Question: My first baby was born three days ago. My milk has come in and breastfeeding is going well. My nipples are tender but not sore, and my breasts are full but not engorged.
However, today I noticed something strange and I’m worried.
I have what looks like a little nipple underneath my left breast. It’s been there since I was a little girl, and I thought it was just a mole. Now it’s gotten larger and a bit tender, and I’m wondering – is it possible to have an extra nipple?
Answer: It’s estimated that as many as 40% of babies, both male and females, are born with an extra (‘supernumary’) nipple. This third nipple is located along the ‘milk lines’, and is actually more common in men than in women.
‘Milk lines’ are ridges that develop in all mammals when they are embryos. They run up and down both sides of the body, from the armpit to the groin, much like the nipples of a mama dog who is nursing a litter of puppies.
These nipples are usually visible at birth, but are usually so small and underdeveloped that they look like moles or freckles.
Female babies are sometimes born with extra breast tissue as well, most often under the armpit where extra mammary glands are located. The extra nipple or tissue is much smaller and less developed than that of the breasts, and rarely interferes with breastfeeding.
This extra, or ‘accessory’ tissue not connected to the breasts, and in most cases doesn’t produce breast milk, but it is possible to have some swelling and leaking when the milk ‘comes in’.
Many mothers don’t know they have an extra nipple until after they become pregnant or give birth and see changes due to hormones, like darkening of the areola, swelling, or discharge. If swelling or engorgement does occur, it’s usually mild and disappears after the milk comes in and breastfeeding is established.
Some women choose to have the extra breast tissue or nipple removed surgically, but this is rarely a medical necessity, but rather a matter of cosmetics.
Interesting side note: there are some celebrities like Mark Walhberg, Harry Styles, and Carrie Underwood who are members of “The Triple Nipple Club”. :-)
Anne Smith, IBCLC