Mastitis and Clogged Ducts: please take it seriously


Breastfeeding… ahh… they make it look so easy, but it can be so hard! Breastfeeding is so great when it works for the mom and babe. There are so many health benefits for the baby which are always talked about, but did you know that for moms who breastfeed they are less likely to have breast cancer, osteoporosis, ovarian cancer, diabetes and obesity? Pretty great! But it often doesn’t come on without some work. In the first week, engorgement is common and nipple pain is even more common. But what other time in your life has someone been tugging at your nipples for hours at a time? It takes some getting used to but when it works out, it’s a great way to bond with baby, and supply super nutritious, and immune boosting, free food!


A super common issue with starting breastfeeding and weaning is clogged ducts, which can lead to mastitis. With starting the journey of breastfeeding, it can be difficult to get a flow both literally and figuratively with your baby. Sometimes there are issues with positions, timing of feeds, pumping, engorgement, oversupply, sometimes the baby has an undiagnosed tongue and or lip tie… feedings are skipped, the baby is feeding at a different pattern, underwire bras, mom sleeping on her belly, stress, the list goes on… and sometimes it just happens. And when it does, it’s important to contact your provider and not ask for advice on facebook mom chats. 😉


So, how do you know if you have a clogged duct or mastitis?


Know that clogged ducts can easily turn into mastitis, and mastitis can turn into necrosis and a breast has the possibility of being necrosed or abscessed within 24 hours of untreated mastitis. What’s necrosis? It’s the death of cells of a tissue from disease or lack of blood supply, and it’s not pretty. Is this common? No, but it’s possible. So again, checking in with your doctor is really important. Now that I have scared the bejesus out of you… the differences of clogged ducts and mastitis.


A clogged duct is a part of the breast where the milk flow is obstructed and the pore in the nipple is blocked. This can look like a little blister of milk on the nipple also referred to as a “bleb”. The bled may or may not be present, and there may or not be a lump or a level of engorgement that is likely tender. The tenderness is usually what a mom will notice and will feel more with letdown or painful prior to a feeding and relatively better after a feeding, but not necessarily resolved.


Mastitis has the same reasons for happening as a clogged duct, and untreated ducts can cause mastitis. This can happen within hours! Yikes! Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast due to an infection, an obstruction, or potentially an allergy. The symptoms are usually the same as a clogged duct but the pain, the swelling, and feeling of heat is usually more magnified – often accompanied by red streaks on the breast and a fever and flu-like symptoms.


There are many ways of treating clogged ducts and mastitis. It is important to contact your provider to find the root cause of the issue and to treat it in a timely and effective fashion.

Dr. Noe King