Your Amazing Montgomery Glands

I’m tandem nursing my toddler and my infant. Currently, my toddler has some sort of virus. I’m nursing him more frequently to help hydrate him and sometimes that means popping one kid off the breast and immediately popping another kid on the same breast.

labeled breast glands and ducts

This diagram points out the various glands and features of the nipple. Image Source.

My husband noticed me doing this the other day and was horrified. “It’s like they’re sharing a sippy cup,” he shouted. He thought I should be washing my breast in between each nursling, regardless of illness.

I can tell you right now that such a thing has never, ever occurred to me. I touched base with a lactation consultant to check my level of uncleanliness, and she said two words: Montgomery glands.

Do you know about these? The Montgomery glands are the bumpy bits on your areola. Their job is to secrete a substance that has multiple benefits.

Studies have shown that the secretions help newborns establish hunger and feeding patterns, that the smell of a baby’s mother’s Montgomery gland secretions affect milk transfer and production and early attachment/bonding.

The glands’ oily substance also helps to protect and lubricate the nipple, keeping the skin pliable and helping to keep things comfortable for mom when she’s embarking on a nursing marathon. According to the text Counseling the Nursing Mother, it’s not a good idea to wash the breast because the Montgomery gland secretion is so important. Washing, “may remove this natural lubrication, dry out the breast skin, and reduce the scent” that babies need to stimulate appetite.

The studies also suggested that the secretions can help wake up a sleepy baby during the day and help a baby fall asleep at night. Pretty important stuff for tired families looking to tank up their baby while the sun shines.

So, in the interest of keeping my Montgomery gland secretions, I will happily continue to not wash my breast multiple times per day when my toddler nurses.

What features of the breast anatomy do you find most interesting? Leave us a comment to share!

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