Engorgement, leaking, clogged ducts… Just when you thought your boobs had seen it all, you notice a little white spot on your nipple. What the heck is that about? Here’s your guide to milk blisters—including how to clear them up fast.
Breastfeeding SOS: What Is a Milk Blister (and How Do I Get Rid of It)?
What Is a Milk Blister, Anyway?
Also called a bleb, a milk blister happens when a milk duct opening becomes blocked and milk gets backed up behind it. It usually looks like a small white or yellow spot on the nipple and can be painful during feeding (or it may not bother you at all). Milk blisters can hang around for days (or even weeks) before healing. And while they sometimes disappear on their own, you can help speed things along. (More on that below.)
FYI: This isn’t the same type of blister that’s caused by friction on the nipple from an improper latch or a poorly fitted flange. Those blisters can turn up on your breasts, nipples or areola and may be filled with clear fluid or blood.
What Causes a Milk Blister?
Milk blisters form when a milk duct becomes blocked, either by an overgrowth of skin covering the area or a small amount of thickened milk. This is often caused by…
- Pressure on that area of the breast (from wearing a too-tight bra, for example)
- Problems with the baby’s latch or shallow sucking, which can cause friction on the nipple
- A yeast or bacterial infection
5 Steps for Treating a Milk Blister
Milk blebs can be painful, and they can also lead to clogged milk ducts since they prevent milk from leaving the breast properly. So yeah, you may want to clear yours up ASAP. Here’s a five-step process, courtesy of KellyMom, to help you do exactly that.
1. Soak in saline solution. Before breastfeeding, soak the affected breast in an Epsom salt solution for a few minutes. To make the solution, add 2 teaspoons Epsom salt to 1 cup water (start with a little hot water to dissolve the salt first and then add the rest). This will help open the milk duct.
2. Use a warm compress before feeding. After the Epsom salt soak, gently place a warm compress on the milk blister to soften it. To make a compress, soak a clean cloth in warm water and wring out the excess liquid. Then apply the compress to the nipple with the blister for up to ten minutes.
3. Clear the skin from the duct. Use a moist washcloth to carefully rub the blister area or gently scrape it with a clean fingernail. Note: This step is optional and may not be necessary, since the saline solution and warm compress should be enough to open the blister. If you do try to clear the skin away from the blister, follow this step just once a day so you don’t irritate the area.
4. Nurse or pump with a hospital-grade pump. Be sure to nurse or pump the affected breast first, immediately after applying heat. The suction should help dislodge the blockage.
5. Treat the area. After nursing or pumping, keep the area clean with a non-perfumed soap. You can also rub your nipple with an antibiotic ointment (just check with your doctor first, OK?). Repeat these steps a couple times a day until the milk blister clears up. Ah, sweet relief.
One More Thing:
Don’t try to open the blister on your own with a needle, which could cause an infection (your doctor can do this for you and will make sure that it’s done in a sterile environment). And if you’re in pain or the blister doesn’t go away on its own, check in with a lactation consultant or your primary health care provider for advice.