What Are Montgomery's Tubercles?

These small bumps can make breastfeeding easier

Mother breastfeeding baby in living room

KidStock / Getty Images

Montgomery's tubercles are a type of sebaceous (oil) gland that are normal, pimple-like pores on the surface of the areola. Their primary function is to produce secretions that moisturize and protect the skin. Along with occasional, small amounts of milk, Montgomery's tubercles secrete a clear or cloudy oily substance that helps prevent infection.

They are named for an Irish obstetrician who first described them in medical literature in 1837 and extend from your areolar glands (also known as Montgomery glands) and are often most prominent during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

What to Look For

You'll find Montgomery's tubercles on the surface of your areola, the circular area of skin surrounding the nipple. These little bumps can be flesh-toned, pink, red, white, or yellowish in color, and are usually about 1 to 2 millimeters in diameter.

You can have a greater number of Montgomery's tubercles on one breast than the other. They may not be noticeable at all or quite prominent depending on certain factors, from temperature to hormonal fluctuations.

In the same way that areola size varies, some people have more Montgomery's tubercles than others. Typically, people have between four and 28 Montgomery's tubercles.

Causes of Enlargement

Montgomery's tubercles may become more prominent under certain conditions or during certain phases of life. Often, people become aware of their appearance when:

  • They are touched: Arousal or even pressure from clothing can cause these tiny bumps to swell.
  • When you are cold: A sudden drop in temperature can cause the areolar glands to become raised and more noticeable, like goosebumps on other parts of your body.
  • During puberty: Montgomery's tubercles may appear during puberty and certain phases of your menstrual cycle, as activity in areolar glands increases with the amount of estrogen in your body.
  • During pregnancy: Along with a darkening of your nipples and enlargement of your breasts, the appearance of Montgomery's tubercles is an early sign of pregnancy. These areola bumps become noticeable in 30% to 50% of pregnant people.

During Breastfeeding

Montgomery's tubercles serve their greatest purpose when feeding a baby. They secrete more oil after childbirth, which helps keep nipples moist and supple for easier breastfeeding. These secretions also contain antibacterial properties that can protect your breasts and your baby from certain infections.

The liquid that comes from Montgomery's tubercles may even promote feeding. Studies show that infants nurse more eagerly and ingest more milk when the areolar glands are secreting more fluid, suggesting that the oils include olfactory (scent) compounds that help encourage your baby to nurse.

Sometimes, Montgomery's tubercles become so enlarged that they look like fluid-filled pimples. You may be tempted to try to pop them, but don't: That can invite infection. To keep your nipples and areolas clean and comfortable during pregnancy and breastfeeding, try these tips:

  • Wash your breasts with clear water and a gentle cleanser, avoiding soaps and disinfectants that can dry and irritate the skin.
  • Do not use astringents to clean your nipples, since that can interfere with the production of oils from the areolar glands.
  • If the nipple and areolas are cracked and sore, apply modified lanolin in moderation to promote healing. Don't overuse any heavy ointments, since that can lead to plugged Montgomery's tubercles.
  • You can express a few drops of milk after breastfeeding and rub them into the nipple and areola for added moisture.
  • Breast shells can also help protect sore nipples in between breastfeeding sessions. Nipple shields, by contrast, provide protection during breastfeeding.

Signs of Infection

Even though they produce germ-fighting secretions, Montgomery's tubercles can themselves become clogged and infected. This usually happens when bacteria from your hands, ointments or toiletry products, clothing, or even your baby's mouth enters small breaks in the skin during breastfeeding.

Sometimes, these glands can become infected when you're not breastfeeding. Diabetes, smoking, or nipple piercings puts you at higher risk for subareolar abscesses, or infected lumps in the areolar glands. Less commonly, cysts of Montgomery may arise when these glands become clogged. Usually found in teens, cysts of Montgomery are often harmless and go away on their own, but may require treatment if infected.

You should always call your doctor if you suspect you have an infection in your areola. A doctor might prescribe antibiotics or, if you have an abscess, drain it with a sterile needle. Signs that you should seek treatment include:

  • A swollen, tender lump underneath the areola
  • A whitehead-like growth on a Montgomery's tubercle
  • Redness and itching
  • Brown or cloudy discharge from the Montgomery's tubercles or the nipple
  • Fever or a general feeling of being unwell

Sometimes, other sebaceous glands on the areola can become enlarged in a harmless condition called sebaceous hyperplasia. Whereas Montgomery's tubercles usually appear as uniform-sized bumps across the areola, sebaceous hyperplasia usually appears as a flat whitish patch.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get rid of Montgomery's tubercles?

You shouldn't get rid of them. The waxing and waning of these bumps as your hormones and the weather fluctuate is an indication of healthy breast functioning. However, if you have tenderness or discolored discharge, you could have a blocked gland or cyst, which a doctor can treat with antibiotics or drain with a sterile needle.

How soon do Montgomery's tubercles appear in pregnancy?

Look for their appearance during the first few weeks of pregnancy, as the breasts change to be able to produce milk for your baby.

What color is the liquid released from Montgomery's tubercles?

Secretions are usually clear or slightly cloudy. Brown or discolored discharge could be sign of an infection or cyst and warrants a call to your doctor.

A Word From Verywell

It's natural to worry about bumps on your breasts, especially if they suddenly become visible or seem to grow larger. But the appearance of Montgomery's tubercles is typically a sign of healthy breast functioning. It's perfectly normal for these bumps on your areola to wax and wane with the weather and hormonal fluctuations.

Most importantly, Montgomery's tubercles produce a fluid that benefits your breasts and your baby during breastfeeding. Keeping your areolae clean and reaching out to a doctor at the first signs of possible infection are ways to protect these important and hardworking glands.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Requena L, Sangüeza O. Ectopic sebaceous glands: fordyce’s spots, tyson’s glands, and montgomery’s tubercles. Cutaneous Adnexal Neoplasms. 2017:785-792. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-45704-8_62

  2. Frew JW, Murrell DF, Haber RM. Fifty shades of yellow: a review of the xanthodermatoses. Int J Dermatol. 2015;54(10):1109-1123. doi:10.1111/ijd.12945

  3. Almuhanna A, Almuhanna A, Alzuabi R, Alshamlan R, Almarhoon F. Cyst of Montgomery: An uncommon adolescent breast lumpJ Fam Community Med. 2020;27(2):138. doi:10.4103/jfcm.JFCM_288_19.

  4. Thappa D, Kumari R, Jaisankar T. A clinical study of skin changes in pregnancyIndian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2007;73(2):141. doi:10.4103/0378-6323.31910.

  5. Doucet S, Soussignan R, Sagot P, Schaal B. An overlooked aspect of the human breast: Areolar glands in relation with breastfeeding pattern, neonatal weight gain, and the dynamics of lactationEarly Human Development. 2012;88(2):119-128. doi:10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2011.07.020.

  6. Jackson KT, Dennis CL. Lanolin for the treatment of nipple pain in breastfeeding women: a randomized controlled trial: An RCT evaluating lanolin for nipple painMaternal & Child Nutrition. 2017;13(3):e12357. doi:10.1111/mcn.12357

  7. Amir LH, Baeza C, Charlamb JR, Jones W. Identifying the cause of breast and nipple pain during lactationBMJ. 2021;27(9):628. doi:10.1136/bmj.n1628 

Additional Reading

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.