“Bi iya nla ba ngbe ni sanle, kekere a maa gori eni”; this is a Yoruba proverb that sometimes comes to mind when the going gets tough. It basically translates as, ‘if a great adversity strikes you down, smaller ones follow suit’.
Life has been full of tupsy turvy waves, and irregular high and low tides seem to be the regular over here. It’s been a fab opportunity to have a ‘transform lemon into lemonade’ perspective. But my, how hard the change can be when the lemons taste really sharp and sour.
One of my recent lemons was this transparent creamish looking tiny blob, in the middle of my right nipple. Talk about a stirring up of horrible memories from the dark starting months of my breastfeeding journey. It was also on the boob that produces the most and works the longest! Seriously, this was yet another thing I didn’t need to go wrong; not that we ever need anything to go wrong.
It all started on my first day back at work, at the start of this term. I had quite a number of concerns about facing work again, after a work triggered long absence. Breastfeeding wasn’t one of them; after all, I’ve learnt a lot about making it work, with work. As I have done since for months, I planned to use my lunch breaks to return home and feed Precious Sparkle. He is older, and now feeds quicker at lunch times. This meant that I could look forward to having enough time to walk back to work, instead of my usual running back.
When I got home that Thursday, I was way fuller than I’d been in months; it was quite a sight. My lopsidedness was accentuated beyond my imagination, and I couldn’t help but laugh at my chest. My little one didn’t mind though; food was ready to flow and he was more than happy to gulp. Time wasn’t on my side and so we quickly got on with feeding. I can’t quite remember whether I felt any pain as he fed but I do remember knowing something was wrong when I fed him again after work.
I felt boobie pain like I haven’t felt in well over a year! O my word, I thought I was done with boobie pain on this breastfeeding journey.
I was shocked to see the likely cause of the pain; it was so tiny, and my, so unwanted. ‘How did it get there?’, ‘Where did it come from?’, ‘How do I get rid of it?’ … so many questions tumbled through my mind.
The pain was acutely sharp and unbearable … it was soooooooooooo painfullllllllllll … words can’t quite convey how painful it was. Feeding times became dread-full times; but quitting wasn’t an option.
If there’s something I’ve learnt about breastfeeding over these almost 20 months, it’s that you’ve got to keep the milk flowing to maintain your milk supply. This means you feed (or pump) through rain and shine … ups and downs … in comfort and in pain. You’ve just got to feed and so I fed inspite of the pain.
However, unlike the beginning, there was no way I was going to suffer in silence or through ignorance. I vaguely remember coming across a cause of breastfeeding pain called pleb, and milk blisters in one or more of my breastfeeding Facebook groups a while ago. Armed with this recollection, I called my La Leche League leader for help. It felt strange calling; I still remember the first time I called her for help, when I started my rise from what felt like breastfeeding hell at the time.
She felt it seemed like bleb (I still thought it was pleb until I googled it a while after), possibly caused by a bad latch. She gave me some tips on how to deal with it; but beyond this, I found our conversation reassuring. She also reminded me about the importance of listening to my body, and resting.
My older babies breastfeeding group happened soon after this and I once again asked for advice. It was helpful to know that others had successfully dealt with blebs, and I suppose the discussion gave me some hope that the pain wasn’t forever.
I then went to Google for more help and I was not disappointed. It further helped me grow in my understanding, and this made me feel somewhat more empowered about dealing with the pain I felt.
I learnt that a bleb or milk / nipple blister is the result of a layer of skin growing over a nipple pore / milk duct opening. The overgrown skin then traps milk behind it. It looks like a restricted milk drop, and I found it painful when I pressed on it with my finger. I did this because I was trying to figure why I felt so much pain when breastfeeding.
The potential cause of mine seems to have been a poor latch but I struggle to see how this could have happened. You see, Precious Sparkle has been latching himself for over a year, how could he get it so wrong. However, I was told that it only takes one improper latch for milk blisters to occur.
IT IS PAINFUL feeding with a bleb! For some reason, I was very slow to act on advice from my Kellymom and Medela and google finds on how to treat a milk blister. They reflected the tips I’d been given by my LLL leader and breastfeeding group.
Soaking the affected nipple in epsom-salt is supposed to help soften the overgrown skin and end blister. However, I was hesitant about this because it has a warning on it about consulting your doctor if you’re breastfeeding or so.
In the end, I soaked the affected breast in a bowl of hot water (as hot as I could bear it) and tried to rub the blister with the edge of a towel in order to clear the skin. I even tried to use my finger nail, but my attempts were unsuccessful. I hated the pain, but kept feeding and hoping.
I was (and still am) surprised at how slow and inconsistent I was in trying out what could have helped me get rid of the blister. It was helpful to know that it was milk and not pus in it; one less worry about the blister bursting whilst Precious Sparkle breastfed.
2 weeks after it appeared, it burst and the pain stopped. I just noticed that our feed wasn’t painful anymore, and when I looked, I saw that the trapped milk drop was gone. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt.
In the last week, I’ve sometimes found myself surprised that the clear cream coloured bob isn’t there anymore, and it looks and feels normal again. I suppose pain becomes the norm sometimes, and we get used to it.
I wonder who came up with the name, bleb; it sounds horrible, doesn’t it.
I am so thankful this unwelcome bleb has gone and I sure do hope it doesn’t ever return again!
What’s one of the worst physical pains you’ve had in your life and what did you do to make it stop?