not to sleep on the stomach, as pressure on the breasts may increase the risk of a duct blockage.

On the other hand, germs should be kept away.

Wash your hands or breast pump frequently to prevent the spread of germs and reduce your risk of infection.

If you have a clogged milk duct, then don’t worry.

It won’t dry up if you continue breastfeeding and if you follow the guidance here, it will soon unclog and you can feed as normal without any anxiety or pain.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long can a milk duct stay clogged?

With treatment, most blocked ducts will unclog within 24 to 48 hours.

By following all the guidance at home, you will be able to breastfeed your baby normally in that short period.

If it does not resolve within a week, you should be evaluated by a physician.

Rarely does an obstruction not go away but in extreme cases, there will be a tiny lump that can be cleared with ultrasound or biopsy.

These cases are extremely rare and most cases resolve within three days.

What do I do if my clogged milk duct won’t unclog?

Rarely the ducts do not unclog with the steps described above. But if your case still doesn’t improve, an ultrasound treatment center can help.

The tiny waves from these devices can unblock your milk duct and get your milk flowing.

With a quick procedure, sound waves will break up the thick milk stuck in the ducts, everything will improve quickly.

Lactation consultants will be of valuable help if you have persistent latches (more than two in a month).

The lactation consultant knows the correct breastfeeding positions for both you and your baby and can teach breastfeeding to improve the process.

They can also provide you with special massages, compresses, and home methods for improvement.

Will a blocked breast duct fix itself?

If your breast duct becomes obstructed, unfortunately, it will not go away on its own but it might fix itself with regular breastfeeding.

You can get it drained with the treatment described above before it becomes an infection.

If you begin to experience redness in the breast, increased pain or swelling, fever, chills, or aches in the breast, you may have mastitis and need antibiotics or medical treatment.

Call your doctor as soon as possible as infections are not a problem if you catch them early.




Iesha Mulla

Iesha is a loving mother of 2 beautiful children. She's an active parent who enjoys indoor and outdoor adventures with her family. Her mission is to share practical and realistic parenting advice to help the parenting community becoming stronger.

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