The Montgomery Glands

Information, Care, and Removal of Areolar Glands

A newborn and his mother at maternity ward
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The Montgomery glands or Montgomery tubercles are small glands around the nipples on the areola. They are typically not noticeable until a woman becomes pregnant. During pregnancy, as the breasts grow to prepare for breastfeeding, the Montgomery glands also get larger. They begin to erupt and may look like pimples on the nipple and areola.

The Number of Montgomery Glands

The number of visible bumps on the areola is different for each woman.

Each areola can have anywhere from 0 to approximately 40 tubercles with an average of about 10 to 15 on each side. There are more in the upper outer part of the areola, and the size of the areola doesn't affect the number of glands there are. 

What the Montgomery Glands Do

The Montgomery glands are a combination of milk glands and sebaceous glands. They can release a small amount of breast milk, but they mostly produce a natural, oily substance that cleans and lubricates the nipple and areola. This oily substance contains antibacterial properties. It helps to protect the breasts from infection by preventing the growth of microorganisms and germs.

Breastfeeding and the Montgomery Glands

The areolar glands are believed to play an important role in getting breastfeeding off to a good start, attachment, and bonding. They give off a scent that can help the newborn find the nipple and encourage the baby to latch on and breastfeed immediately after birth.

Studies show that the babies of women with more areolar glands find the breast and begin breastfeeding faster than those with fewer areola glands. More Montgomery glands are also associated with better newborn growth.

How to Care for Your Montgomery Glands

Since the Montgomery glands provide a natural moisturizer for your nipples, you don't need to use lanolin or any other nipple cream to moisturize your nipples.

Additionally, when caring for your nursing breast, be careful about the soaps and other products that you use. Harsh, antibacterial soaps can wash away or interfere with this natural protection. Here are some tips for caring for your Montgomery glands. 

  • As long as your nipples and areola are soft and healthy, leave the Montgomery glands alone. If you have any concerns about how they look, ask your doctor to examine your breasts.
  • Even though these glands may look like pimples on your breast, they are not pimples. You shouldn't try to pop them.
  • Do not treat them with acne medication, either. Not only can acne medication dry out your areola, but many acne treatments are dangerous. You should avoid them while you're pregnant and breastfeeding
  • Wash your breasts with warm water and avoid soaps that can wash away the protective substance secreted by your Montgomery glands.
  • Do not use nipple creams, lotions, or ointments on your breasts to try to prevent nipple problems. Nipple creams and moisturizers are not usually necessary unless you have very sore, cracked nipples, or an infection. Some nipple creams can even make the problems worse. If you have a breast or nipple issue, talk to your healthcare provider before trying to treat the problem on your own.

    Infection and the Montgomery Glands

    Even though the Montgomery glands help to kill germs and keep the areola clean, they cannot completely prevent breast problems. It is still possible for the areolar glands to become irritated and infected. And, there's a greater chance for an issue if your nipples and areola become cracked and damaged. 

    It is important to check your breasts regularly. When you know what's normal, it will be easier to recognize when something looks different. For example, you can expect raised Montgomery glands during pregnancy and breastfeeding. But, if you notice that they become red, swollen (larger than they were), and painful, or you get a fever, you should contact your doctor for an examination and treatment.

     

    Removing Montgomery Glands

    Montgomery glands are a healthy part of your breast anatomy. Once your baby is born, and breastfeeding has ended, those little bumps may shrink back down on their own. However, if they don't go away or you have concerns about them, you can talk to your doctor. It's probably not necessary, but it is possible to have a minor surgical procedure to remove large areolar glands. The removal of a few glands doesn't affect your breast tissue or milk ducts, so it will not interfere with your ability to make breast milk or breastfeed if you decide to have another child. 

    Sources:

    Doucet, S., Soussignan, R., Sagot, P., & Schaal, B. The secretion of areolar (Montgomery's) glands from lactating women elicits selective, unconditional responses in neonates. PLoS One. 2009; 4(10): e7579.

    Doucet S, Soussignan R, Sagot P, Schaal B. The “smellscape” of mother's breast: effects of odor masking and selective unmasking on neonatal arousal, oral, and visual responses. Developmental Psychobiology. 2007 Mar 1;49(2):129-38.

    Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD.  Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

    Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

     

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