‘Any other ladies have a 3rd nipple and it produces milk or am I the only odd one?’
This was Nat Douglas’s post in our closed breastfeeding support group that attracted hundreds of Iikes and comments.
She’s currently breastfeeding her newboren, who was a week old when this photo was taken. You may notice the yellowish tinge of her transitional milk!
Nat, mum to 4, knew her third nipple (also known as a ‘supernumerary’ or ‘accessory’ nipple) would leak milk, as this happened previously. Nearly 12 years ago, when her first son was born, her extra nipple started leaking as soon as her milk came in. Nat recalls the midwives being fascinated – none of them had ever seen a third nipple leak before.
Not only does it leak, but it seems to get hard and sore if Nat doesn’t drain it every now and then! And the draining has to happen manually, because it’s unfortunately a bit too small and awkwardly placed to latch a baby onto.
IBCLC Bel Moore from Fourth Trimester Parenting knows a thing or two about these extra nipples, and told us that ‘Breast development starts in the embryo at around week 3 to 5 with the beginning of a primitive milk streak running from the armpit to the groin, which then becomes the mammary milk ridge and eventually develops into two breasts while in utero. Accessory or supernumerary (extra) nipples are uncommon but can develop anywhere along this milk line. They are usually more prominent in pregnancy and lactation where they undergo growth and changes( just like normal breasts and nipples) due to hormones. Extra nipples, if accompanied with underlying mammary tissue can lactate, leak, get engorged, develop mastitis and undergo malignant changes. It’s best to speak with an IBCLC if you have any variations of normal to discuss how to avoid or overcome any complications.’
Another fascinating aspect of this learning experience for me has been the fact that Facebook seems perfectly ok with us sharing this photo, despite previously suspending our friend Kerryn’s account after she shared a link containing a photo of a nipple affected by vasospasms. But that’s a rant for a different day.