Milk blisters (a.k.a. blebs or nipple blisters) usually appear as painful white, clear or yellow bumps on the nipple that last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. They occur when the skin grows over a milk duct opening and the milk backs up behind it, causing pain and inflammation. They’re often caused by oversupply, or problems with the latch. (Latching issues or difficulty sucking can also lead to friction blisters, which are red or brown blood blisters. And if you develop more than one white blister and feel a burning pain after nursing, it might not be milk blisters but thrush, a common yeast infection that can also block one or more milk ducts.)
“Milk blisters, which don’t allow milk to flow out properly, can lead to plugged ducts and even mastitis, so it’s a good idea to be proactive and deal with them promptly,” says Pam Davey, a certified doula and registered lactation consultant in Edmonton. She suggests soaking your nipples with a warm saline solution, rubbing the area with a washcloth, then nursing or pumping. (You can make your own saline solution by mixing two teaspoons of Epsom salts in one cup of warm water.) “If the blister breaks after doing that and milk is flowing freely through the nipple pore, then you can work on healing the broken skin.” While the nipple is healing, apply a warm, wet compress before nursing to help open the milk ducts, then rinse the affected area with saline solution after nursing and gently pat dry. Smoothing a little expressed milk over the nipple also helps promote healing.
If your blisters are due to thrush, your doctor may prescribe an anti-fungal medication for both you and your baby, as thrush can be passed back and forth during breastfeeding.
To prevent milk blisters make sure that your baby is properly positioned, latched correctly and sucking well. If you’re having difficultly with breastfeeding, a lactation consultant can help.
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