Everything moms should know about Montgomery's tubercles

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Have you noticed tiny, goosebumps around your nipples? These are called Montgomery's tubercles and they have a crucial role to play in your breastfeeding baby's health.

Many things about your body change when you are pregnant. Next to your rapidly swelling belly, the next in line for these big changes are your breasts. They’ll become bigger, denser, more sensitive. Your nipples will also become bigger, darker in color and even change shape. But one of the more subtle changes that not many pregnant moms are aware of is the appearance of Montgomerys tubercles.

What are these tiny bumps that appear on your areolas? Do they have a function? Let’s find out.

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This is what Montgomery’s tubercles look like. Image credit: HealthMaza screengrab

Montgomerys tubercles: What every mom should know

What are Montgomery’s tubercles?

In the dark area of your nipple — known as the areola — lie tiny sebaceous (oil) glands. They appear as small bumps that you may or may not notice before pregnancy. These are known as Montgomerys tubercles (or areolar glands).

In pregnancy, typically these glands will become larger and raised, almost like tiny pimples or goosebumps. Just like each woman has unique breast, nipple and areola shape and size, Montgomerys tubercles also differ in size and quantity from person to person.

Pregnant women might notice anywhere between just two, to 28 or more tubercles per areola.

What is the function of Montgomery’s tubercles?

Similar to the way oil glands on the rest of your body function to keep skin lubricated and hydrated, Montgomerys tubercles too work in the same way.

When you are breastfeeding in particular, they produce secretions rich in lipids that lubricate your nipples. Importantly, this secretion functions as a barrier against infection, protecting both your breast milk and your baby.  

What’s more, the secretion produced by Montgomerys tubercles also releases a scent that helps guide your newborn to your nipples. This is why it’s important that breastfeeding moms do not use soap to wash their nipples. By doing this, you risk washing off this important, germ-fighting barrier.

You should also avoid applying any disinfectants or other substances on your nipples. Cleaning them with water is more than enough. Else, you can just rub a few drops of your breast milk on your nipples and let it dry.

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In breastfeeding, Montgomerys tubercles play an important protective role. Image: File photo

Why do Montgomerys tubercles enlarge in pregnancy?

In pregnancy, your body releases many hormones. Among these are those that cause changes in your breasts, preparing them for lactation and breastfeeding.

As part of these changes in your breasts, Montgomery’s tubercles too will change, becoming more prominent and raised. There is rarely pain associated with this, but, you might find that your areolas are more sensitive than ever.

Signs of infection in Montgomery’s tubercles

It is possible for these glands to get blocked, infected or inflamed. Keep an eye out for:

  • painful swelling around your nipples
  • redness
  • extremely enlarged Montgomerys tubercles
  • itching
  • bleeding

If you notice any of these signs, or anything unusual at all in your breasts, you should see a doctor without delay.

Will my Montgomery’s tubercles ever go away?

Yes, they will, usually once you are done with breastfeeding. They are a completely normal part of healthy breast anatomy and indicate your breasts are functioning properly.

Some women do have prominent Montgomery’s tubercles without being pregnant or breastfeeding. If this is the case and you are bothered by them, then you may talk to a doctor about removing them surgically.

But, if you’d rather turn to home remedies to reduce their size and appearance, try these:

  • Soak a small towel in warm water and press it against your nipples every night for around 20 minutes.
  • Apply shea butter or aloe vera gel around your nipples.
  • Drink plenty of water each day.
  • Reduce your intake of sugar and salt that could contribute to the enlarging of the tubercles.

We hope you found this article on Montgomerys tubercles useful and informative.

Also read: Common breastfeeding questions answered

References: Health, VeryWell Family

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