If you see a small white spot on your breast it may be a milk blister. It is important to learn about what they are, what causes them and how to you can treat them. They are generally REALLY painful but tend to heal quickly so hang in there!
What Are Milk Blisters or Blebs? What Do They Look Like?
These blisters (or a blocked nipple pore) are usually just “milk under your skin.” You can get this when a small piece of your skin grows over a milk pore or duct and causes your milk to back up and blister. It is usually a painful white, clear or yellow dot on your nipple. Pain either seems to be right at the blister or slightly behind it. These blisters usually are painful and sore for a few days and then simply disappear by themselves.
On the other hand, there may be an obstruction within the milk duct (instead of just skin over the breast milk pores.) It is sometimes just caused by a small dried up piece of breast milk or some solidified milk fat. Many times this happens at the same time as a plugged duct or reoccurring mastitis.
Common Causes of Milk Blisters
Milk blebs are typically cause by a baby’s improper latch. Then when your baby tries to breastfeed, their sucking is too shallow and it causes extra pressure on a point of the breast which causes the blister. If your baby tries feeding at a different angle for some reason angle, this can also cause the painful blisters on your nipple or breast.
This can also happen with the use of a breast pump that is not properly fitted. Using breast shields that are a better fit to your breast size can help you not only express more milk, but also prevent milk blisters when the pump is the cause.
Yeast can be also responsible for a blocked nipple pore. Typically, if your child or you have thrush you may see tiny white spots in your child’s mouth or on your nipple. However, your breasts can get a larger white spot on the nipple due to milk ducts that are blocked. If you have multiple blisters at the same time…thrush is probably the cause. If you feel a burning sensation as you nurse, this is also a sign that thrush might be an issue.
Milk blisters are caused by skin growing over the opening of a milk duct. Milk can still enter the duct but can’t exit. That causes a backup in the duct, which can lead to moderate or severe pain and sensitivity to touch. You will notice a small bump on your areola or nipple when this happens. The bump is usually clear or white, but some may appear slightly yellowish.
If you aren’t sure that what you’re experiencing is a nipple bleb, push your fingers around your breast to force milk into your ducts. If the blister seems to push outward, it’s likely a milk blister. In many cases, you will see the skin over the blister and milk duct.
Milk Blisters vs. Blocked Milk Ducts
Small bumps near a milk duct can also signify a clog from dried breast milk. The bumps can look the same, but a clogged duct may generate more redness and swelling. If you see hardened milk in the bump, you may clear it with your finger quickly. In other cases, it will take a bit more work. Try feeding your baby or expressing milk with a pump. Manual expression may also work for a minor block.
If that doesn’t clear a blocked milk duct, try wrapping your breast in a heat compress. Light massage may also work. Once the milk is removed from the duct, your pain should stop. If the bump is a milk blister rather than a clog due to milk, there are some further steps that you may take to solve the problem.
How to Treat Milk Blisters
The first line of treatment for a milk blister is similar to clearing a blocked milk duct. First try using your finger to clear the opening of the duct. Try standing in a warm shower and gently wiping the area with a washcloth to clear the skin.
If that doesn’t work, wrap the nipple in a warm compress or soak it in warm water just before feeding your baby. In many cases, that will clear the skin long enough to feed. You can then treat the opened milk duct with Polysporin or another antibacterial ointment that doesn’t contain neomycin.
Some mothers also treat their opened milk blister with a bit of breast milk. If you have a soothing nipple cream, that may work as well. The goal is to simply heal the opening of the milk duct so that more skin doesn’t develop another blister. It may take several days to completely seal a duct after one blister develops, so don’t lose hope if it doesn’t work right away.
If warm compression or soaking along with breastfeeding doesn’t work, you can try this approach from KellyMom.com:
- Dissolve 2 teaspoons of Epsom salt in very hot water.
- Add a bit more water to cool the mixture. You should have about 1 cup of water for every 2 teaspoons of Epsom salt used.
- Soak your nipple in the solution to help open the duct.
- Place a hot compress over your nipple and then immediately breastfeed your baby.
You can use the Epsom salt soak up several times throughout the day to help keep the skin from resealing your milk duct. Breast milk and ointments are faster and easier, but this process may help if you aren’t successful with those strategies.
