Milk Blebs and Shooting Pain
Breastfeeding is one of the most arduous tasks of motherhood.
It is time intensive and sometimes quite uncomfortable and painful. And unfortunately for some, dealing with issues like milk blisters and milk blebs are part of the job description.
In my case, I found out that milk blebs in-particular can be very painful. I experienced shooting pains both during and for up to two hours after breastfeeding when my milk bleb was at its worst.
I had experienced Nipple Pain When Breastfeeding before, but this was something different. This milk bleb appeared a few weeks after I had popped a milk blister in the exact same spot.
Sometimes I couldn’t sleep at night and had to breathe through the waves of what felt like a needle stabbing me in the nipple. Ouch! I even started to question whether I had mastitis or thrush after consulting Dr. Google about my pain symptoms.
Long story short, I treated my milk bleb at home for a few weeks, and eventually it went away! And I have now been milk blister and bleb free for a few weeks, so I want to share what I have learned to hopefully help another momma out!
What is a Milk Bleb?
What to Expect explains that milk blisters (or blebs) are the result of clogged nipple pores. This can happen when;
- milk backs up, thickens and clogs a milk duct
- skin grows over a nipple pore
Whatever the cause, milk blisters and blebs are very uncomfortable, oftentimes painful and always always annoying!
My milk bleb appeared as a small irregularly shaped white spot on my nipple, beneath the top layer of skin. The milk blister I had on the other hand, appeared more translucent and was more superficial, fluid filled and raised.
What is the Difference Between a Milk Bleb and a Milk Blister?
While most sources from a google search lead one to believe that a milk bleb and milk blister are the same thing, I think making a distinction is helpful. Healthline explains that you can see fluid build up behind a milk blister, and that it will bulge when you apply pressure to the area. A bleb on the other hand, remains flat, although you can see a whitish/yellowish irregularly shaped spot on the nipple.
In my case, both my milk blister and milk bleb led to painful breastfeeding, and because they occurred in the exact same spot, I believe the blister eventually formed into the bleb after I had popped it and it did not fully heal.
What Causes Milk Clogs and Milk Blisters/Blebs?
As mentioned, clogged ducts can cause milk blisters and blebs when milk gets backed up and hardens or skin grows over a pore. But why do milk ducts get clogged and skin grow where its not supposed to in the first place?
In the case of clogged ducts, breastfeeding.support suggests that clogged ducts and resulting blebs may be due to issues like;
- an over supply of milk
- very fatty milk
If a mother has an oversupply of milk, her breasts may not be fully draining after nursing sessions and her milk may get backed up.
And when skin grows over a pore, breastfeeding.support explains that this can happen due to;
- a trauma wound to the nipple
This kind of nipple trauma can occur with an issue like improper latch and the resulting wound and healing process.
In addition to issues like poor latch and milk oversupply, wearing too tight of bras can cause milk blisters and blebs. The Breastfeeding Companion explains that too tight of bras can mean that too much pressure is being put on certain spots of your breasts, leading to clogged ducts, and sometimes eventually milk blisters and blebs.
In review, possible causes of milk blisters and blebs include;
- Poor latch
- Clogged ducts
- Too tight of bras
- Not fully emptying milk from breasts
- Milk oversupply
- Extra fatty milk
What Does a Milk Blister and a Milk Bleb Feel Like?
As already discussed, milk blisters and blebs can be quite painful. Cleveland Clinic explains that you may experience this pain directly on the bleb or blister, or further back behind it. I can attest to experiencing this pain, and at its worst, I felt like I was being intermittently pricked with a needle deep in my breast and nipple.
The pain from my milk blister was different than my milk bleb, with the bleb being quite a bit more painful and prolonged.
My Milk Blister Experience
Before I noticed I had a milk blister, I started to feel a clog building. Anytime I touched or even rubbed against a certain spot on my breast, it felt extremely tender. I could also feel a distinctly hard lump where the clog was.
So when I realized I had a clog, I started to try and work it out. But no matter how much massaging, heat compresses, breastfeeding and pumping I did, the clog would not budge. And it started getting more and more painful.
This situation is concerning, because untreated clogged ducts can lead to mastitis (inflammation and infection in your breast).
I also had a lot of localized nipple pain when breastfeeding. Nothing seemed to help.
After some googling and examining my nipple, I realized I had a milk blister. I could see a little translucent fluid filled sack on my nipple. And while many sources discourage popping a milk blister, I was desperate.
Luckily, with a husband who is a surgical nurse, we had some sterilized needles on hand. So I opened one up and very very carefully made the tiniest prick on the milk blister. (Note that medical professionals will almost certainly advice against popping a milk blister yourself. This doesn’t mean you can’t find tons of desperate mommas in forums online saying that they went ahead and popped their milk blisters.)
Immediate relief! Milk started pouring out of the nipple pore. It just kept draining and draining, and that hard lump on my breast where the clog was slowly softened. And five minutes later, it was as though that stubborn clog and milk blister had never happened. Or so I thought.
My Milk Bleb Experience
A few weeks later, I started experiencing pain on that same side as the milk blister during and after nursing. Only this time, I started getting shooting pains after feeds that would last for an hour or two.
At first these shooting pains weren’t too concerning, but one night, I could hardly stand them they got so intense. This started to worry me.
After some googling, I thought my pain symptoms were indicative of thrush. But, I saw no sign of thrush in my baby’s mouth or around my nipple and breast. I did however, have a small irregularly shaped off white spot on my nipple. And this was my very stubborn bleb. Right where my milk blister had been weeks earlier.
My theory is that when the milk blister was healing, some skin grew over the pore and created a deeper bleb.
So while my milk blister resolved quickly once I popped it, my bleb was quite persistent.
My milk bleb was problematic for about 3 weeks before it fully cleared up.
Treating Milk Blisters and Milk Blebs at Home
A google search will tell a momma to massage, apply a warm compress and nurse or pump often to get rid of a milk blister or bleb. In the case of the milk blister I had, I did not find any of these things to work. So, I decided to try popping the blister with a very tiny sterile needle.
Is it OK to Pop a Milk Blister at Home?
I guess the answer to this question depends on who you ask, but I’m assuming most medical professionals would advice against popping a milk blister due to risk of infection. When I asked my primary care provider about popping a blister or poking at a milk bleb, she said to definitely not do either of those things.
While I certainly see the value in that advice, I got a little desperate on a couple of occasions, and for me, I found using a needle (very small and sterile) to break a little skin was the only thing I found that helped. So in no way is that medical advice, it’s just what I did and what I read a number of others on internet forums did as well. I just made sure to apply some antibiotic ointment to my nipple afterwards for a couple of days.
Sunflower Lecithin and Epsom Salt Soaks
In the case of my milk bleb that developed after the blister, I started taking sunflower lecithin and soaking my nipple in warm water with epsom salts any chance I got. This seemed to help soften the skin blocking the pore.
Supposedly, sunflower lecithin helps make your milk more slippery and flowing through you better to treat and prevent clogged ducts. So whenever I start to feel a clog coming on now, I take a sunflower lecithin capsule and it seems to really help. And aside from helping with clogs, HealthNews claims the supplement can reduce inflammation, support cardiovascular, brain, skin, gut and liver health, as well as help with sleep.
Wishing all the mommas out there continued strength, patience and endurance as we travel this journey and nurture our babies as best we can <3