What is a nipple bleb?
A nipple bleb is a small, white blister that forms as a spot on the nipple causing pain (sometimes severe) while breastfeeding. The pain may extend back into the breast and symptoms are similar to mastitis. Nipple blebs actually block a pore on the nipple (similar to a plugged duct), keeping milk from exiting the breast from that duct.
Many women with a nipple bleb develop mastitis, or women with mastitis develop a milk blister – it is not always clear which one happened first. Like mastitis, milk removal from that duct is slow or doesn’t leave at all; causing increasing pain the longer it is there.
What causes a bleb?
For most women, the reason for getting a nipple bleb is unknown, and its onset can be quite sudden. Once a woman has a nipple bleb she may be more prone to have recurring issues with blocked ducts.
What are the symptoms?
The nipple bleb appears as a tiny white or yellow blister on a portion of the nipple. It can be big or small. Massaging from the nipple there is a firmness which extends back into the breast – the blocked duct the milk blister is keeping from emptying when the baby nurses. The longer the milk blister is there, the greater the chances of red inflammation (mastitis) forming along the blocked duct.
The pain begins with the milk ejection reflex and can be quite severe. It can last for a little while after the breastfeed as well.
Typically, a nipple bleb is just one blister and on one side only. If you notice multiple blisters and/or blisters on both sides, then it is often a yeast infection.
How to treat a nipple bleb
Treatment for a nipple bleb is similar to a plugged duct. Applying wet heat before nursing can help to soften the tissue and allow the blister to break and the milk to flow during nursing. Usually a baby’s suckling will pull milk out of the plugged duct(s). Gently rub the nipple with a clean, damp cloth to remove any excess skin and some women find it helpful to apply a little olive oil to further soften the skin. If not, breaking the tissue with a clean needle or tweezers and then nursing will allow the milk to flow through the duct. Once the milk is able to flow through the duct, pain relief while nursing or expressing should be significant. If inflammation had formed a mother may still feel tired and week afterwards though. Make sure to get plenty of rest and fluids.
Is it safe to breastfeed with a nipple bleb?
The milk in that duct may be thicker, possibly even like spaghetti. This milk is still completely safe for a baby. Not only is it safe to breastfeed with a milk blister, it helps to clear the duct. Nurse often!
What else do I need to know about blebs?
Be aware that breaking the tissue can open up the risk for infection so make sure to keep the nipple clean. In fact, putting a little breast milk on the area, because of its anti-infective properties, can also help.
It is suggested that moms who have recurring blebs add lecithin into their diets. 1