How to Unclog Nipple Pores

I can’t believe I just typed that title. But yes, as a mother who has breastfed three babies, I shouldn’t be surprised. Dignity is just about the last thing that I should expect anymore, with children.

When you are breastfeeding, your lady parts take on a life of their own. They do so many things without consulting us, without having to be trained to do so. Unsurprisingly, due to our lack of knowledge (and the lack of knowledge generally about breastfeeding available or communicated in society), we are left sort of clueless about how to take care of our own bodies.

Breastfeeding presents many challenges that we didn’t think about when we went through the process of getting pregnant. Feeding the baby was an afterthought, secondary to the process and work of growing her, and then delivering her safely. Sure….we might have ready books or visited with the lactation consultant. But there is nothing like putting that baby to you for the first time.

Breastfeeding is hard on the body

From dry, cracked, bleeding nipples to potentially life endangering infections (mastitis is no joke), breastfeeding is not for the faint of heart. It used to be that you covered everything up, and no one ever got to see anything. (It was taboo!) After baby, you find yourself with a breast out in public multiple times a day, while you feed yourself, brush your teeth, read a book, talk with friends.

Oh the things we never knew we’d do.

And now….

This is where we come to the topic of the day….clogged nipple pores.

What are nipple pores?

Nipple pores are the opening of the nipple ducts that lead to the milk changes where the breast milk is stored. (source)

These nipple pores and ducts can often get clogged or blocked with milk. This is also called milk blisters, blebs, and plugged milk ducts. This may look like a pimple on the nipple.

There are several effective ways to unclog these ducts. The first, which I generally recommend given my experience, is to nurse your baby. Yes, just keep nursing your baby a lot. The more you nurse, the more milk will get pulled through there and it is pretty likely to pull any clogs free without you having to do anything else.

You can also soak in warm water to try and loosen the plug, massage the area gently with a washcloth, or even try pumping with your breastpump.

If you are in a lot of pain, or you are finding that breastfeeding as a whole is excruciatingly painful, you should probably contact your doctor for a consult.

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Causes of plugged ducts

Sometimes they happen even when you do everything right. But we can do what we can to avoid them, which includes:

  • nursing your baby regularly, and a lot
  • checking to make sure that your baby’s latch is good
  • wearing loose fitting clothing (as tight shirts and bras can cause them)
  • removing milk from the breast regularly
  • getting checked out for thrush if you can’t seem to get over the plugged duct situation

I didn’t mean ON the nipple. I meant AROUND the nipple.

I think that there are some people who are reading this article who aren’t breastfeeding moms. Part of this is because people use the same words to refer to different parts of the nipple/areola.

There are also bumps on the nipple (and surrounding areola) that are often confused with nipple pores. These are called Montgomery glands, which are sebaceaous glands and milk glands that surround the nipple. They can release small amounts of milk, but mostly produce an oily substance that cleans and lubricates the nipple and areola.

Side benefit-this oily substance has antibacterial properties. (who knew)

These glands can become blocked, or infected. This is the truth for women who are breastfeeding and women who are not.

Just like other pores on your face and body, there are times when the secretion from these pores looks a lot like what you might squeeze from a pimple.

In general, you shouldn’t treat Montgomery glands like zits. Squeezing them (even if they look like they need to be emptied out) to unclog them isn’t recommended, as this could irritate the gland and cause an infection to develop.

Remember. They are not zits. Don’t try and pop them.

So I have something that looks like a pimple on my areola. Are you saying I should just leave it alone?

That’s what I am saying. Try and leave it alone rather than poking or pushing or squeezing it. Clean it regularly, try to avoid wearing confining clothing on it, and keeps your hands off. Your body has the ability to resolve the drama there, if you let it.

Now, if you are finding that the area doesn’t heal after a few days, and the swelling continues to increase or you are starting to see more of a rash, you might be suffering from some other ailment, and will want to see your doctor if it doesn’t resolve. (Could be thrush, which can happen to people who aren’t breastfeeding.)

nursing an adopted baby

What are some other causes of a pimple on the nipple?

There are some other reasons why you might develop something that looks like a pimple on your nipple area, such as:

  • ingrown hairs
  • actual acne
  • abscesses
  • cancer

If you’ve got painful, swollen bumps on your nipples that don’t resolve within a day or two, I’d contact your physician.

The reason that I recommend that you leave something that looks like a nipple pimple alone is that it should resolve itself on its own in a short amount of time. Something that does not resolve could be a sign of a more significant problem, and those signs are not the kind you should ignore.

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More articles you might want be interested in

We’ve got tons of content about breastfeeding, parenting, and kids here on our site. Feel free to explore some more to the archives for:

Wrap Up

Let me know if you still have questions about something you are observing in the comments section below.


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