For breastfeeding mothers, most breast changes are completely normal and due to the hormonal changes related to pregnancy and the postpartum period.
During pregnancy, you might have noticed that your breasts increased in size and your nipples and the colored area surrounding them (the areola) became larger and darker in color.
One cause for concern for breastfeeding mothers is the change in the skin surface of the nipple, or what seems to look like pimples on nipples.
If you’re a breastfeeding mother, read on to find out what might be the causes of bumps on your nipples.
Help! Why do I have pimples on my nipples?
Just like other areas of the body, your nipples contain sebaceous glands. These oil glands secrete a substance called sebum that helps prevent dry and flaky skin.
The amount of oil produced by the sebaceous glands changes with hormonal fluctuations.
Sometimes, sebaceous glands can get blocked. Contrary to popular belief, blocked sebaceous glands are not usually caused by dirt or poor hygiene.
The most common cause of clogged sebaceous glands is overactivity – that is, producing extra sebum during times of hormonal fluctuations, such as pregnancy and lactation.
There is also an element of genetic predisposition that influences the function and activity of the sebaceous glands.
Are pimples on nipples normal for breastfeeding mothers?
Nipple bumps are common in the general population, as well as in breastfeeding mothers.
Even if you have never experienced pimples on your nipples previously, it’s common to experience them, or other acne breakouts, for the first time in the postpartum period.
Just like many changes that happen in your body during pregnancy and afterward, hormonal changes are the main cause.
For more information about breast changes in pregnancy, you can read BellyBelly’s article Breast Changes During Pregnancy | 7 Critical Changes.
What do nipple pimples look like?
Pimples on the nipples can take different forms. Here are some of the most common:
- Papules – colored bumps that don’t contain any visible filling
- Blackheads – blocked glands or dead skin cells that are small and dark brown or black in color
- Whiteheads – blocked glands that might appear as small white dots
- Pustules – red, inflamed bumps that have white spots in the center
- Breast acne – small red bumps that can also appear as blackheads, whiteheads or pustules and cover a larger area on the breast
- Subareolar abscesses – painful bumps in the area surrounding the nipple. Subareolar abscesses require medical treatment, in the form or antibiotics or surgical drainage.
What are Montgomery glands?
Montgomery glands are a type of sebaceous gland; they appear on the areola surrounding the nipple.
These small, skin colored bumps are usually most noticeable during times of hormonal changes, such as puberty, pregnancy and lactation.
As the size of the breasts and nipples increase during pregnancy and lactation, so do the size of the Montgomery glands.
Montgomery glands have benefits for breastfeeding. Some of these are:
- Emitting a scent that helps newborn babies locate the breast
- Keeping the skin of the nipple moist and supply, preventing cracks or damage
- Preventing yeast infections that could cause nipple or breast thrush.
For more information about Montgomery glands, you can read BellyBelly’s article Montgomery Glands – 7 Interesting Facts To Know.
How do I tell if I have ingrown hairs?
An ingrown hair is a strand of hair that grows back into the skin. It’s possible to have ingrown hair near your nipple, as there are hair follicles that surround the areola.
Using a warm compress can help to bring out an ingrown hair.
Sometimes an ingrown hair can cause an infection around the hair follicle. This is called folliculitis. If you have very painful bumps on your nipples, it could be due to ingrown hairs or folliculitis.
The best course of action for an infection is to see your healthcare provider for treatment options.
Should I squeeze or pop nipple pimples?
No matter what the cause of bumps on your nipples is, squeezing or popping them at home is never recommended.
Squeezing or popping a pimple or ingrown hair in a non-sterile environment increases the risk of other complications, such as pain or discomfort, inflammation and even infection.
For breastfeeding mothers, it is especially important to prevent any of these from occurring, as pain, inflammation or infection anywhere on the breast could potentially lead to problems with breastfeeding.
Although you might be concerned about the appearance of pimples on your nipples, any painless bumps should be left alone to resolve on their own.
Can nipple bumps be a sign of cancer?
Pimples on nipples are not a sign of cancer; however, there is a very small chance that any skin condition on the nipple or breast skin could be mistaken for pimples when there is a more serious cause.
In extremely rare cases, skin irritation or rashes in the breast area can be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer.
According to BreastCancer.Org other symptoms possibly associated with inflammatory breast cancer are:
- Discoloration of breast skin, which makes the breast appear pink, red, or bruised
- Dimpling of the skin of the breast
- Welts, hives, or other skin conditions on the breast
- Unusual warmth in the breast
- Tenderness, pain, aching or burning sensation in the breast.
Remember, inflammatory breast cancer is considered rare, so it’s unlikely that pimples on your nipples are a sign that you could have this disease.
The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer can be similar to some of the symptoms of mastitis, however, so it’s important for breastfeeding mothers to seek medical advice if they have any concerns.
For more information about mastitis, you can read BellyBelly’s article Mastitis | Breastfeeding, Symptoms and Treatment.