I've written about breasts on here before. Foods that are good for your breasts. How to pamper your breasts. Even tips for how to keep your breasts looking as youthful as possible. Yet while I was actually giving myself a breast exam not too long ago, I thought about how nipples don't seem to get as much attention (or media love) as breasts, as a whole, do. I mean, we've all got 'em and they certainly serve a purpose. So, let's explore a few facts about nipples that will hopefully help you to gain a greater appreciation for the ones that you have.
1. They’re One of the First Things to Develop in the Womb
It really is a trip, just how much a baby develops, very early on. For instance, by the time an expectant mom is in her ninth week of pregnancy, her child is already starting to form arms, toes and organs. Another thing that pops up are nipples and hair follicles, making nipples one of the first things that fully develops within a mother's womb.
2. They Are Sisters, Not Twins
If you were to draw a line straight down your body from head to toe and then looked very carefully at each of your body parts, you'd probably notice that while things like your eyebrows, eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc. look very similar, they aren't exactly identical. This point applies to your breasts and most certainly your nipples. One might be larger or higher than the other—and you know what? That's totally OK.
That said, what I will throw in is, something that I found to be a trip, is if you wanted to "measure" the space between both of your nipples, they're basically the same distance apart as your earlobes are. The more you know.
3. Some Folks Have More than Two of ‘Em
For the record, just like your vagina and labia aren't exactly the same thing (your vagina is the tube that connects to your uterus while your labia are your outer lips; both ultimately make up your vulva) neither are your nipples and your areolas. Your nipples are at the very center of your breasts that connect to your mammary glands. Your areolas are the darker part of your skin that surrounds your nipples. Well, depending on how your mammary glands are designed, it's actually very possible for you to have a couple of nipples on each areola. Health-wise, it's not that big of a deal, although it could make breastfeeding a little challenging for your baby.
4. They Resemble Belly Buttons. Kinda.
Now, here's what I mean when it comes to this particular point. Believe it or not, there are several different kinds of nipples. Like belly buttons, some women have nipples that protrude out (an outie) while others have inverted ones (an innie). Then there are women whose nipples remain pretty flat (even when they are aroused), women with multiple ones and even some who have nipples that look somewhat divided in the middle. Oh, and remember what I said about how no two nipples are exactly alike? This means that it's also probable that a woman could have one inverted nipple while the other protrudes. Nothing is wrong with any of these dynamics. It's just one more thing that speaks to how unique each of us are.
5. The Bumps Are There for a Reason. And a Purpose.
Ever wonder why your nipples have those little bumps all over them? It's not some random freak of nature.
The technical name for them are Montgomery tubercles and what they do is secrete oil to keep your nipples moisturized.
The secretions increase, significantly so, while you are pregnant. When it comes to these, some women only have a few of these bumps while other women have many.
6. Human Nipples Differ from Other Mammals
A fun fact that I found to be interesting is while our nipples (male and female) are able to remain prominent and become erect for as long as we're alive, other mammals only appear to have nipples during pregnancy and lactation. It could be nature's way of cosigning on the fact that humans become stimulated and have sex for more reasons than just being "in heat" and procreating, since nipples are an erogenous zone 'n all.
7. There’s a Scientific Reason for Having “Headlights”
Most of us know that when we get cold or aroused, our nipples typically get hard (become erect). The main reason why is because nipples have a collection of nerve cells that basically control the erectile muscle that's inside of your breast tissue. And the more sensitive those nerves are, the more likely your nipples (some call them "headlights") are going to show. While you need to give hard nipples time to warm up or to come down from being aroused in order for them to blend back in with the rest of your breasts, if you want to prevent hard nipples from being seen in public, a padded bra should do the trick (for the most part, anyway).
8. Discharge Is Pretty Normal. However…
Believe it or not, having a bit of nipple discharge can be pretty normal/common prior to menopause. That's because, contrary to popular belief, discharge doesn't only happen when you're pregnant. Birth control pills, nipple stimulation, antidepressants (because they can trigger the production of prolactin which is a milk-producing hormone) and shifts during your cycle can also cause discharge to come out of one or both of your nipples. However, because it could also be a sign of breast cancer, if you're getting discharge all of a sudden and/or the texture or amount has increased, talk to your doctor about it. Just to be on the safe side.
9. Nipples Shouldn’t Be Inflamed
The more I study the body, the more I realize that inflammation, anywhere, is problematic. Nipples are certainly not exempt. If you happen to notice that yours are red, painful or even super warm whenever you touch them, that could be a heads up that you've got either mastitis (a blocked milk gland) or possibly even breast cancer. Bottom line here is, don't ignore it. Make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible. (By the way, if your nipples are constantly dry and nothing seems to relieve them, that also could be an indication of breast cancer; another reason to book an appointment with your physician.)
10. Stimulating Nipples Can Help to Induce Labor
Something that I learned while training to become a doula is stimulating your nipples when you're right around your due date can actually help to induce labor. The reason why is when nipples are touched/rubbed on, it increases the production of oxytocin which can help to trigger contractions. Matter of fact, women who have their nipples stimulated during this time tend to have shorter deliveries and less pregnancy complications too. While we're here, it should also go on record that nipples can change color during pregnancy. And, it's not uncommon for a breastfeeding mom to lactate whenever she hears a baby (any baby) cry.
11. Think Long and Hard Before Getting Them Pierced
So, here's the thing about getting one or both of your nipples pierced—they come with more cons than pros.
Let's do the cons first, shall we? Getting them pierced is pretty painful (the healing process takes around eight weeks). Switching them out can prove to make things worse in the long run (the new earring may not go all the way in and/or it can be as painful as the original piercing). Some people are still cleaning theirs, months later, before foreplay (due to the crusting that continues to accumulate). Because your bra is rubbing up against your piercings for hours on end, you are constantly at risk for an infection. Then there's the scar tissue (especially if you're someone who is prone to keloids); it can affect the shape, size and sensitivity of your breasts.
OK, so what the heck are the pros? Well, it can definitely take arousal levels up a few notches. Oh, and if you're wondering if you'll still be able to breastfeed, most health care experts and piercers say "yes".
12. Nipplegasms Are Very Real
I once read an article on Live Science's site that was entitled, "Nipples 'Light Up' Brain the Way Genitals Do". I'm thinking that when it comes to my final nipple fact, the point is pretty self-explanatory. Because our nipples have a lot of nerves in them, that makes them really sensitive. And so, when they are fondled/caressed/licked/etc., that can result in us climaxing, just from the stimuli alone. If you've never had one before and want to test this out, while there are no guarantees, deep breathing, lots of foreplay and intentional attention given to your nipples can certainly help. And shoot, even if it doesn't happen, you at least had a damn good time trying. Right?
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