Nursing blisters as they are typically known is common in babies who are exclusively breastfeeding, but they can also happen to bottle-fed babies. They mostly show up in a baby’s first few months after birth.
Studies show that some babies are certainly born with nursing blisters because they sucked their thumb in the womb. A lot of the time, the blisters are harmless and will go away quickly on their own as they pose no harm to your baby, and the overgrowth of the skin is known to harden the lip and makes grasping of the nipple easier, but other mouth infections such as Thrush do not go away on their own and should be treated as soon as they appear, to avoid an endless back and forth transmission from baby to the nipple and vice versa.
Have you ever tried on a pair of shoes that you knew all too well were a small fit, but you still went ahead and paid for them anyway? Yes, that was me months before my baby’s debut, and the blisters that pair left on my toes will not be forgotten soonest. The memory is still so fresh in my mind so much so that when my baby arrived, and shortly after developed blisters on her lip, I could only imagine what she felt at the time, and as a parent, I felt horrible. I had failed her and the guilt was intolerable. But as I later learned, and will share with you in this article, these blisters are a familiar sight in the early days after birth when babies are sucking 3 or more hours.
What does a nursing blister look like?
Lip blisters in babies usually appear on your baby’s upper lip, but can also appear on the bottom lip too, and unless the mouth is open, they may not be so noticeable. Do they hurt? Not at all.
Experts say that because the toughened coat formed from the blisters may help with easier latching, your baby might even end up being a more affluent feeder.
Look out for signs such as:
- A single blister bash in the middle of their upper lip.
- A single peeling of their lip just like you get when your lips are chapped.
- A slight swelling on your baby’s upper lip. Usually not easily visible.
What causes blisters on your baby’s lip?
Your tiny human might develop blisters for several reasons associated with breastfeeding. The repetitive sucking movement which newborns can do for hours a day can cause these blisters on your baby’s upper lip.
These nursing blisters are common but that doesn’t mean that they are normal. They could be a tale-tell sign of latching problems. Other causes of blisters on your baby’s lip include
Preterm babies have all their body parts in place and functioning well but feeding is their biggest challenge because they aren’t meant to be eating by mouth just yet. Typically, their brains aren’t ready to keep up with a healthy eating pattern. They would rather be sleeping which is tremendous as their brain grows as they sleep but they still need to feed.
Because they have missed the last weeks of pregnancy which are meant for fattening them up, they do not have well-developed fat in their mouth. The fat pads are meant to support the tongue to make sucking manageable. Without the suck pads, pre-term babies use any available muscle to uphold a latch hence the suck blisters.
If the movement of the tongue, lips, and/ or cheeks are restricted, your baby is going to recruit structures and muscles around the mouth to help get the job done. Naturally, the lips will be called upon to do more work to hang on to the breast or even the bottle which is called compensation.
While cold sores are common in older children, they are not common in babies who are yet to be exposed to the world. The virus can be passed to your baby if they come into contact with someone contaminated. That is why it is understandably ok to discourage people from kissing your baby on the face and hands.
Cold sores on babies’ lips will likely heal on their own within 1 or 2 weeks, though sometimes they can lead to unwelcome health complications. It won’t hurt to double-check with your child’s doctor.
Newborns can become dehydrated if they do not get enough milk. Especially on very hot days, babies may require additional feeds to prevent dehydration. Newborns tend to produce 4 or more diapers in 24 hours but the number is likely to reduce after 6 weeks. Other signs of dehydration in babies to look out for include
- Cold and blotchy hands or feet
- Sunken soft spot on a baby’s head ( Fontanel)
- Crying with no tears
- Sunken eyes
- Dry skin
- A fast heartbeat
Cranial nerve distinction
When babies are born, a lot of pressure is put on their head and neck which is normal as is the only way they can successfully go through the birth canal, and as a result, it can put a lot of pressure on the baby’s body. Proper nerve function is what allows the muscles to do their job.
If a nerve involved in sucking is temporarily strained, certain muscles on the tongue and cheek can not function properly which can lead to compensation with the lip.
Babies tend to hold on to the breasts or better yet the nipple with their gums and lips if their tongue and cheeks are not keeping up to their end of the deal. A deep latch helps the breasts sit further back in the mouth so the tongue can do the majority of the work.
This is when the lower lip touches the breast before the upper lip. This can help the baby get more milk in a shorter period and can decrease nipple pain for you too. It is typically the easiest to fix.
Tips to establish a good latch
With a deep latch and a good portion of breast further back in your baby’s mouth, their tongue can do most of the milking actions and not their lip. These additional tips will prevent more blisters from forming
- When your baby’s mouth is wide open and their chin is down as well as their tongue lowered, you can ease the breast into the mouth aiming the nipple towards the nose.
- To aid them to open their mouth widely while latching, tickle their lip with the nipple. This could take a few tries as they are still learning.
- Try as much as possible to get a good part of your lower areola into their mouth.
How to get rid of a blister on baby’s lip
As the blister on your baby’s lip is not a medical condition, here are a few tips that may help heal it and ease your worries.
- Breast milk. Your breast milk is the healthiest bet for your baby. It is loaded with thousands of nutrients, vitamins, and fats primed to nurture and heal like palmitic acid which is a super moisturizer. Rub a few drops of milk on your baby’s lips to help lower the risk of infection as well as to moisturize and soothe the skin around the lips
- Lanolin cream. This is essential for most breastfeeding mothers and you may be already using it to treat your nipples. A slight dub of it on your baby’s lip can help treat a blister.
- Natural oils. Use a few drops of coconut oil or olive oil on your munchkin’s lip as an effective moisturizer.
- Cleanliness. If the blister breaks, the area will leak a colorless fluid for a few days. Wash the area with soap and water every day or as advanced by your child’s doctor.
When to call the pediatrician
Call your healthcare provider if the blister on your baby’s mouth is accompanied by any of the following
- A blister that doesn’t go away within 14 days.
- Signs of infection around the blister-like pus or swelling.
- Extreme dehydration like little urine, dizziness, or dry mouth.
- Trouble swallowing.
- More mouth pain.
- Fever. The repeated temperature of 104°C (40°C) or higher.
- A seizure caused by the fever.
Most blisters need little treatment. They often dry up and disappear in a few days after the cause is addressed. All open blisters should be bandaged to prevent infection, while blisters from insect bites or drug reactions may be more serious and should be looked at by a healthcare provider.
If you ever thought that having babies is all kisses and cuddles, now you know it is all relative. Your little girl may be plugging away so hard she blisters her lip. And now that we have helped you solve another child reading mystery, we at 1happykiddo love hearing from you. Let us know in the comments section below how you beat the lip blister challenge and also feel free to have your well-deserved break devoid of worries.