A milk bleb or milk blister is indeed painful, and it’s something that a lot of mommas experience at one time or another on their breastfeeding journey. It can make breastfeeding more like torture than the pleasant, bonding experience you expect to have with your baby. It also makes you dread the next feeding, anticipating the pain that comes when your baby wants to feed.
What exactly is a milk bleb or milk blister? What causes it to happen? Is there any way to prevent milk blebs from occurring? Keep reading to find the answers, momma!
What is a Milk Bleb?
A milk bleb is a white, pimple-like bump that some moms develop on their breast, on or near their nipple. It’s called a milk bleb because it’s actually filled with milk, though that doesn’t make it any less painful.
Much like other blisters you get on any other part of your body, a milk blister could be awfully painful—especially when it comes with a clogged milk duct and gets in the way of your milk flow. Not only that, but it’s also painful when it pops!
RELATED: How to Deal With Clogged Milk Duct & Mastitis the Natural Way
What Causes Milk Blebs?
Milk blebs could be due to a clogged duct or a layer of skin over your milk duct. These causes also differentiate milk blebs from blisters caused by friction.
1. Blocked milk duct
This is caused either by a string of high-fat milk or even your normal milk hardening inside a duct. This usually looks like a pimple, with the duct slightly raised and with a white spot at the middle.
2. Skin growth over your milk duct
Some skin forms over a milk duct near your nipple, effectively blocking the flow of milk from that duct. This creates the “bubble” that you see, with a thin layer of skin in front and milk inside it.
Whatever the cause, a milk bleb brings with it discomfort and pain. The pain can last for weeks or until the obstruction has been cleared. Additionally, milk blebs can also result from more serious breast issues like mastitis. When this happens, it’s best to consult your doctor immediately.
How to Treat Milk Blebs?
So, how do you remove a milk bleb and relieve yourself of the discomfort that comes with it? Here are a few methods:
Method 1: Saline soak
- Step 1. Mix a couple of teaspoons of Epsom salts with one cup of hot water and let the salts dissolve.
- Step 2. In a bowl that is big and deep enough to submerge the breast area where there’s a bleb, pour in warm water and add the Epsom salt mixture.
- Step 3. Submerge your boob in this mixture and let it soak for a few minutes. Do this two to three times every day.
- Step 4. After soaking, massage the nipple area where the bleb is and carefully try to release the milk underneath the blister with your fingernail. You can also try applying a little pressure to the bleb to help it release the white substance underneath.
Method 2: Vinegar and cotton ball
- Step 1. Soak a cotton ball in vinegar and apply this to the area where the milk bleb is. A cotton ball soaked in olive oil can also work here.
- Step 2. Leave the vinegar-soaked cotton ball over the area and have it held in place by your bra.
- Step 3. Massage the area once the nipple pore has softened. This should help release the blockage from the pore.
Method 3: Warm compress and breastfeeding
- Step 1. Soak a face towel in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.
- Step 2. Remove face towel from the bowl of water and squeeze out excess liquid, leaving only a damp, warm face towel.
- Step 3. Place the damp, warm cloth over your breast for a few minutes and apply a little pressure or massage lightly.
- Step 4. Have your baby breastfeed to help loosen the bleb.
- Step 5. Try to remove the blockage after your baby has breastfed.
Method 4: Use your fingernail
- Step 1. Soften the bleb using a warm and damp face towel.
- Step 2. Make sure your nails and hands are ultra clean.
- Step 3. Open up the top of the bleb carefully with your fingernails.
- Step 4. Carefully press on each side of the bleb (like you would a pimple) to get the blockage out.
- Step 5. If the blockage is a string of dried-up milk, some careful pulling may be needed.
Method 5: Ask your doctor to pop the bleb with a sterile needle
- Step 1. Visit your doctor and ask them to open your milk bleb with a sterile needle. Please don’t try doing this at home to avoid infections.
- Step 2. Soften the bleb with a warm and damp face towel.
- Step 3. Apply some gentle pressure to coax the blockage out.
Other methods you can try include applying cold cabbage leaves or a cold compress over the breast (this is to relieve the pain), to wear breast shells (another method that prevents pain coming from the bleb rubbing against your bra), and to constantly breastfeed your baby.