How to Prevent Milk Blisters
What you do to prevent a milk blister depends on what is causing your blisters. There are many potential causes for nipple blebs, including:
- Yeast spots blocking the milk duct
- Oversupply of breast milk
- Tight bra or clothing
- Improper latch or suckling
In many cases, the cause of a single milk blister is never known. If you experience recurring milk blisters or multiple blisters form at once, you may want to do some exploring to determine the cause. Start by ensuring that your bra isn’t pressing too tight against your breasts. Other clothing that puts a lot of pressure on the milk ducts may contribute to the problem as well.
If you see multiple spots on your breast along with shiny or flaking skin, you may have a problem with thrush. You may also notice white areas in your baby’s mouth. You should visit your doctor for medication and further instructions on overcoming the thrush and continuing your breastfeeding experience in comfort.
If you suspect that your baby isn’t latching properly or is having other problems breastfeeding, that may be the cause of repeat milk blisters. Solving the latch problem will not only end the pain for you, but it will also ensure that your baby receives the breast milk that he needs to grow properly and to feel full and comfortable.
Working with a lactation consultant, nurse or experienced doctor is needed to solve some latch problems. You may need to adjust your breastfeeding position, or your baby may have a tongue tie or another issue that makes breastfeeding more difficult. That doesn’t mean that you can’t continue breastfeeding. You may just need medical intervention or further training to do it successfully.
Nipple Blebs with No Cause?
If you work through all of the possible causes mentioned above and can’t find a culprit, don’t panic. Many women experience nipple blebs for unknown reasons. You can use some of the treatments for milk blisters on a daily basis to hopefully slow their formation or stop them altogether. For most women, the milk ducts adjust to breastfeeding and the milk blisters eventually stop forming.
Here are some ideas for daily treatments that may help when there is no known cause of your milk blisters:
- Take a couple short showers during the day. Allow the warm water to envelope your breasts while you massage them lightly. You may express a bit of milk to ensure the duct is clear, but don’t express so much that it interferes with your supply.
- Add cotton balls dipped in olive oil to your bra for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. This will soften your nipples while helping to keep the opening of the milk duct clear.
- Massage a bit of breast milk over your nipples throughout the day.
- While relaxing, gently massage your nipples lightly.
When to Seek Medical Attention for Nipple Blebs
Most milk blisters don’t require medical intervention, but there are some circumstances that may require the attention of a medical provider:
- You can’t clear the nipple bleb on your own
- The pain becomes unbearable
- It starts to swell, turn red or show other signs of infection
In some cases, a sterile needle is used to open the small pimple and clear skin from the opening of a milk duct. This isn’t something that you should do at home. Allow your doctor to look at the nipple bleb and do this for you if she believes it’s the best course of action. You should use antibiotic ointment on the opening until fully healed if this approach is taken.
Lactation consultants are also valuable sources of information if you experience more nipple blebs than you care to endure. An experienced lactation expert may have other ideas to help you prevent those blisters from occurring.
When nipple blisters occur, it’s best to continue breastfeeding or at least pumping on a consistent schedule. While it may hurt to feed your baby, the problem may get worse if your breasts become engorged from less frequent feedings.
Breastfeeding is also an integral part of clearing a milk duct whether it’s blocked from dried milk or a thin piece of skin. The more you soak your breast in warm water and allow your baby to feed, the more opportunities you have to clear and heal the duct.
While breastfeeding continues, make sure that you’re managing your pain as much as possible. Your comfort is just as important as the process of feeding your baby. Standing in a hot shower and allowing it to run over your breasts may feel soothing, but you can also use Ibuprofen, Tylenol and other breastfeeding-safe pain relievers. Ibuprofen helps more with inflammation, so it may fit this situation better than Tylenol.
If milk blisters become a frequent experience and your baby struggles to breastfeed, you may have a bigger problem with latching. Working with a doctor or pediatrician who has breastfeeding experience is in order. You can also contact a lactation consultant if your doctor doesn’t have the expertise needed to assess and solve latch problems.
However, once you learn the causes or these painful little blisters and clear up the ones that you have, most moms can keep them from coming back. Thank goodness!
Related Articles You Might Like:
- Is it Thrush?
- How to Clear a Clogged Milk Duct
- Common Breastfeeding Problems (and Solutions for Them!)
- How to Get a Proper Latch