Nipple discharge is the release of fluid from the nipple. It is a very common breast symptom and in most cases is part of the normal function of the breast rather than being caused by a problem. Nipple discharge alone without a lump or other nipple change is a very uncommon symptom of breast cancer. There are normally 15—20 milk ducts opening onto each nipple. Discharge can come from one or a number of these ducts.
Some problems are related to lactation. Others are not. This normal process of dilation of the milk gland is called ectasia. Ectasia is a noncancer breast condition. In some cases, it can lead to a blockage of the ducts. This draws the nipple inward.
Expressing milk means squeezing milk out of your breast so that you can store it and feed it to your baby at a later time. Different pumps suit different women, so ask for advice or see if you can try one before you buy it. Always make sure that the container or pump is clean and has been sterilised before you use it. You may find it easier to express milk by hand than to use a pump, especially in the first few days. Sometimes your baby may need extra milk or find it hard to feed from your breast.
Anita Moorhead does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Late in their pregnancies, some women notice colostrum early milk leaking from their nipples. Some hospitals are advising women to collect this milk in the last weeks of pregnancy, ready to give to their newborn baby, if needed.