Is It Possible For Women To Lactate From Their Armpits?

During pregnancy, the body undergoes a massive transformation. As we move through the laborious process of growing a tiny human, it can feel like there's something new and strange to discover with each passing day. And the curious revelations about what our bodies are capable of don't just stop as soon as the baby is out in the world. The postpartum body — once again — is filled with surprises. Just ask Lindsay White — a mother who shared her bewildering postpartum experience with millions of users on TikTok.

White explained that while breastfeeding her daughter one day, she was surprised to find that an abundance of liquid was emanating from her armpit (per Newsweek). Upon further inspection, she realized that there was a sizable lump under her arm that was leaking breast milk. At first — believing that she grew a third nipple at some point during her pregnancy — White scheduled an appointment with her doctor to get to the bottom of her body's newly-revealed trick. What she learned may surprise you.

Why breast milk can be released from the armpit

According to Newsweek, White learned that while she didn't have a freshly formed nipple under her arm, she was, in fact, lactating from her armpit. And while it may sound a little shocking, her experience isn't all that uncommon. In 2020, a viral Twitter post that showed a woman with two milk-filled sacs under her arm gave the phenomenon a name: pitties (per Parents).

Parents explains that during the early days of breastfeeding, when the milk supply is just coming in, many new parents experience breast engorgement — the often painful hardening and swelling of breasts that have become too full of milk (per Cleveland Clinic). But because our milk-producing mammary tissue can stretch well into the armpit, the armpit is also susceptible to engorgement (per Parents).

This excess breast tissue — which typically occurs in the armpit and often goes unnoticed until childbirth — is the result of a condition called polymastia, which affects 6% of lactating people, according to a 1999 study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The study suggests that some people with polymastia can actually pump milk from the extra breast tissue, which can provide relief from engorgement.

The treatment of engorged breast tissue in the armpit (much like engorged breasts) requires cold compresses for pain and inflammation, and moist heat to encourage the movement of breast milk, along with some gentle massage (per Parents).