What To Do When A Milk Blister Occurs
Causes Of Milk Blisters - While most blisters are caused by friction, a milk blister is caused by a blockage. A milk blister can occur on the nipple of a breast when one of the milk pores becomes blocked. This blockage is usually due to a tiny piece of skin that grows over a milk pore. The milk will then back up behind the skin, and there will often be sufficient pressure to cause a bubble or blister to form. This type of a blister is sometimes referred to as a bleb, and sometimes as a nipple blister. These blisters can at times cause discomfort, or even pain. They usually disappear once the skin peels away, but can sometimes last from several days to several weeks.
The blockage causing the blister may not necessarily be due to an overgrowth of skin, although that is normally the case. Sometimes, a milk duct may become blocked due to an obstruction within the milk duct itself. Such an obstruction is almost always caused by a small accumulation of dried or semi-solidified milk, and can often be easily removed by applying pressure to the nipple. Quite often the pressure on the nipple during nursing will suffice to remove the obstruction.
A less common cause of milk blisters is thrush. In this case, a yeast infection may cause more than one milk duct to become plugged. The problem being addressed here however is not that of duct obstruction, but of a blister that may form, and what to do about it.
What To Do And What Not To Do - A woman experiencing the formation of such a blister may be tempted to cease using the affected breast for nursing for a time, but this is the wrong approach. First of all, the presence of a blister does not present any danger to the infant being breast fed. If the discomfort is not too severe, the breast should continue to be used, as this will in time help in opening up the duct, thereby causing the blister to disappear. If the breast and nipple are gently massaged with a warm, wet washcloth before nursing, the combination of warmth, softening of the skin, and nursing, will often cause the duct to open and the blister to go away. A warm Epsom-salt solution applied to the nipple area, instead of plain water, can sometimes help to soften the skin sufficiently for the blister to open. Yet another approach is to apply olive oil to help soften the skin prior to nursing.
A skin growth that causes a milk blister to form may continue to cause problems, and cause a blister to form again even after one has been cleared away. The same is true with other obstructions, such as dried or semi-solid milk in the milk duct. The breast and nipple area may therefore have to be treated for several days, or even throughout the nursing period, to keep blisters from forming and the milk ducts open.
Sometimes a blister will simply refuse to go away and may be painful enough to make nursing uncomfortable. It may be necessary to pop open the blister with a sterile needle. Although this may seem safe enough if the needle is sterile, the risk of infection is too high to do this procedure at home. Opening the blister by puncturing it should only be done by a medical practitioner. First of all, the means by which the blister is opened involves lifting the skin at one edge of the blister, and not simply poking it in the middle. The area around the nipple also has to be thoroughly cleaned before the blister is opened, and has to be sanitized after opening the blister. The importance of having a professional open the blister cannot be overstated. The risk of infection by doing it at home is just too high.
During the time a blister is present, or if blisters are tending to recur, breastfeeding can often be quite uncomfortable. It is important to bear in mind there are certain procedures that need to be followed. First of all, following a feeding it is important that the breast be emptied of milk. This may necessitate the use of a breast pump if nursing from the breast is too uncomfortable. Second, if nursing is going to be done from the affected nipple, it is often wise to feed the infant from the other breast first. Babies sometimes tend to latch on rather firmly when they first begin to nurse. This could be quite painful if a blister or an obstruction is present. If the baby feeds from the other breast first, it will usually latch on much more gently when the second breast is presented. Finally, it can sometimes help to apply a little ice to the nipple just before the baby latches on. This will tend to numb the nipple a bit and may reduce the amount of pain or discomfort that will be felt.
If these blisters continue to form, or if one that has formed is particularly stubborn, it is always a good idea to see a doctor rather than simply try to put up with the discomfort for a prolonged period of time.