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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Lim Sock Ling and Dr Angelica L Dumapit on February 21, 2023

Got A Milk Bleb? Here’s How To Heal It And Avoid Mastitis

Published | 5 min read

A milk bleb may occur if you are not properly emptying your breasts during feedings - among other reasons. These tips can soothe the pain and prevent mastitis so you can get back to nourishing your baby!

Breastfeeding min scaled

A milk bleb can really put a damper on your breastfeeding journey. You may even be thinking of quitting altogether, especially if you’ve ever had one turn into mastitis.

Before you throw the towel in, read this article to help you pinpoint why you’re getting them. Then give these remedies a try. You can do them right at home!

Here’s how to prevent milk blebs in the future and speed up the healing time when you do get one – keeping both you and your baby happy and healthy!

What Is A Milk Bleb?

A woman latching her newborn baby during a breastfeeding session
Improper latching may contribute to the development of milk blebs.

Milk blebs occur when milk ducts become clogged near the opening on the nipple and form little white spots that look like milk-filled blisters. They are also called milk blisters, 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 Prevent And Heal A Milk Bleb

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.

“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.” 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician Lim Sock Ling.

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

Here are some other ways you can prevent and heal a milk bleb:

1. Address milk bleb pain 

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 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.

Consult 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.”

Physician Lim. 

3. Boost blood flow with gentle heat  

Use a warm, moist compress on your nipples for about three to five minutes before feeding. 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. Make sure your baby is latching properly

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 after feeding 

If your baby is still finding their 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. Lecithin for milk blebs

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.

Lecithin is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It isn’t known for causing serious side effects. However, some people who take it find that it causes stomach upset or diarrhea. Don’t take it if you are allergic to it.

7. Use recanalization massage therapy (SSRMT) 

A woman holding and massaging her breast
Massaging the breast can help improve blood flow to reduce milk blebs.

The six-step recanalization 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 optimize 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 a TCM physician about how you can incorporate SSRMT into your healing regimen for milk blebs. This therapy is done with the assistance of a knowledgeable licensed TCM practitioner who specializes 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 herbal formulas for milk blebs

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”). 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.”

Physician Lim.

Green tangerine peel (Qing Pi), tangerine pith (Ju Luo), sponge gourd (Si Gua Luo), Tribulus fruit (Ji Li), wild dandelion tea (Pu Gong Ying) and roasted rice tea herbal mix are commonly recommended to treat milk blisters.

Tuo Li Xiao Du powder 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.

Don’t Let A Milk Bleb Ruin Your Breastfeeding Journey!

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.

How do you handle milk blebs when they pop up? Share your tips with other readers below.

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