When Milk Blisters Happen to Good People

Have you had a blister before?

Maybe a pair of new heels rubbed the wrong way or you logged too many miles on the treadmill?  That small, painful pocket of fluid under the skin is a blister.  Now take that image and erase it from your mind so we can introduce you to a whole new breed in the blister family – a milk blister.

The difference between a blister you might find on your foot versus one found on your nipple is the cause. A typical blister is the result of friction against the skin while a milk blister appears when milk is trapped in a duct opening just beneath the skin.

It is possible to get a “traditional” blister from friction on your nipple caused by improper latch or a pump flange that doesn’t fit properly, but they look and feel much different.

A milk blister looks like a pimple or white spot on the nipple. Unfortunately, like your standard, run-of-the-mill blister, they can be painful during feedings and can stick around for days or weeks.

In general, a milk blister forms when skin grows over a duct opening and milk gets backed up behind it which causes inflammation and pain. Common causes are engorgement, oversupply, pressure on that area of the breast, skipped feedings, or thrush.

Unlike a traditional blister, treatment is fairly straightforward.  In just three simple steps, you could be milk blister free!

Step 1: Soften the skin with moist heat.

Step 2: Clear the skin from the milk duct by gently rubbing the skin with a wet washcloth or scraping with a clean fingernail.

Step 3: Nurse or pump to keep up your supply.

Step 4:  Treat the blister area after nursing or pumping to aid in healing and to prevent an infection.

To minimize the risk of infection, do not attempt to open the blister with a needle.  A healthcare provider can do this for you and will ensure that it is done in a sterile environment.

If going through these steps does not keep the duct open, repeat until the blister clears up.  If it continues bothering you, call a lactation professional or your primary health care provider for advice.