Milk blebs are one of the most common issues that breastfeeding people face.
With a tendency to appear out of the blue, a milk bleb usually pops up as a tiny white spot on the tip of your nipple. But don't be fooled by their small size — these tiny white spots can make breastfeeding extremely uncomfortable.
Let's take you through everything you need to know about milk blebs, their various causes and how to get rid of them.
What are milk blisters?
A milk blister or milk bleb is a blocked nipple pore. When a nipple pore becomes clogged, the breast milk gets trapped underneath the skin and thickens.
The hardened milk then forms a white spot at the tip of the nipple that's known as a milk blister or bleb. This might sound similar to a blocked milk duct but it's important to note that they aren't the same thing.
While a blocked milk duct refers to a blockage that's usually deep within the milk duct, a milk bleb refers to a small blockage at the tip or opening of the nipple.
What are the symptoms of milk blebs and milk blisters?
The first sign of a milk bleb is usually a small white spot on your nipple. This spot might look quite similar to a pimple and will usually be around the size of a pinhead.
While milk blebs are typically white, it's also not uncommon for them to be a light yellow or pink colour. It's also very likely that the area surrounding the milk bleb is red and inflamed.
Milk blebs can cause a varying degree of pain and while some might be painless, others can be extremely painful.
The pain accompanying a milk bleb tends to be centred on the affected location and nipple pain may arise while breastfeeding or when pressure is placed on the nipple.
What role does breastfeeding play in milk blebs?
Breastfeeding mothers can develop milk blebs for a number of reasons, with one of the most common being an incorrect or shallow latch. If your baby is not attached properly, they might be putting too much pressure on a particular area of your breast.
This can occur if their sucking is too shallow or if they are feeding on the wrong angle and the pressure can then cause a milk bleb. Likewise, an incorrect latch can prevent your baby from draining all of the milk in your breast.
When the milk doesn't fully drain, the leftover milk can build up at your nipple's opening, causing a blocked nipple pore.
This might also happen if have an oversupply of milk as your baby won't be able to release all of the milk in your breasts, leading to blocked milk ducts and milk blebs.
What are the other causes of milk blebs?
Breastfeeding isn't the only cause of milk blebs and blisters. The painful white spots might also be caused by an overgrowth of skin that can block the nipple pore and prevent breast milk from being released.
The other common cause of milk blisters is tight-fitting bras and sleepwear.
This is because tight-fitting bras (particularly those with underwire) and restrictive clothing can put too much pressure on your breasts and lead to milk blister formation.
How to get rid of a milk bleb
The best way to get rid of a milk bleb is to simply breastfeed your baby from the affected breast. Your baby's sucking can help the layer of skin over the milk bleb to burst and release the trapped milk.
Milk blebs contain thickened milk and they can sometimes require a little more force to release. If you're having trouble unblocking the milk bleb, you can also try positioning your baby's mouth directly over the milk bleb or use a hospital-grade pump to help it release.
This will usually provide instant relief but if it doesn't, you can also try the following treatments.
Soak your nipples in warm water
Soaking your nipples in warm water can help thin the skin covering the blocked nipple pore and make it easier for the trapped milk to be released. You can soak your nipples in a warm saline solution or plain warm water.
After you soak your nipples, you can then gently massage them with a warm compress to help move any stuck milk.
It's also best to soak your nipples prior to your next feed so that the skin covering the milk bleb is more fragile and easier to pop open.
Try an olive oil massage
Gently massaging your nipples with a small amount of olive oil can help release the milk blister. The olive oil can help soften and break up the thickened milk while the massage can help remove it from your nipple pore.
You can do this with your fingers or with the help of a gentle breast massager. If massaging the milk blister is too painful, you can also soak a cotton ball in olive oil and place it over the nipple in your bra to keep the blister moist during the day.
Once it's softened, you should find it easier to expel through breastfeeding your baby.
Apply a soothing ointment
Experts recommend applying a soothing ointment to your affected nipple. This will keep the nipple area moisturised while softening the milk blisters.
A specially designed nipple ointment like Kin's Nipple Balm can also help reduce the pain and itching that is sometimes associated with milk blebs.
Made with a nourishing blend of avocado oil, lanolin and shea butter, the balm will help keep your nipples moisturised and soothed while easing the pain from milk blisters and blebs.
Not to mention, Kin's Nipple Balm has been specially formulated to use while breastfeeding so you don't even have to worry about wiping it off before feeding.
Visit the doctor
If you have no success with the above treatments, you should seek professional medical help. To remove the milk blister, a doctor will likely use a sterile needle to gently release the blockage from your nipple pore.
If your milk blister has become infected, they may also prescribe some antibiotics to help treat the infection and provide you with some relief.
Remember that the removal of the milk blister with a needle should only be done by a medical professional or else you run the risk of further infection.
Preventing milk blebs and blisters
Milk blebs and blisters are difficult to prevent entirely but there is still ways to reduce the likelihood of them forming.
Breastfeeding frequently will help ensure that your breast milk is being fully drained. This prevents your milk from backing up and forming blockages in your milk ducts and nipple pores.
If you're struggling to regulate your milk supply and have an overflow of milk, you can also use a breast pump to make sure that all of the milk is released. After you have breastfed or pumped, you can also give your nipples a wipe with a warm washcloth to make sure that there is no milk left on your nipple pores.
If you're getting recurrent milk blisters, it's a good idea to check your baby's latch. A shallow or incorrect latch can prevent your breast milk from being fully drained and lead to painful blockages and milk blebs.
When you're attaching your baby to your breast, it can be helpful to check your baby for the following signs of a deep attachment:
- A wide mouth that takes in a large portion of your areola
- Chin against your breast
- Nose turned upward
- Your nipple is pressed against the roof of your baby's mouth
- Slow sucks with some pauses for swallowing
Getting the hang of a good attachment can take some time and it's always worth getting your baby's latch checked by a lactation consultant or healthcare professional.
Massage your breasts regularly
If you need an excuse for a little self-care, massaging your breasts to prevent milk blisters and blebs can be a good one. Massaging your breasts and nipples can help prevent any milk blockages from forming and release any that might have started to pop up.
If you're getting recurrent milk blisters, it can be a good idea to make breast and nipple massages a regular practice.
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