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8 Ways to Make a Milk Blister Heal Quickly and Avoid Mastitis

Milk blisters can interrupt breastfeeding and lead to clogged ducts or mastitis. Learn how to heal them and prevent a recurrence.

A mother cradles her baby with one arm while breastfeeding and caressing the baby’s foot with the other hand

Breastfeeding can be challenging for some mothers, and they may consider stopping altogether and switching to formula. A milk blister is one of the conditions that can interrupt this important bonding time between mother and child. 

These small white spots on the nipples can be very painful, especially when nursing your baby. Fortunately, there are home remedies and medical treatments available that can help mothers breastfeed more comfortably.

Learn how to identify a milk blister and treat and prevent them from developing. 

What Is a Milk Blister? 

Milk blisters form when milk ducts are clogged near the opening on the nipple, forming little white spots that look like milk-filled blisters. They are also called milk blebs, nipple blisters, or nipple blebs. 

Unexpressed milk stagnating in the milk ducts can lead to a milk blister. A new mother trying to adjust to a new schedule may accidentally delay or skip feedings. Sometimes their baby may have latching issues. Wearing a tight bra and clothing can put pressure on the milk ducts. Trauma or infection of the nipple can also create irritations that cause milk blisters. 

How to Heal and Prevent Milk Blisters

A baby is being breastfed by her mother
Milk ducts can get clogged near the nipple, developing into milk blisters.

Some milk blisters may be painless and go away on their own. However, some may eventually develop into painful blisters that interrupt breastfeeding. Untreated, the condition can lead to more severe conditions like mastitis.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician Lim Sock Ling shares, “Mastitis is a condition where the breast tissues become inflamed due to infections of the breast ducts. Some of the signs include fever and red lumps in the breasts.” 

She advises mothers to keep hydrated. “Drink at least eight glasses of water daily to encourage milk flow and prevent dehydration.”

Here are eight ways to heal milk blisters so you can be on your way to spending quality, nourishing time with your baby. 

1. Treat the pain with a cold compress or painkillers 

If you have painful milk blisters, it’s important to address the pain first. A cold compress can help when you feel shooting pain in your nipples. Doctors have also approved painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol for this. 

2. Wear loose, non-restrictive clothing 

Loosen tight clothing to relieve pressure on the milk ducts and increase milk flow. Avoid tight bras and shirts in general while lactating and breastfeeding. Find the help of a lactation consultant who can recommend effective lactation bras that won’t be too restrictive for your breasts.

“Tight-fitting bras, or ones made from synthetic materials, can irritate the nipple and contribute to milk blister formation,” notes Physician Lim. 

3. Try gentle heat therapy 

Use a warm, moist compress on your nipples for about three to five minutes before feeding to ease milk flow. Some doctors recommend gently massaging your breasts while standing in a warm shower. Be careful not to apply too much heat, as it can further aggravate the irritation. 

4. Ensure proper latching with your baby 

At the next feeding, try latching your baby to the affected breast first to see if that helps ease the blockage. Work with a lactation consultant to see if your baby is latching properly. Try different positions at each feeding. It’s okay to try even unusual positions if they ensure a more even flow of milk in your breasts.

5. Empty your breasts as much as you can after feeding 

If your baby is still finding its footing with latching, you may have leftover milk in your breasts. If that is the case, use a breast pump immediately after and between feedings to properly empty your breasts. 

6. Improve the consistency of your breast milk 

Some experts and doctors think that consuming lecithin supplements can help. They believe the lecithin can lighten the thickness of your breast milk to improve milk flow and help resolve the clogging.

7. Use the 6-step recanalisation massage therapy (SSRMT) 

The six-step recanalisation massage therapy (SSRMT) was developed based on the fundamentals of breast duct distribution, the mechanics of massage, and meridian theory in TCM.

SSRMT aims to restore qi (vital life force) and blood flow in the body to optimise milk flow for breastfeeding. A 3,497-person clinical study on SSRMT published in the Journal of Human Lactation in 2014, demonstrated the efficacy and safety of this method. 

Consult your TCM physician about how you can incorporate SSRMT into your healing regimen for milk blisters. This therapy is done with the assistance of a knowledgeable licensed TCM practitioner who specialises in pregnancy and post-natal care.

The steps include: 

  1. Preparation
  2. Clearing the plugged duct outlets
  3. Nipple manipulation
  4. Pushing and pressing the areola
  5. Pushing and kneading the breast
  6. Checking for residual milk stasis 

8. Try TCM herbal formulations

Teapot, cups, and Chinese herbs in a strainer on the table
Roasted rice tea mix is a popular TCM remedy that promotes milk production in new mothers.

TCM also offers herbal therapy to help with milk blisters. “From a TCM point of view, a milk blister is diagnosed as chui ru (“blow breast”, 吹乳). It means the baby transmits their internal Heat from phlegm accumulated in the diaphragm to the mother’s breast. This causes Stagnation of body fluids, hence the blocked milk ducts. Pathogens invade the breast through cracks on the nipple,” shares Physician Lim.

Green tangerine peel (qing pi, 青皮), tangerine pith (ju luo, 橘络), sponge gourd (si gua luo, 丝瓜络), Tribulus fruit (ji li, 蒺藜), wild dandelion tea (pu gong ying, 蒲公英) and roasted rice tea herbal mix are commonly recommended to treat milk blisters.

Tuo Li Xiao Du powder (托里消毒飲) is a formula prescribed for women experiencing milk blisters and mastitis. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research demonstrated the wound-healing properties of this powder in animal models.

Motherhood is hard enough as it is without milk blisters. Consider the above ways to address a milk blister before it progresses into mastitis. If the condition persists, seek medical treatment before they cause other complications. It won’t be long till you can get back to some precious nourishment and bonding time with your baby.

References

  1. Patient Education by Michigan Medicine. 2017. Plugged Milk Ducts and Nipple Blebs. [Accessed on 8 September 2022]
  2. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing. 2022. Case Report of the Management of Milk Blebs. [Accessed on 8 September 2022]
  3. Journal of the Saudi Society of Agricultural Sciences. 2018. Citrus peel as a source of functional ingredient: A review. [Accessed on 8 September 2022]
  4. Journal of Diabetes Research. 2015. The Four-Herb Chinese Medicine Formula Tuo-Li-Xiao-Du-San Accelerates Cutaneous Wound Healing in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats through Reducing Inflammation and Increasing Angiogenesis. [Accessed on 8 September 2022]
  5. Food Science and Technology. 2021. Increased total polyphenol content, antioxidant capacity and γ-aminobutyric acid content of roasted germinated native Thai black rice and its microstructure. [Accessed on 8 September 2022]
  6. Breastfeeding.support. 2022. Blisters on Nipples. [Accessed on 8 September 2022]
  7. Journal of Human Lactation. 2014. Six-Step Recanalization Manual Therapy: A Novel Method for Treating Plugged Ducts in Lactating Women. [Accessed on 8 September 2022]

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