Blockages, blebs and other boobie bads

Although our boobs are pretty clever most of the time, sometimes they get us into a bit of strife when they form milk blisters called blebs, white spots, and blocked ducts that can turn nasty if quick treatment isn’t started. I thought I’d give you a bit of a rundown of these breast baddies and how to zap them away.

Blebs — These are milk blisters that are like a piece of skin that grows over a duct opening in the nipple. Milk pools underneath them. The treatment is to apply warmth (a hot shower is ideal) and gently rub the skin with a face washer until the skin breaks and the milk can break free.

White spot — These little spots form at the end of the nipple and look a bit like the white head of a pimple. They are often a little curd of milk at the end of a blocked duct. You can treat them in the same way as a bleb by softening them with hot water, but you might have to gently ease the head of the spot away with your finger. If this doesn’t dislodge it, some mums get their GP to lance them with a sterile needle (ew!).

Blocked ducts — I get a lot of these on the Breastfeeding Helpline and they really stress mums out because of the potential for them to turn into mastitis. Usually they present as a lumpy, sore mass within the breast. There can be a red spot on the skin and a bruised feeling. If there are no symptoms of fever or flu, then it’s not too late to try to clear the blockage yourself. Apply warmth to the breast (a wheat bag is good for this) to get the milk flowing and feed your baby on the affected side first (when the sucking is the most vigorous), at the same time, massaging any lumps towards the nipple. Put cold packs on the breast after the feed to reduce inflammation. Don’t forget to feed frequently to flush the infection through. As one wise ABA counsellor once told me, ‘If you had a bladder infection, you wouldn’t stop weeing.’

With blocked ducts, it’s always good to analyse why the blockage occurred the first place, because we don’t want it to come back. A few of the main reasons are poor attachment, ill-fitting bras, babies going longer than usual between feeds or suddenly sleeping through the night, mums skipping feeds without expressing, sleeping on your tummy at night, even tight seat belts on long car journeys and heavy nappy bags with the straps going across the chest.

If repeating all of the above methods doesn’t work within a 24-hour period, I have one sure-fire unblocker, but my mummies usually have a bit of a giggle when I tell them (and afterwards when it works first go!). Lay your baby on a bed, and hang over him on all fours, with your boobs hanging over him like udders. The gravity drains them beautifully.

For more tips on nipple care, blocked ducts and mastitis, check out the Australian Breastfeeding Association website: