How to Get Rid of Milk Blisters
Milk blisters are a common annoyance for nursing mothers, but it's important to treat them before they become infected or cause further issues. Here's some tips to consider!
While breastfeeding can sometimes be uncomfortable, it should never be painful. That’s why if you feel a sharp pain in your breast and notice a small white dot on your nipple, you may have a milk blister. A milk blister, also commonly known as a nipple bleb or nipple blister, occurs when a small section of skin grows over a milk duct opening or a nipple pore and traps a small amount of breast milk inside the nipple.
Milk blisters are different from blood blisters, which can be bloody or raw. Some friction, such as improper latching or a poorly fitted nipple shield that has irritated the sensitive skin on or around your nipple, can cause blood blisters. Conversely, an oversupply of milk, infrequent feedings, or baby not sucking deeply enough cause most milk blisters.
Make sure you treat a milk blister immediately, not only because it’s painful but also because it can lead to mastitis, an infection in the breast tissue that can become severe.
Milk Blister Treatment
Apply a Warm Compress Before Feeding
Before each feeding, soak a cloth in warm water and apply to your breast for about 15 minutes. After gently patting your nipple dry, allow your baby to nurse. The warm water will soften and expand the skin and, as your baby begins sucking, the blister will usually open naturally and provide immediate relief.
Avoid popping the blister yourself, as this can increase your risk of infection and contracting another painful milk blister in the future.
Take an Epsom Salt Bath
Epsom salts and a warm bath can also be effective at loosening the affected skin. If you don’t have time to take a quick bath before feeding, you can use a shot glass to easily apply the Epsom salt without a mess. To do this, place the Epsom salt and warm water into a shot glass and bend over so your nipple is over the shot glass. Let it soak in the Epsom salt solution for about 15 minutes and then try breastfeeding.
Don’t worry, mama - There is substantial research that shows Epsom salt does not harm breastfeeding babies. In fact, Epsom salt baths can help relieve other breastfeeding discomforts such as engorgement. It’s also a nice way to pamper yourself—and you definitely deserve that!
Use Olive Oil
Olive oil is a natural moisturizer that softens skin, and research shows it also has anti-inflammatory properties. As a thin layer of skin blocks the milk duct, olive oil can soften the skin and soften the milk blister. Try applying olive oil to a cotton ball and then leave it in your bra. Change the cotton ball twice a day and gently clean off any residue before feeding baby.
When applying the cotton ball, be sure that it is not pressed too tightly against the skin, as too-tight bras can actually be a cause of milk blisters and may further agitate your milk bleb.
One of the best ways to avoid a milk bleb is to keep milk flowing consistently through your milk ducts. Even after you remove the milk bleb, it’s important to breastfeed frequently to prevent the skin from resealing.
If you are away from your baby when the milk blister is removed, use a pump to keep the milk flowing through your milk ducts. Additionally, wearing breast shells (to relieve pressure from clothing on your nipples) can also relieve discomfort and possibly even aid in healing.
Try Hand Expression
Hand expression using your fingers near the nipple, grasping a bit of the plug, and then carefully “working” it out may help to remove the milk bleb:
- Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water first.
- Apply a warm, wet washcloth beforehand – Doing so can help soften the skin around your nipple.
- Don’t forget to be gentle as you apply pressure to the area!
When to See a Healthcare Professional
If none of these natural remedies work and you’re still in pain, contact a healthcare professional right away. A doctor can use a sterile needle to open the milk blister, though this should never be attempted at home.
Once the milk blister has been relieved, you can expect immediate alleviation of any discomfort, though the area may still be sore as it heals fully. Be sure to keep breastfeeding consistently to prevent the skin from sealing again and talk to your doctor if you notice milk blisters becoming a recurring issue. Breastfeeding isn’t always easy, but challenges can be overcome as you and your baby learn to nurse together!
- Wambuch, K. & Spencer, B. (2021). Breastfeeding and Human Lactation. Sixth Edition. Jones & Bartlett Learning.