Once you get the blockage out, the opening is susceptible to infection. This is why it’s advisable to open up the bleb after feeding so you can apply antibacterial cream over the opening and prevent infections. You can also ask your pharmacist for a cream that is okay to use even while you’re breastfeeding (although I do suggest you wipe off the medication before feeding your baby just to be sure).
RELATED: How to Breastfeed (Best Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms)
What should I do to stop milk blebs from recurring?
One question that a lot of moms ask when it comes to milk blebs is if it is preventable. The answer is yes! There are methods you can use to prevent blebs or stop them from recurring. Here are some of them:
1. Make sure your baby has a good latch every time you breastfeed
Milk blisters happen when your baby doesn’t have a good latch while breastfeeding. To ensure that your baby does have a good latch (this is without taking into account latching problems caused by lip and tongue tie issues, nipple problems, and the like), try to shift positions while breastfeeding until you get the right one for proper latching. Ensure that your baby’s mouth forms a seal around your nipple so the latch holds.
RELATED: Lip and Tongue Tie: Answers to Mommas’ Frequently Asked Questions
2. Gently wash your nipples with water
While applying soap all over your body is a hygienic practice, simply washing with water is actually good for your nippies. This helps retain the natural protective oils from your Montgomery glands, which then protects your nipples from getting inflamed.
If you have recurring blebs, it’s a good idea to gently scrub or exfoliate your nipple area when you shower. You could use a soft, damp towel to help keep your pores from clogging up and forming blebs.
3. Consider changing your diet or take lecithin
Is your diet high in saturated fat? If yes, then you might want to change things up a bit since blebs can occur due to high breast milk fat content. If this isn’t feasible at this time, you can ask your doctor for advice on lecithin supplements. Lecithin is said to help prevent clogged ducts, which is sometimes the cause of the appearance of milk blebs.
4. Massage your breasts regularly
Massaging your breasts is a good way to avoid milk blebs. You can also do this while you shower, paying close attention to the areola and nipple area.
Other Conditions Mistaken for Nipple Bleb
Aside from nipple blisters, a mom can also develop actual blisters and other similar conditions on the nipple and areola. Here are some of the ailments that can be mistaken as milk blebs:
- Thrush – Caused by yeast, this ailment could happen not just on one’s breasts but also in a person’s mouth and vagina (these yeast infections are all caused by the same fungus called Candida albicans). The signs of thrush include a burning sensation, itching, pain, and nipples turning very red with small, dandruff-like patches on the skin around it.
- Friction blister – This is a real blister that occurs when friction inflames your nipples. This can be caused by a few different things, like a poor latch, a powerful suck from your baby, improper flange size in your pump, and abrasion from your clothing or bra. It usually appears like a regular blister, with a watery substance underneath the bump.
Milk Bleb FAQs
Now that you know what a milk bleb is and how to treat as well as prevent it, let me address a few questions that moms ask when it comes to these pesky little bumps.
Can you pop a milk blister?
Technically, yes, but I recommend not doing it on your own or using just any needle or pin you have at home. Try to get the help of a medical professional to help pop the bleb for you, prior to draining.
Will a milk blister go away on its own?
Yes, a milk blister may go away on its own, but this isn’t guaranteed. It can take days or weeks for this to happen. Sometimes, the milk blister can be so painful, particularly when you’re breastfeeding, that remedies are needed to speed up the removal of these milk-filled bumps.
How long does it take for a milk blister to heal?
If you let the bleb heal on its own, it can take days or weeks. If you remove the blockage and the reason why the bleb occurred in the first place, you can speed up the healing process to a few days.
Can you breastfeed with a nipple bleb?
Yes, but it may come with some pain. It is recommended though that, with or without treatment, breastfeeding should continue even when you have a bleb. This is because the act of breastfeeding can actually help loosen the bleb. Plus, not breastfeeding may diminish your milk supply.
When should I see my doctor about my milk bleb?
If you want to puncture the bleb with a sterile needle, you should call your doctor to help you with this. You may also need to contact your doctor if your bleb shows signs of infection—swelling, redness, and pus are indicators of this along with a fever.