Preventing Plugged Ducts: Common Causes & Solutions

Preventing Plugged ducts causes and solutions

Women get plugged ducts for lots of reasons. Our goals are to help you prevent them or to take care of them as quickly as possible. If you’re prone to plugged ducts, figuring out the source of the problem and correcting it is the best way to keep them from recurring. Here’s a list of some of the most common factors that contribute to plugged ducts:

Improper latch

When babies are not latched on correctly, milk cannot be properly emptied from the breast, which can lead to milk buildup within the ducts.

Solution: If you have sore nipples, pain while feeding, or cannot keep your baby latched, we recommend having a certified lactation consultant evaluate your latch. Sometimes just a few adjustments can make all the difference for you and your baby.

Infrequent feedings

One of the most important parts of breastfeeding is keeping your milk flowing. Whenever you miss a feeding or go a long stretch without emptying the breasts, the risk of engorgement, plugged ducts and mastitis increases.

Solution: If you’re away from your baby or if your baby sleeps longer than usual and you begin feeling engorged, hand express or pump until you feel some relief. Most of the time, feeding or pumping more often (every 2-3 hours during the early weeks) will help ensure your breasts are constantly being emptied so they can replenish themselves.

Milk oversupply

When you have an overabundance of breast milk, you produce a lot more milk than your baby needs. This can cause more milk to get backed up, causing the plugged duct. 

Solution: Reducing the oversupply will lower your risk of developing plugged ducts. We highly recommend reaching out to a certified lactation consultant for help.  

Long-term nipple shield use

Nipple shields are sometimes useful but should never be used long-term since they can result in poor drainage from the breast. If your breasts aren’t fully emptied, milk can build up within the ducts and also cause issues like low milk supply.

Solution: To latch your baby without a nipple shield, hand express some milk onto your nipple to provide your baby with an instant reward. You’ll also want to wait until your baby opens his mouth widely before latching to ensure he takes as much breast tissue as possible.   

Tight-fitting bras or cross-body bags

Any clothing or accessory that puts pressure on part of the breast can impede milk flow and cause breast pain and plugged ducts. Even sleeping on your stomach can do this, so be careful about putting pressure on your breasts.

Solution: Avoid tight fitting bras, bras with an underwire, and any accessories including cross-body bags or baby carrier that cause discomfort to your breasts.


Research shows that mothers who consume too much saturated fat are more prone to getting plugged ducts.

Solution: If you consume large amount of animal fats (full-fat cheeses, fatty meats, and butter), try cutting back.

Stress and fatigue

Let’s be honest, all new moms are somewhat stressed and fatigued.

Solution: Reminding yourself to slow down, do breathing and meditation exercises, and rest whenever possible will help prevent exhaustion, which is the goal. 

Sudden weaning

Any time weaning is done suddenly, a woman runs the risk of breast discomfort and infection.

Solution: If abrupt weaning is mandatory, relieve breast engorgement by expressing just enough milk to feel comfortable again.


These are just some of the risk factors that contribute to plugged ducts. Daily breast massage and vibration have been shown to improve milk flow and prevent plugged ducts from progressing to mastitis.  


Disclaimer: If you have recurring plugged ducts, always consult your healthcare provider and lactation consultant to determine the cause. The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.