The Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Milk Blebs and Milk Blisters
Milk blebs can be painful and annoying, and they occur when a duct becomes blocked by a milk bubble or strand of thickened milk. Learn what causes milk blebs and how you can treat them at home.
When a new mom begins breastfeeding, you may notice small yellow or white bumps on your nipples or areolas as you and your baby learn to nurse together. These are milk blebs, also known as milk blisters, and they can be very painful when you are feeding your baby. Though it can be frustrating, try not to sweat it, mama! Milk blisters are a breastfeeding challenge that often indicates your little one may not be latching quite right. They occur when a small section of skin grows over your milk duct opening or a nipple pore, resulting in a tiny dot on top of your nipple that resembles a plug and can cause milk to become trapped. This trapped breast milk may form a congealed milk bubble that partially blocks one of your milk ducts and prevents it from draining properly. When the pores or ducts are blocked, milk backs up inside the duct. Overall, this spot can be painful and may cause discomfort while nursing or pumping.
Milk blebs should be treated quickly to avoid prolonged discomfort while minimizing any disruption to your usual breastfeeding routine. Fortunately, milk blebs are usually straightforward to treat and can oftentimes be relieved in the comfort of your home!
Milk Bleb Symptoms
The most visible sign of a milk bleb is a tiny white or yellow bump on the surface of your nipple or areola. If you compress your breast near a bleb, it may swell slightly because milk is trapped in the duct. The breast area around the milk bleb may also feel hard and/or inflamed because milk isn’t draining from the duct properly.
Milk blebs can also be very uncomfortable during feeding, although some moms experience more or less pain. Because the duct is blocked by a milk bubble or strand of thickened milk causing the bleb, you may not be able to express milk as efficiently – resulting in a fussier-than-usual little one.
What Causes Milk Blebs?
There are several possible causes of milk blebs, some of which may include:
- A poor latch during feeding leads to improper drainage of the ducts.
- Not fully draining the milk ducts when nursing and/or pumping.
- Tight-fitting bras can increase the risk of milk blebs.
- A decrease in your usual number of feedings.
Milk Bleb Treatment at Home
You should consult a medical professional if you experience persistent, painful milk blebs to find out what may be causing them and how to best find relief. Frequent breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to help soften and prevent milk blebs. Feeding your little one often drains your milk ducts and stimulates let-down. Oftentimes, your baby’s natural nursing rhythm will help resolve an annoying milk bleb – best of all, the thickened milk causing the bleb is not harmful to your little one!
- Start by breastfeeding on the affected breast to promote drainage.
- Be sure to massage the affected breast before and during your nursing session to stimulate the flow of milk.
- When nursing, be mindful that at least one position during the session should have your little one’s nose pointed toward the site of the plugged duct.
You can also try applying moist heat and gentle pressure to the affected area to help soften a stubborn milk bleb. Try taking a warm bath or soaking the bleb with a warm compress and then using hand expression to carefully grasp the tip of the plug and “work” it out to remove the bleb completely. If it doesn’t resolve within 24 – 48 hours after trying to remove it at home, talk to your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant for professional guidance.
How to Prevent Milk Blebs
You can try to prevent milk blebs by ensuring that your baby latches properly for each nursing session. If your baby struggles with his or her latch, your pediatrician or lactation consultant can help. Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself during your breastfeeding journey too! Breast shells can relieve pressure on your nipples from everyday clothing, while stocking up on relief like nipple cream, hydrogel pads, and bras designed for your body during this unique time can help make your breastfeeding experience more comfortable.
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