Most of us are aware our breasts are made for feeding babies.
But you could have heard discussions about milk duct in armpit while breastfeeding, and you might have questions.
Before pregnancy, we don’t think of our breasts as much more than a part of our bodies.
Yet our bodies go through incredible changes during puberty and pregnancy to prepare our breasts for breastfeeding.
Some of these changes are well known. Others can be surprising, or even totally unexpected.
As these changes take place, some people might notice breast tissue in unexpected places.
You might wonder whether it’s normal to have breast tissue under your arm, and if it’s possible to have a milk duct in armpit while breastfeeding.
7 FAQs about milk duct in armpit while breastfeeding
#1. Why do I have breast tissue in my armpit?
Although it might seem strange, it’s normal for the breast to have tissue that extends into your armpit.
At 6 weeks gestation, when you were a tiny embryo in your mother’s womb, milk lines began to develop, starting from your underarms.
These lines travelled down both sides of your torso and extended all the way to your groin.
From 16 weeks gestation, the ‘tails’ at both ends of these lines started to regress.
In some fetuses, though, the line doesn’t fully regress at either end, and leaves the ‘tail’.
Tissue that extends into the armpit is called axillary tissue or ‘the tail of Spence’.
An anonymous Twitter user coined the term (and clever rhyming word) ‘pitties’.
In a since deleted post, this mother shared a picture showing the engorgement of breast tissue under each arm after she gave birth to her baby.
#2. Do I have milk ducts in my armpit?
During pregnancy, the level of hormones that help your body make milk is 10-20 times higher than it was before pregnancy.
This cocktail of progesterone, estrogen and prolactin triggers your milk ducts to expand quite extensively.
The ducts begin to branch out within the breasts. They can stretch to reach any ‘tails’ of breast tissue along the milk line.
If there’s extra breast tissue in your armpit, it’s possible there’ll be milk ducts too.
Axillary breast tissue might become more obvious during pregnancy or after your baby has been born.
So yes, a milk duct in armpit while breastfeeding is absolutely possible!
#3. How do I get rid of excess breast tissue in my armpit?
Axillary breast tissue is normal and occurs in around 6% of the population.
This means there’s no medical reason to get rid of excess breast tissue in the armpit.
For some people, the extra tissue can cause pain or embarrassment.
For comfort, or for aesthetic reasons, the tissue can be surgically removed. Removal is usually performed by surgical incision, liposuction, or a combination of the two.
#4. Can ‘pitties’ go away naturally?
Just like regular breast tissue, axillary breast tissue is made up of fibrous and fatty tissues.
If you’re overweight, a healthy diet and regular exercise will affect the amount of fat that’s stored in the body.
Just as a healthy diet and regular exercise won’t cause your breasts to disappear completely, neither will they get rid of excess breast tissue under your arm.
Losing weight, however, might be enough to the alter the appearance or reduce the discomfort of the axillary tissue.
If your ‘pitties’ have grown substantially because of pregnancy or breastfeeding, they’ll eventually return to their pre-pregnancy state, just as your breasts will.
#5. Can breastfeeding cause armpit pain?
A common cause of pain from breastfeeding is engorgement. This is when the milk ducts become overfilled with milk and there is build up.
Sometimes a milk duct in armpit while breastfeeding can become engorged, causing pain in the armpit.
Engorgement is common while breastfeeding is getting established. If this is the case, it will usually go away on its own, once your milk supply has settled.
Pain relief for engorgement in the underarm is treated in the same way as engorgement in the breast. Use cold compresses and breastfeed your baby frequently.
For more tips on relieving engorgement you can read BellyBelly’s article Engorgement – Relief for Breast Engorgement.
#6. Can breast milk cause armpit lumps?
Lumps in the breast are common while breastfeeding. Because breast tissue can extend to the armpit, it’s also possible to get lumps in the armpit, for the same reason.
Lumps often occur in mothers with very young babies. They usually happen because of engorgement, if the baby isn’t removing milk from the breast efficiently.
Most early engorgement resolved itself within 24-48 hours of your milk coming in.
An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is an expert in the field of breastfeeding.
If you’re experiencing difficulties with your baby latching and effectively removing milk, an IBCLC can give you guidance to help get breastfeeding off to the best start.
#7. How do I get rid of armpit lumps from breastfeeding?
Just like breast lumps from breastfeeding, lumps in the armpit should be relatively easy to treat.
Effective ways to smooth out clogged milk ducts in armpit while breastfeeding include:
- Warm compresses
- Massage, towards the nipple
- Warms baths and showers
- Frequent milk removal (breastfeeding or pumping).
If there’s a more persistent lump that doesn’t change in size or shape with any of these methods, you should schedule a check-up with your doctor.
In rarer cases, a lump in the breast or armpit might indicate something more serious, like breast cancer.
To rule this out, your doctor might perform an ultrasound, mammogram, CT scan, MRI scan, or needle biopsy on the lump.
The good news is none of these procedures should interrupt breastfeeding.
Milk duct in armpit while breastfeeding
Motherhood is a weird and wonderful adventure. Consider the number of radical changes your body has experienced since you started your pregnancy and breastfeeding journey.
By comparison, a little extra breast tissue isn’t usually a big problem.
If you are a mother who has noticed milk duct in armpit while breastfeeding, don’t worry.
It’s normal, and much more common than you would think.