How to Treat and Prevent Milk Blisters
Imagine someone taking a sharp object … a gigantic needle, if you will … and stabbing you in the nipple with it. The needle then gets stuck and you are left with perpetual agonizing pain all concentrated on this one tiny spot on your nipple. OUCHHHHHH!!! If you ever had a milk blister (or as I prefer to call them, milk bleb), you know exactly what I am describing. You have no idea how pissed of I was the other
What is a milk bleb?
Before we jump into tips on getting rid of a milk bleb, or a milk blister, let’s understand exactly what it is. According to KellyMom, a milk bleb forms when a little bit of skin grows over a milk duct opening and blocking the milk from coming out. Therefore, all the milk from that duct is trapped, causing the pain to be focused on that tiny obstructed opening. It is important to take action to unclog the milk bleb because it may eventually lead to inflammation and mastitis.
How did I get it in the first place?
There are many possible causes:
- Shallow or improper latch
- Oversupply of breastmilk
- Pressure on the breast (potentially from a bra that’s too tight)
- Thrush (yeast)
My milk blebs are from my nighttime breastfeeding sessions when I was too tired to adjust when my toddler latched on improperly. Yes, it happened multiple times, and no, I was not smart or awake enough to think about milk blebs at 3 AM when I had been up most of the night with a toddler who wants to party like it’s 1999. Give this mom a break!
How to treat a milk bleb?
- Apply wet, hot compress before each feeding. I soak a washcloth in warm water, wring out excess liquid, and apply it to my nipple. You can also just wet the washcloth in cold water and microwave it on a clean plate to heat it up, but make sure that you don’t heat it up too much and burn yourself. Trust me, the warm compress will feel like heaven on the painful nipple. The hot compress should help soften the skin and the force of the baby sucking should break the blister.
- Saline soak prior to nursing. Mix 2 teaspoons of Epsom salt in 1 cup of hot water. Allow the solution to cool slightly prior to soaking your nipple. You can also use the saline solution to wet the washcloth for the wet, hot compress described above. My advice? Use this as an excuse to take a nice Epsom salt bath and relax a little before resuming mom duties.
- Rub the skin off. Eek this sounds painful, but I am not talking about taking sandpaper to your nipples. First, do the moist hot compress to soften the skin. Then use the washcloth or even your nails to GENTLY scrap off the blister (for the love of God please be gentle). I found doing this in the hot shower works well, and while I never completely break the skin, I rubbed enough of it off that the nursing session immediately after was good enough to clear the clog. If this method is causing you excessive pain, please do not persist.
- Use olive oil. Soak a cotton pad with olive oil and place it on top of your nipple inside your bra. The olive oil will help soften the skin.
- Nipple massage. Like popping a pimple, you can apply pressure right behind the nipple to see if you can squeeze the milk out. Make sure to use the saline soak and/or moist heat compress prior to doing so to soften the skin.
- Nurse frequently. Yes, it hurts, but this is really the best way to get rid of a milk bleb. Your baby is wired to drain milk from your breasts, so the more your baby nurses, the more of a chance he/she can help clear the clogged milk duct. Just make sure that your baby has a deep latch for an effective feeding session.
- Ask your healthcare provider to release the milk blister with a sterilized needle. Kids, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. I will admit it – I did do this by myself at home and while I did not get an infection, I regretted my decision for obvious reasons. It was like a horror movie with a crazed doctor. I sterilized a sewing needle by holding the tip in the fire. Then I poured some rubbing alcohol over it because … I don’t know … isn’t that what the nurses do to sterilize the skin before piercing our skin with a needle for vaccinations? Then I took a deep breath and punctured my milk bleb with the needle. And … PAIN. And … BLOOD. I quickly manual expressed some milk out to ensure that I got the clog out, then I applied some antibiotic cream and put a bandage over it. *Insert face palm emoji here* Guess what? The milk bleb came back soon after because you are supposed to nurse frequently after to keep the milk flowing through the duct. However, I was too paranoid that somehow, I infected my nipple and skipped a few nursing sessions on that breast as a result. Anyhow, learn from my experience and make an appointment with your doctor if other home remedies do not work to treat your milk blister.
- See your healthcare provider if you think you have thrush. It’s important to treat thrush right away because you can pass it back and forth between you and your baby.
How do I prevent getting a milk bleb?
- Keep the nipples moist. You can use the olive oil pad method, or you can use nipple creams after nursing sessions.
- Stay away from tight or underwire bras. Not only might they cause issues with milk supply, they may also cause milk blisters as well as mastitis.
- Take Lecithin supplements. Lecithin is a natural substance that increases the polyunsaturated fatty acids in milk and decreases its stickiness.
- Use proper breastfeeding techniques. If you see that your nipples are slanted like a tube of new lipstick, your baby’s latch is too shallow. Chances are you are in pain from the shallow latch and your milk supply may be suffering. Seek the help of a breastfeeding consultant if you can’t get your baby to latch on properly.
- Eat a balanced diet. This is important for breastfeeding success and postpartum recovery. Avoid eating too much sugar, caffeine, and saturated fat and drink plenty of fluids.
Hope this information is helpful! Remember, breastfeeding should not be painful, and seek professional help if you are experiencing any pain. Milk blebs really suck, but they happen. I always look on the positive side and think, hey, at least I have enough milk to continue breastfeeding my baby!