If you find that one part of a breast is not emptying, it feels hard and may look red, then one of the ducts is blocked. The breast is made up of sections, each leading to one of the eleven or so ducts, to the nipple. If you bruise the breast in some way it leads to a swelling and may cause an obstruction of one or more ducts. Keep feeding and massage the breast. This may be all you need to do to clear a blocked duct. Also see below: Mastitis, for what I have discovered works to clear up breast inflammation.

You may feel upset and imagine that you will have to stop feeding. Lots of women have blocked ducts and continue to nurse successfully. It is not a good time to stop, even if you had planned to begin weaning. If you can discover what caused the blockage in the first place you can prevent it recurring. Some causes are:

Ill-fitting bra, digging in, often under the arm

Badly-designed bra, with part of the cup lowering to feed and the other part cutting across the duct as the milk lets down

Sleeping awkwardly on the breast for too long

Toddler jumping enthusiastically on your lap and bumping the breast

Knocking the breast during everyday movement

The lactating breast is vulnerable to bruising, which is why it is useful that the breasts are protectively situated between our arms on our chests. I have noticed that bruising on the breast is not the characteristic blue colour that you get on muscular areas, it goes red instead and I think that’s why we don’t always realize that we have bruised a breast. If there is any swelling then the larger fat molecules in the milk may not be able to flow through the duct and so it becomes blocked. If you keep feeding the baby and gently massaging from the outside of the breast along the ducts to the nipple the force of the let down will clear the blockage.

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