Milk Blebs, Milk Blisters & Plugged Ducts: What Causes Them & How to Get Rid of Them
Do I have a milk bleb, milk blister or plugged duct?
Plugged ducts occur when milk is not following normally through the milk ducts. Blockages can happen anywhere in the breast. When a plugged duct occurs deeper in the breast, a hardened area of engorgement and inflammation may occur and your breast might feel sore and tender at that spot.
When the blockage is close to the surface at the nipple, it can form a white raised spot on the nipple known as a milk bleb or milk blister. Milk blebs form when milk is trapped in a nipple pore by a thin layer of skin that has grown over it or when milk thickened milk blocks up a nipple pore. If the milk bleb is not painful, you don’t need to do anything about it. It will go away on its own. However, if the milk blister causes you pain, there are a number of things you can do to help dislodge the blockage.
How to get rid of a milk bleb or milk blister
Nursing or pumping is the best way to dislodge a milk blister.
Step 1: Apply a very warm moist compress to your affected nipple area immediately prior to nursing or pumping. This will soften up the clog and the skin around it. If the clog is right at the surface, you can try dislodging it with your finger nail. If not, just allow the warm moist compress to work and gently massage the breast pushing milk outwards towards the nipple to help dislodge the blockage. You can also use the manual breast pump method to treat a milk blister. (See below for instructions on how to use your manual breast pump to dislodge a milk blister.)
Step 2: Start nursing or pumping on the affected breast first. Make sure you have a good, deep latch as a poor latch could cause more pain and damage. Position baby in such a way as to place strong suction on the milk blister. You can continue to gently massage your breast to help the milk flow.
Step 3: Nurse frequently and repeat the warm compress and breast massage each time. You may express a thickened, stringy clump of milk. That’s normal with plugged ducts and once it is expressed, you should feel some relief.
If after repeating the steps above, you don’t experience relief and your discomfort is increasing, you may want to seek a healthcare professional’s help to drain your milk blister.
How to treat plugged ducts
Plugged ducts can occur further up in the breasts. The treatment is similar to the treatment for milk blebs.
Step 1: Prior to nursing or pumping, apply moist heat in one of the following ways:
Warm Moist Compress to relieve plugged ducts
Apply a very warm moist compress for a few minutes. Use a warm washcloth or Earth Mama Organic Cotton Flax Seed Booby Tubes Breast Relief Pads. Massage above the lump and try to move the blockage out towards the nipple.
Hot shower to relieve plugged ducts
Take a hot shower and use your LaVie Lactation Massager to help massage the clog out. Vibration mode may help to loosen and break up the blockage. The narrow tip of your LaVie Lactation Massager can help you put pressure above the clog and move the milk forward.
Manual breast pump to relieve plugged ducts
Dissolve 1-2 TBS of epsom salt in a cup of very warm water. Fill a manual silicone breast pump such as the Haakaa breast pump with the solution and attach it to your affected breast such that the nipple is soaking in the solution. Soa, for 10-15 mins. The gentle suction of the pump and the warm solution will help to move the clog.
Step 2: Nurse baby or pump on the affected breast first. Try varying baby’s position to fully drain your breast. Continue to massage the breast above the clog to encourage milk flow outward.
Step 3: Nurse frequently and repeat the steps above. You may express a thickened, strongly clump of milk. That’s normal with plugged ducts and once it is expressed, you should feel some relief.
How to prevent milk blebs and plugged ducts from recurring
Breastfeed frequently and in varied positions
Often plugged ducts begin with a missed feeding. Breasts become overly full and engorged and the build up results in increased pressure on the milk ducts. Nurse frequently and make sure to fully empty your breasts during feedings. If your baby has to miss a feed, pump to prevent engorgement.
Plugged ducts can also occur with uneven emptying of the breasts. To prevent this, vary baby’s feeding position. This may take some getting used to, but it’s definitely worth it to ensure that milk is not building up in certain parts of your breast.
Use LaVie Warming Massage Pads
LaVie Warming Massage Pads provide warmth and vibration to improve milk let down and flow and more effectively empty the breasts during breastfeeding and pumping.
Check the fit of your nursing bra
Make sure that you have a good fitting nursing bra. A bra that is too tight or offers poor support can restrict milk flow and contribute to recurrent plugged ducts.
Add lecithin to your diet
Lecithin is an emulsifier that will help your milk flow better. You can take a lecithin supplement or eat foods rich in lecithin such as eggs, meat (especially liver), soybeans, whole grains, legumes, wheat germ, green vegetables and sunflower seeds.
Take natural herbs that promote milk flow
LaVie Duct Flow Lactation Support contains natural herbs that help keep milk ducts flowing.
Recognize the signs of Mastitis
Clogged ducts are localized spots of pain that should not be accompanied with fever. However, if untreated, clogged ducts can develop into an infection called Mastitis. Mastitis is a more serious condition that warrants medical attention. Signs that you should look out for include:
- Flu-like symptoms (body ache, chills)
- Warmth, swelling and tenderness of the whole breast, or a large wedge of the breast
- Burning sensation when breastfeeding