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Breastfeeding Health

WTF is a Milk Bleb and How Do I Fix It?

Breastfeeding can come with a lot of unexpected challenges, and a milk bleb is one of them. By identifying the problem, you are more likely to get it fixed sooner than later, and continue your breastfeeding journey with less problems.

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

Oh, the joys of breastfeeding.

I had it pretty easy with Hallie. Her latch was good, she ate plenty, and I didn’t have any run-ins with mastitis. I took to clogged ducts with a hot shower and an iron first on the rare occasions they did pop up, but otherwise, our breastfeeding journey cruised right along.

Until she was 16 months old. I honestly don’t know why or how it happened. One day she caught me pretty good with her teeth, and a scab formed. It’s really weird having a scab on your nipple, and I was very concerned that she would eat it. But since she eats dirt, I figured she would be alright if that happened.

Nipple pain is upsetting.

Fast forward a week or so, and I still had quite a bit of pain in my nipple. I broke out the nipple cream, which I hadn’t used in easily a year, and tried my hand at that. No dice. No matter what I did, I could not get my nipple to heal. Nipple pain is a very upsetting problem to have, especially when you don’t know how to fix it.

Now, fast forward again to where I have struggled with nipple pain for 3 weeks. At this point, I’m breaking out the coconut oil. I’m soaking my nipple in a mini Epsom salt bath (which my husband made me spill all over the bed, because how do you easily soak your nipple?). I’m googling like crazy, trying to figure out what hell I have been cursed with. Nursing hurts like crazy, but Hallie demands her titties so I better pull it together.

Is that a blister?

Finally, as I’m closely examining my nipple, I realize that it looks like a blister. What started as a small scratch developed into what is called a milk bleb. This means that milk has gotten caught in one of the many pores on your nipple (milk comes out of more than one spot), skin has healed over the trapped milk, and now you’ve got yourself a literal milk blister. What’s even more exciting, is that this dam in your nipple also leads to clogged milk ducts in the breasts. Fun times.

So once I had labeled the problem, I was able to proactively address it. This meant multiple warm compresses during the day, continued Epsom salt soaks, the use of coconut oil or other means of softening the skin (which could also include nursing) and something like Neosporin. What is the Neosporin for? Oh, that’s for one you have to actually remove the skin from your nipple to relieve the blister. What. The. Crap. And if you can’t successfully manage this, you have to go to a doctor where they go at the blister with a sterilized needle.

Yay for healing!

This is the regimen I used that finally did the trick:

  • Warm compress (hot wash cloth or rice bag)
  • Epsom salt soak for 15-20 minutes (water as warm as you can stand it)
  • Breastfeeding or pumping to drain the milk
  • Coconut oil to soften the skin/blister
  • Clean hands to gently pry the skin away from affected area (this should be obvious – please do not randomly tear your nipple skin off if there is nothing loose)
  • Neosporin to help heal
  • Repeat as necessary in the day (or as often as you get time because you’re a busy mom and who has time for this?!)

Luckily, I managed to finally heal my nipple on my own, but it took a solid month. It didn’t help that Hallie was still nursing regularly, but at least she was able to relieve the clogged ducts. At some point you would think that I would call it quits with this whole breastfeeding thing, but it’s still an awesome part of our days and nights together. She’s a gremlin, but she’s my gremlin, and I’ll continue to do all sorts of ridiculous things on her behalf.

If you do think you have an unresolved issue, don’t be like me. Stuff like this can lead to mastitis, a very serious condition, and I was two steps away from making a doctor’s appointment. I’m stubborn and like to trouble-shoot until the very last second, and I was watching closely for signs of infection every day. Always seek help from a pediatrician, a midwife, or primary care physician if you have a concern. All we can do is our best, and sometimes, weird things like milk blebs get the upper hand.

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