We Need To Talk About: Milk Blisters

We Need To Talk About: Milk Blisters

Milk blister, milk bleb, blocked nipple pore: call them what you like, they’re a pain in the tits.

And I have one.

It’s been making itself at home on my right nipple for nearly two months, and I fear it may be a permanent fixture. Well, I’m not sure. I can’t get much in the way of helpful advice on what to do with it.

Frantically searching Google (as you do) on why a blocked duct wouldn’t clear, I came upon the description of a bleb: a delightful white spot on the nipple; skin that has grown over a pore, causing the milk to back up. It eventually pops (if you’re lucky), hence the blister element. Then, if you’re unlucky (or me), it does this over and over again. A vicious cycle of mammary misery.

If you find yourself cradling your breasts like orphan kittens while reading this, you’re not alone. The words ‘nipple’ and ‘blister’ in the same sentence would send chills down the spine of any mammal.

Hot shower, vigorous massage with a comb… nothing worked. I even resorted to having my husband try to suck it out (women on various forums swear by this):

Him: ‘… shall we dim the lights?’
Me: ‘This is not romantic. This is clinical.’

(Afterwards, I informed him that we would never speak of this to anyone. Until I decided it would be appropriate to share it with the entire internet.)                                 

Other women suggested popping it with a sterilised needle. However, it’s been a while since I’ve darned socks or spent an afternoon embroidering with my Georgian lady friends, so I didn’t think sticking a needle in my nipple would be an appropriate foray back into handicrafts.

Someone proposed weaning my baby off the bad side, but I’m concerned about being down to only one good boob. And incredibly lopsided.

I dread every moment with my right nipple. I quite literally sweat through every breastfeed. What was once a comforting time for my 8-month-old son is now a toe-curling sesh with Mummy on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. The slip of a shirt, the brush of a breeze: if my nipple had a voice, there would be Hitchcock-worthy screams coming from under my bra.

I’ve been to the GP four times. I’ve been given antibiotics, some sympathy, but mostly perplexed looks.

I’ve spoken to a midwife, who suggested lecithin supplements and a B-complex vitamin.

I’m still waiting on a referral to a breast surgeon at my local hospital.

In short, the medical community at large doesn’t seem to be able to give me a definitive solution for something that is really cramping my breastfeeding style. Milk blisters, lady nipples and breastfeeding still mystify the masses.

I’ve tried it all: nipple shields, epsom salt soaks, painkillers, scrubbing my nipple with a flannel (really). I can’t tell you what might work for you. But here’s the advice I can offer:

Be persistent
If your GP can’t seem to help you, ask them to refer you to someone who might. Breast surgeons at your local hospital will be more familiar with the boobie zone. Midwifery teams usually house a special breastfeeding team that are enthusiastically willing to help. Check to see if there’s a local La Leche League leader in your area. Look for breastfeeding clinics. Keep going back. Keep asking for the help you need. This is about your body and well-being just as much as it is the well-being of your breastfeeding baby.

Don’t give up
My milk blister situation is unusual, as it keeps coming back and is occurring later in my breastfeeding days (they’re usually more common in the early days). One GP suggested that maybe I wanted to think about ‘how much longer I was going to breastfeed my 8-month-old son, anyway’. I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.

Breastfeeding is hands-down one of the most difficult things you will ever endure. But it can also be one of the best, most rewarding experiences of your motherhood. You can get through anything. I mean, you pushed something the size of a watermelon through something the size of a grapefruit. Or literally got cut open to get your baby out. You got this.

If you do decide to stop, don’t let anyone judge you. A sharp ‘they’re my nipples, not yours’ look in their direction never hurt anyone.

Do your own research
Throughout my boobie adventures with my two kids, I’ve constantly turned to KellyMom as a source of information on all things breastfeeding. There’s info for pretty much anything you can think of. Besides The Motherload®, I can’t think of a better place to do a little online reading.

Get yourself some metal nipples
I don’t mean transforming into a robot sent from the future to breastfeed human babies. But, if you have a milk blister, or even sore, cracked nipples, these things seem to work a treat. They haven’t solved my duct drama, but they definitely provide a bit of relief during the day, and keep the old nips nice and soft. My GP told me about Breast Angels, and there are other brands on everyone’s favourite online rabbit hole, Amazon.

And finally:
When life hands you painful nipples, keep making milk. And apple crumble. Apple crumble helps.

Jonna Mather

I'm a sometimes freelance writer and an always mum of two. I write about womanhood (expert), motherhood (novice) and humanhood (sure it's a word).

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