Milk Blebs and Shooting Pain

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! But after being bleb free for a few weeks, another milk bleb appeared in the same spot as the previous bleb. And while this one is not usually painful during or after breastfeeding, it has been hanging out for several weeks now. So I’m here to share what worked and what has not worked for me on this unfortunately long milk bleb journey.

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

As I have continued to search for information on milk blebs though, I have found a couple of interesting sources explaining blebs in more depth. And this has changed how I think about them and treat them at home. 

Physician Guide to Breastfeeding explains that milk blebs are a combination of “shedding inflammatory cells, cholesterol/fats in milk, and bacterial byproducts”. So it’s not just clogged milk or skin growing over a nipple, but it’s also all the bacterial gunk and inflammation that comes along with clogged ducts. Knowing this, treating a bleb is not as simple as “popping it” or extracting out a strand of thickened milk. And these tactics can in fact make things worse.

I also want to distinguish between a milk bleb and a milk blister, because I have also had a milk blister. My milk bleb appeared as a small irregularly shaped opaque yellowish 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. And what worked for my milk blister, has not been helpful with my milk bleb.

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. Popping it provided immediate relief and the hard lump in my breast disappeared after milk came pouring out, but, I am now dealing with a stubborn bleb. And I made my bleb worse by continuing to poke at it with a needle. Ouch. 

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, 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 as discussed above, additional problems associated with clogs develop like inflammation and bacterial byproducts contributing to a stubborn bleb. 

Additionally, explains that skin can grow over a pore 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. Physician Guide to Breastfeeding states however, that blebs are not related to latch. So, who is to say?

In my mind though, it does seems that an improper latch could aggravate a bleb by causing more inflammation to already damaged tissues. 

In more news, apparently wearing too tight of bras can cause milk blisters and blebs. The Breastfeeding Companion explains that too tight of bras can cause milk blisters and blebs by putting too much pressure on certain spots of your breasts. And this can lead 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 the bleb formed during the healing process where I had poked the milk blister, creating inflammation and bacterial byproducts as Physician Guide to Breastfeeding discusses.

This milk bleb was problematic for about 3 weeks before it cleared up. And I was bleb free for a short time. But, unfortunately I have another bleb that has formed in the exact same spot. And this one has been hanging out for a couple of months, so I have continued to try and treat it at home.

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. 

And Physician Guide to Breastfeeding says to definitely not take a needle to nipple due to tissue damage and the resulting cascade of effects that can lead to blebs. 

I got a little desperate with my milk blister though, and for me, I found using a needle (very small and sterile) to poke a tiny hole to let milk drain was the only thing to provide relief. This was the case with my milk blister only. And it ultimately may have been the cause for the formation of my milk bleb. 

I wonder if the blister would have eventually popped if I soaked it in warm water and then continued to nurse, but things were getting dire. The lump in my breast from the clog was growing and I could hardly touch the area because it was so tender. And I was afraid if I let that clog sit and grow for too long I would be susceptible to developing mastitis. 

So while I don’t necessarily regret popping that milk blister, I’m fairly certain that poking at my blebs that formed later on with a needle made things worse. With the blebs, there did not seem to be any milk to drain. Just gunk stuck in there. And I only further damaged the delicate tissues by poking at them, and even making them bleed a little. 

Sunflower Lecithin and Epsom Salt Soaks

So I’m now avoiding needles and turning to sunflower lecithin capsules and epsom salt nipple soaks to help with healing instead. 

sunflower lecithin supplements for milk bleb shooting pain

Supposedly, sunflower lecithin helps make your milk more slippery to treat and prevent clogged ducts. 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. 

And for epsom salt soaks, I fill a little shot glass with warm water and a clump of epsom salt and just pop it right over my nipple for a few minutes. 

Wishing all the mommas out there continued strength, patience and endurance on their breastfeeding journeys!

1 thought on “Milk Blebs and Shooting Pain”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.