Welcome back to our blog series…. Common Concerns While Breastfeeding. These aren’t the complicated, ‘come-to-my-house-immediately’ phone calls we receive. Rather, these are the questions that come from clients and friends in the middle of the night, by text or by email, that don’t necessarily warrant a lactation consultation. They can often be easily resolved with a few simple tricks. So, we would like to share those tricks with you!
Many moms know the pain associated with a shallow latch during the early days, but have you ever had nipple pain suddenly begin after weeks or months of pain-free breastfeeding? After checking nipples for signs of a poor latch, you notice a white spot on the nipple in question - you pick at it for a few seconds, but it still remains. What is it? What caused it? What can you do to resolve it and get back to pain-free breastfeeding? This is what’s called a “milk blister” or “milk bleb” and is not cause for great concern, but it can be an uncomfortable and unwelcome guest!
What is a milk blister?
A milk blister is a small white or yellow spot on your nipple - it is normally blocking a milk duct, hence sometimes the pain associated with it is felt both at the tip of the nipple as well as radiating out into the breast. It can’t easily be wiped away or removed. It may sometimes be associated with a plugged duct. It is perfectly safe to continue to breastfeed while you have one.
What causes a milk blister?
There are two causes for what we call a milk blister. One is that a bit of skin has grown over an open milk duct, blocking it and creating a blister. The other is the build up of fatty milk at the site of the milk duct, and the calcification of this fatty milk, which then blocks milk from flowing from this duct. The things that can increase risk for a milk blister are:
A recent plugged duct
Nipple is pinched often while baby is breastfeeding
Unusual pressure from a bra or sleeping position
How can I get rid of the milk blister?
Place some organic coconut oil on a cotton ball and place it on your nipple, inside your bra, in between feedings for a few days. This will help break down the calcification at the tip of the nipple, as well as fight off any bacteria or yeast.
Soak your nipple/breast in a saline bath of warm water several times a day. According to Kellymom.com, add 2 tsp of epsom salt to 1 cup hot water. Allow the salt to dissolve and soak your affected breasts prior to feeding. Then place a hot, wet facecloth over your breast right after the saline bath and right before breastfeeding/pumping. This should help to soften the nipple and help the blister release while baby is feeding or while pumping.
Apply moist heat to nipple prior to feeding
Try to remove the skin prior to feeding - rub with a warm washcloth
If all else fails, you can also ask your healthcare provider to use a sterile needle to open the blister. After this procedure, follow up with organic coconut oil to keep the area moist and allow it to heal.
What if I keep getting milk blisters?
Consider seeking help from a Lactation Consultant to try to resolve the underlying cause of the recurring blisters.
Be sure your bras provide soft but strong support - avoid ones with underwire that may cause plugged ducts.
Consider reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet.
Consider taking sunflower lecithin, 1200mg, 4 times a day, to keep milk ducts ‘slippery’ thereby preventing recurring plugged ducts and milk blisters.