Most of us are used to seeing blisters on our feet. These are most likely caused by ill-fitting shoes and go away within a week. While they are no cause for concern in adults, mothers do tend to get quite alarmed when a blister forms on a baby’s lip. These bumps and marks may look a little scary on a fragile baby but be assured that they are completely normal and the same as any other blister, nothing to worry about.
Why do babies get blisters?
Blisters are a normal side effect of feeding. Babies use a strong sucking action in order to feed. This sucking reflex starts in the womb. Once the baby is born and they start to feed on the mother’s breast, there is a lot of friction that occurs. The way they latch on to the breast plays a major role in the occurrence of blisters, both on the mother’s breast and the baby’s lip. Most lip blisters in babies are caused by vigorous sucking on the breast. They are usually seen as inflamed or swollen lips.
While lip blisters are common in breastfed babies, bottle-fed babies can also get them. These blisters go by various names, and maybe known as suck blisters, friction blisters or suck callouses. Babies do not get bothered by these lip blisters but they may be a sign of latch problems and difficulty. These are more common in newborn children.
Spotting lip blisters
Lip blisters are easy to spot. They may look like a slight swelling on your baby’s upper lip. Or a little peeling of the skin on the lips, sort of like when your lips get chapped. Or they may look like a single blister smack in the middle of their upper lip. In rare cases, rows of blisters may be noticed. These rows can appear on both the baby’s top and bottom lip, and they may not be so noticeable unless their lips are open.
Lip blisters usually appear in the early days after birth, when babies are sucking every three hours or more; or if they are used to breastfeeding when the switch to the bottle happens. Whichever the case, they usually go away on their own.
Should you be worried about lip blisters?
Lip blisters are no cause for concern. Lip blisters may even help make your baby a more efficient feeder because the toughened skin may make it easier for them to latch on. Blisters that don’t disappear could be a sign of a latching issue. If the baby doesn’t latch on correctly, they may compensate by using their lips to hold on to the breast or the feeding bottle nipple. That may lead to persistent blisters.
Factors contributing to blisters
There are several factors that could make it hard for your baby to latch on well. If the baby is tongue-tied, they won’t be able to raise their tongue sufficiently to cover the lower gumline and work against the breast or the nipple. If your baby is lip-tied, their lip won’t have the range of movement necessary to get the breast or nipple far enough into their mouth. Either way, your baby will grasp your breast or nipple with their gums and lips. This may result in a long-term sucking blister.
If your bottle-fed baby is developing suck blisters, their latch can be addressed. Take the feeding position into consideration. Make sure the baby is able to take the bottle nipple fully into their mouth and isn’t straining to hold on to it with their lips. Experiment with paced feeding to allow for a comfortable suck speed. Check that the nipple size is appropriate for the baby’s age and development. Like everything else with a baby, they are learning every day and there will be new developments. Watch out for these and do not force them to take a nipple further into their mouth when they are not ready for it yet.
The difference between cold sores and blisters
Cold sores may look like blisters. While cold sores are common in adults and older kids, they’re not that common in babies who haven’t been exposed to the world yet. But they can be passed to your baby if someone with the virus comes in contact with them.
Cold sores look a lot like blisters and can be easily mistaken for a common lip blister. This makes it more difficult for you to decide if a lip blister is just that or if it is going to pose greater health problems. Cold sores are usually smaller than lip blisters. If you do spot a cold sore on your baby’s lips, it’ll most likely heal on its own within 1 or 2 weeks. Sometimes, though, cold sores in babies can lead to unpleasant health complications. Cold sores are usually easy to distinguish from suck blisters and it is recommended that a doctor be consulted if these are noticed.
Tips to cure a blister
There are various ways to speed up the healing process when blisters are noticed on a baby’s lips. Breast milk has hundreds to thousands of nutrients, fats, and vitamins primed to nurture and heal. For example, immunoglobulin A is a blood protein that contains bacteria to fight off infection, and palmitic acid is a super moisturizer. It is a good practice to dab a few drops of breast milk onto your baby’s lips to lower the risk of infection as well as to soothe and moisturize them.
Natural oils will also help with blisters. Rub a few drops of olive oil or coconut oil onto your baby’s lips for an effective moisturizer. Lanolin cream may be lying around the house as a new mother may already be using them on her nipples. A slight smear on your baby’s lips can help treat a lip blister, too.
While they are no cause for concern and may go away quickly, with the above steps to speed up healing, some blisters are cause for concern and you may want to get in touch with your doctor if any of the following are noticed: fever, redness or swelling, fluid leaking from the blister, pain or discomfort to the baby, the blister growing big or blisters developing more often. A doctor may be able to give the right advice and treatment for persistent blisters.
Your pediatrician will be able to point out the cause of the blister if it is persistent and also provide you with help regarding latching control. Rest assured that lip blisters are a common problem in the initial stages of introducing the bottle, and can be remedied by making sure that the right products are used, along with some care about how the baby uses the bottle. Keeping an eye on your baby’s latching process will help rectify this concern.