One of the things that makes breastfeeding challenging is a blister on the nipples.
A nipple blister may emerge spontaneously and is unproblematic in most cases. But sometimes, it may interfere with breastfeeding. Read this MomJunction article to know what causes nipple blisters, if it can interfere with breastfeeding and how to manage it.
What Causes A Nipple Blister?
Nipple blisters can be categorized based on what causes them.
- Friction blister: The repeated friction caused by an infant sucking at the nipple could cause a nipple blister. However, this is most likely to occur when the baby is not latched to the nipple correctly. The abnormal rubbing of the tongue and other parts of the mouth against the nipple can cause constant irritation on the skin, leading to inflammation and blistering (1).
- Milk blister: This type of nipple blister is also called nipple bleb (2). It occurs when the dead skin traps a tiny amount of milk underneath the nipple, thus closing it within a blister. Milk blisters may also occur if a milk duct is blocked. These blisters can be more severe compared to frictional blisters. Therefore, it is essential to know how to spot a nipple blister.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Nipple Blister?
Nipple blisters can be tiny and hard to spot. Check for the following signs that indicate the presence of a nipple blister:
- An abnormal bump on the tip of the nipple and around it. If you run your finger on your nipple, you can feel the bump.
- A clear or white spot at the tip of the nipple. A white spot is mostly a milk blister.
- Gently pressing/squeezing the nipple between your thumb and index finger causes a tiny bulge to appear right at the tip of the nipple. It is more prominent in the case of a milk blister, which is white.
- You may experience a dull pain from the tip of the nipple. The pain would mostly occur when you are breastfeeding or when your breasts rub against clothing.
While most nipple blisters are harmless, there are situations when a doctor must check them.
When To See A Doctor For Nipple Blisters?
If you experience any of the following symptoms, then you must visit a doctor:
- Painful swelling of the nipple, including the areolar region.
- The blister continues to increase in size and gets more painful.
- Yellowish-white liquid comes out of the nipple.
- Decreased or no flow of milk from the nipple.
- Bleeding through the nipple. Extreme soreness and redness in the nipple region.
- Burning sensation every time the milk flows out of the nipple.
- You feel a lump underneath the nipple or anywhere around the breast. It could be due to the formation of a milk cyst, which is an accumulation of milk within the milk duct. It is medically called galactocele (3).
- You have recurring nipple blisters. It could be a result of some underlying problem or due to poor latching by the baby.
Severe symptoms like burning, bleeding, and yellowish discharge from the nipple are all signs of an infection in the milk ducts, a condition that should be addressed immediately (4).
How Are Nipple Blisters Treated?
Lactation experts state that if a nipple blister does not hurt, then you should not do anything (5). It will heal on its own. But if the blister is painful and interferes with breastfeeding, then the doctor may use the following steps to ease the discomfort:
- Easing the blister through pressure: A slight pressure to the milk blister can help open it and relieve the trapped milk within. The doctor may rub some antiseptic liquid to the nipple to prevent any germs from invading the nipple when the blister ruptures.
- Opening the blister manually: If the blister does not break by hand, then a sterile needle could be used to remove the blockage manually. The contents of the blister are then be drained.
- Use of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medicines: After the doctor ruptures the blister, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicines compatible with breastfeeding have to be used. If the blister formation is due to infection, then antibiotics will be the first line of treatment.
In most cases, medical treatment is not necessary for nipple blisters. Home remedies alone can improve the condition.
What Are The Home Remedies And Preventive Steps For Nipple Blisters?
Home remedies can be the first choice when the blister does not seem to cause any pain. The following steps work as home remedies and preventive measures for nipple blisters (6):
- Apply olive oil: Soak a cotton ball in olive oil and place it on the nipple, within the bra, for a day. Olive oil can help soften the skin that covers the nipple, thus allowing the blister to unclog easily. Make sure you wipe the olive oil off with a fresh cotton ball before the baby feeds.
- Use warm compress before breastfeeding: Take a napkin soaked in warm water and compress the nipple each time before you feed your baby. The warmth from the cloth can allow the dead skin to fall off and the thickened milk to flow freely through the nipple.
- Massage and feed first from the affected breast: Make circular strokes with your index finger above the areolar region or make straight strokes from the top of the breast towards the nipple. This will help stimulate the flow of milk through the ducts and help remove any blockage that causes a blister.
- Pump some milk out: Use a hospital-grade pump to express some milk from the affected breast. The pressure from the pump can help uncover the blister and allow for smooth flow of milk when the baby breastfeeds. Expressing milk can also alleviate any pressure within the milk ducts.
- Improve latching position: Consult a lactation expert if you sense that your baby is not able to latch correctly to the breast. A poor latch can lead to friction at the nipple and formation of a blister, besides resulting in poor feeding and accumulation of milk within the breasts, which could increase the risk of a clogged nipple blister.
- Reduce nipple friction: Sometimes, a clear nipple blister could be a result of constant friction to your nipple. Women tend to wear plastic nipple shells to catch leaked milk or stretch the inverted nipple. If the shell is not of the right size or is worn all day, it can continuously rub against the skin and cause blisters. So, choose soft cotton pads instead of plastic for this purpose. Even if you pick plastic, buy one that is a perfect fit for your nipple and avoid wearing it for too long.
Nipple blisters may come and go during the lactation phase, and it is quite likely they may cause no trouble to you. If you experience pain and discomfort to the point that you are unable to feed the baby, then consult a doctor immediately. Regular adherence to preventive steps helps keep nipple blisters at bay.
Have you dealt with nipple blisters when breastfeeding? Share your experiences through the comments section below.
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