Breastfeeding Complications: Nipple Blebs

How to Treat Nipple Blebs

Breastfeeding and Nipple Blebs: Information and Treatment
What is a nipple bleb?. Trout55/Getty Images

A nipple bleb is a tiny white spot that forms on the nipple at the end of a milk duct or nipple pore. It is believed to be a small, milk-filled cyst, a milk blister or a blockage created from breast milk that has become thick and hard. A nipple bleb tends to appear as a smooth, shiny, singular white dot that resembles a whitehead pimple, and it is often associated with a plugged milk duct. It may not be bothersome at all, but for some women it can cause extreme pain during breastfeeding.

If it isn't painful, just leave it alone. It may resolve on its own as your baby nurses. However, if it is painful and does not go away, even with a good latch and frequent nursing, you should meet with your doctor. Sometimes a thin layer of skin develops over the area and needs to be removed. A health professional can use a sterile needle to break open the skin and clear the nipple bleb.

Even if breastfeeding is very painful, you should continue to nurse or pump very often. Frequent removal of breast milk is important in maintaining your breast milk supply, and it can also help prevent clogged ducts, breast engorgement and mastitis.

7 Ways to Treat Nipple Blebs While Breastfeeding

  1. Breastfeed frequently and make sure your baby is latching on correctly.
  2. Soak, massage and apply heat to the bleb to try to loosen up the blockage.
  3. Rub your nipples with liquid lecithin, an antibiotic ointment or Dr. Jack Newman's All-Purpose Nipple Ointment a few times a day after feedings.
  1. Talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant about taking a lecithin supplement. A typical dose is 1 tablespoon of liquid or granulated lecithin per day, or one 1200 milligram capsule three to four times per day.
  2. If you can tolerate it, use gentle pressure from behind the bleb to try to squeeze the blockage out.
  1. Try to prevent the milk ducts from becoming clogged by using proper breastfeeding technique, nursing often, alternating breastfeeding positions and avoiding tight tops and underwire bras.
  2. If all else fails, see your doctor to remove the nipple bleb with a needle.

What Else Could It Be?

Nipple blebs are sometimes confused with nipple blisters or thrush. A nipple blister is much larger and does not normally cause such excruciating pain. Blisters are often the result of a poor latch or friction caused by a very strong suck. Once breastfeeding technique is corrected, nipple blisters will usually heal on their own within a few days.

Thrush is a fungal yeast infection that can cause severe burning and pain, especially with nursing. The yeast generally causes the nipples to appear shiny and red, but small white patches aren't uncommon. If there are a few blebs on the nipple, it could resemble thrush. It's important to determine whether the white spots are blebs or thrush. Thrush can spread quickly and lead to mastitis, a painful breast infection.

If you think you have thrush, notify your doctor. Both you and your baby will need to be treated with an anti-fungal medication.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition. Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.

Newman, Jack, MD, Pitman, Theresa. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Three Rivers Press. New York. 2006.

Continue Reading