I remember, as a young woman getting acquainted with my body, inspecting my nipples and fretting over what appeared to be pimples. These whitish bumps across the areolas were worrisome to a slightly hypochondriacal teenager. As time went on, and Cinemax showed me other women's nipples, I realized they at least seemed to be normal.
It appears I was not the only woman with concerns. If you google Montgomery glands (the actual name for these bumps), you'll see a legion of questions, such as "Is it normal to have pimples on your nipples?" "What are the bumps on my areola?" and so on.
If you've ever been in the worried-about-your-nipples camp, let me share the knowledge I have gained and put you at ease.
Everyone has Montgomery glands
Montgomery glands are small bumps that surround the nipple on the areola. They're a combination of milk glands and sebaceous glands that are found on virtually every woman. How visible they are varies from body to body, but most women have an average of 10 to 15 glands per nipple.
These glands serve an important role in breastfeeding, so they grow larger throughout pregnancy. Some of the Montgomery glands produce a small amount of breast milk, but most of them secrete an oil-like substance that moisturizes the nipple. Most important, the secretion contains antibacterial properties that protect the nipples from germs and infections, such as mastitis. These little bumps serve a third purpose, too: They help with early breastfeeding, giving off a scent to the newborn that helps them locate the nipple and latch on properly.
Should you do anything about these little bumps?
The short answer is no. Leave them alone. While they look like blemishes and might not be the most aesthetically pleasing aspect of your breasts, they serve an incredibly important purpose. So don't touch them, don't try to pop them like a pimple (even though I know the temptation exists) and don't put any kind of medication on them. Acne medications can dry out the skin on your nipples and create the opportunity for infection.
If you think one of your glands looks a little red, irritated or larger than usual, it's possible the pore is clogged, but again, it's not really something to worry about. Try taking a hot shower or using a warm, damp towel to clear the clogged pore. However, don't mess with it too much—you don't want to risk infection or scarring by picking at it.
Montgomery glands are small bumps that surround the nipple on the areola. They're a combination of milk glands and sebaceous glands that are found on virtually every woman.
If you're breastfeeding, don't worry about the size of your glands. Your Montgomery glands will naturally increase in size to serve their evolutionary purpose. As time passes after breastfeeding, the glands will eventually shrink back to their usual size.
In rare cases, some women's glands don't shrink as expected. If that happens, and you're bothered by the appearance, surgical options are available. A cosmetic surgeon can remove the glands and sew the skin to create a smooth nipple. This surgery will not affect future breastfeeding as it doesn't touch any mammary glands.
If you're concerned about the state of your nipples or the size of your glands during or after breastfeeding, talk to your doctor to find solutions for your nipple woes and make sure your breasts are healthy.