Types of Blisters On The Breasts and Nipples

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What Are Blisters?

Blisters are tender, raised, red or whitish areas of the skin that have a collection of fluid underneath. The fluid in a blister may be clear or streaked with blood.  Here are 4 types of blisters that can develop on the skin around the breasts.  

Friction Blisters

A friction blister is formed from constant rubbing or pressure against the skin. When you're breastfeeding, friction blisters can develop on your breasts, nipples, or areola.

The causes of friction blisters include:

  • A Poor Latch: When your baby is not latched on to your breast correctly, it can cause damage to your breast tissue, areola, and nipple. A poor latch can also cause friction blisters to appear on your baby's lips.

  • Breast Pumps: The improper use of a breast pump can cause irritation and damage to your breasts. When the pump flanges (shields) do not fit you properly, or the suction of the pump is set too high, blisters can form.

  • Nipple Shields and Breast Shells: If you wear breast shells or use nipple shields, you can develop blisters if they constantly rub against your nipples and areolae.

  • A Nursing Bra That Doesn't Fit: If your bra is too big it could rub against your skin. If it's too tight, it could put excessive pressure on your breast tissue. Both of these situations can lead to blisters.

If you have a friction blister on your breast, you can continue to breastfeed.

It may be painful for you, but it will not harm your baby. However, if the blister breaks open and the fluid leaks out while you're nursing, it could change the flavor of your breast milk and your child may not like the taste.  

Other Types of Blisters

Poison Ivy, Oak, Sumac: Poison Ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are plants that can cause an allergic reaction on your skin if you come into contact with them.

You can develop an itchy, red rash with raised fluid-filled blisters. If you get this type of blistery rash on your breasts, you should not breastfeed. You can give your baby pumped breast milk while you have the rash, and begin breastfeeding again once the blisters have healed.

Herpes Simplex Virus: Active herpes lesions on your breasts can look like small red bumps, fluid-filled blisters, or open sores. They may be itchy or painful. Herpes is dangerous, and even deadly, to infants. The herpes virus can be passed to your child through contact with the blisters or sores. If you have active herpes lesions on your breasts, you should not breastfeed. See your doctor and get treated. In the meantime, pump and dump your breast milk to keep up your milk supply. Once the lesions dry up and heal, you can resume breastfeeding.

Chicken Pox: Chickenpox (Varicella) is a very contagious illness that can be spread through the air or by contact. Due to vaccinations and previous childhood immunity, adults in the United States do not often suffer from chicken pox infections.

If, however, you do contract chicken pox while you're breastfeeding, you can usually continue to nurse your child. By the time you notice the blistery rash, your child would have already been exposed to the virus. If your health care team determines that you need to stay away from your child while you're contagious, you should still be able to pump your breast milk for your baby.

See Also: 


Cadwell, Karin, Turner-Maffei, Cynthia, O'Connor, Barbara, Cadwell Blair, Anna, Arnold, Lois D.W., and Blair Elyse M. Maternal and Infant Assessment for Breastfeeding and Human Lactation A Guide for the Practitioner Second Edition. Jones and Bartlett Publishers. 2006.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

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