Tackling engorgement and mastitis: an all-in-one guide

By Me & Qi
Mar 13, 2019

Engorged breasts and clogged ducts can be incredibly painful, especially if left untreated. They often occur at the start of breastfeeding, when a mom’s body is still getting used to all the changes, although they can pop up at any point during your breastfeeding.

What’s basically happening is that milk and blood flow get congested in the breasts, leading them to become swollen, hard and painful to the touch. The difference between an engorged breast and a clogged duct is that when a breast is engorged the whole breast is congested, whereas only a small area is concerned in the case of a clogged duct.

If left untreated engorged breast and clogged ducts can lead to an inflammation of the breast, a condition known as mastitis. In that case you’re not only left with swollen painful breasts or lumps but also with fever and flu-like symptoms.

Engorged breast versus normal breast

Many moms experiencing engorged breasts, clogged ducts or mastitis will be thinking that something must be wrong with them. Fear not, the immense majority of nursing mothers experience breast engorgement or clogged ducts: it occurs in 72% to 82% of lactating women1! Even mastitis is very common as 1 in 10 U.S. mother will have at least one episode during their breastfeeding2. So you’re not alone and your breasts are not uniquely painful: sadly, most breasts are!

Too often moms give up on on breastfeeding after a particularly painful episode of engorgement or clogged ducts. After having given birth, they feel there’s only so much they can take. They should be bonding with their newborn, not enduring repeated torture sessions! Please DON’T GIVE UP! There are so many health benefits to breastfeeding for your small one and for you, it would be a shame to give up on them! Also, as we’ll see in this guide, if you do things right, soon your breastfeeding pains will be a thing of the past. Breastfeeding will become for you what it should be: an intimate bonding moment between you and your baby.

Feel free to jump to the question that concerns you most or read through each one if you want to understand everything there is to know about engorged breasts, clogged ducts and mastitis:


1. Priyanka, Powar & C, Basavaraj & A, Ramannavar & Kurhade, Geeta & Kurhade, Arvind & Justiz-Vaillant, Angel & Powar, Rajarm & Vuma, Sehlule. (2016). Comparative effect of ultrasound therapy with conventional therapy on breast engorgement in immediate post-partum mothers: A randomized controlled trial. Integrative Molecular Medicine. 3. 553-558. 10.15761/IMM.1000203.

2. Jeanne P. Spencer, MD, Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Sep 15;78(6):727-731.

Article tags: Breastfeeding and maternity