I recently saw a new baby for their 2 week old check up.  During this visit there are many questions about what is “normal” and what is “abnormal”, as new parents are just finding out the nuances of their baby.

While all babies are different, there are many similarities among a newborn. One of the most commonly asked questions is “why does my baby look like they have breasts?”  This is even a more common question when the infant is a baby boy.

Many parent’s will notice that their baby seems to have swelling under their nipples, sometimes it is both nipples at other times it may be asymmetrical.  There should not be any redness and the area should not be tender.  If you are feeling the area you may note a small moveable mass beneath the nipple.  All of this is very normal and the benign breast enlargement is due to maternal hormones that influences the baby’s breast tissue.

At times parents may even report that they have noticed a milky substance coming from the baby’s nipple.  This is called galactorrhea, and the neonatal milk is also known as witch’s milk.  Galactorrhea is seen in about 5% of newborns and occurs in both sexes. The term “witch’s milk” is derived from ancient folklore where the milk was thought to be nourishment for witches spirits.  (I guess we’ve come a long way in our medical knowledge). Infant’s who seem to have galactorrhea seem to have more breast enlargement, and is also seen more often in babies who are breastfed.

In most cases the breast enlargement resolves spontaneously within several months.  No treatment is necessary and I tell parents not to press on the baby’s breast tissue.  If you manipulate the breast tissue it may actually force bacteria into the milk glands. If the breast tissue gets infected an infant may develop mastitis, just like a nursing mother.  I actually saw a baby earlier this year who had developed a breast infection that actually had to be drained and required IV antibiotics and a short hospitalization. I am happy to say that baby is perfectly well, the breast enlargement has resolved and he will never know that he had “baby boobs” in the first month of his life!!!  Some things are better kept as secrets.

That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your comment or question to Dr. Sue!