“Wait. I have a third nipple! Wanna see?” I said to my editor, ready to pull my nipple out of my heather gray bodysuit before I remembered we were, in fact, at work and I couldn't just whip a tit out willy-nilly.
I didn't get my boob out, but I definitely wasn't bluffing. Underneath my left boob, I have a squishy, brown spot. It has an indentation on the top, just like a nipple. Because it is a nipple. It is my third nipple.
My mom tells me she was pretty worried when I was a baby and also, coincidentally, an unashamed nudist. She thought that my third nipple would develop into a full-on boob. She used to tell me this horror story at bath time about a friend of hers in college who had three breasts.
“It wasn't as big as the other two but it was pretty large. She thought it was sexy," she said.
I would look at her, stricken with terror as I played with my scuba diving Barbie and made hats out of bubbles. Considering I was five and had a third nipple myself, this was probably not the best story to tell me, but it was the '90s and parents back then didn't know about childhood trauma.
I imagined my third boob would suddenly develop in my sleep. I'd wake up one morning and suddenly require custom bras to accommodate my three ginormous boobs. It was the source of anxiety for a long time growing up.
It wasn't until I was stalking Harry Styles (I do that sometimes) and saw his TWO extra nipples that I thought about extra nipples again without panicking.
Harry's nipples are less pronounced than my little nip. I am a woman with what is objectively considered a real nipple. It is not a mole or a mark, like Harry's. It is not a freckle or a growth. It is a real ass nipple.
But what is a third nipple?
I asked my doctor this thoughtful question at a checkup around the age of nine. He told me that nearly half the population has a third nipple of some kind; that any mole or mark above the belly button and below your actual nipples could be considered a third nipple.
This made me feel a little bit better about my triple nipple situation, but it still left me with unanswered questions. I let them rest because I was young and there is only so much nipple drama one girl can take, you know?
So now, as an adult who has no problem trying to whip her bare breast from her heather gray bodysuit in order to show her editor her third nipple, I must investigate.
What is a third nipple?
According to Medical Daily, around the fourth week of being a fetus, we little sea monkeys start growing breast tissue. The breast tissue forms along the milk lines, which start just under the armpits and stop above the legs. The milk lines essentially develop along your abdomen and run along either side of the belly button, symmetrically.
The milk lines dissipate by week nine, leaving your breast fully formed. At least until you hit middle school and puberty comes knocking. Fuck you, puberty. Thanks for making it possible for me to play Augustus Gloop in "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory." Without a fat suit.
BUT the milk lines don't always go away fully. And when this happens, it's possible for breast tissue to start growing in other areas, hence extra nippage. This condition is called polymastia and it isn't scary like it sounds.
Hey, look at that, my pediatrician wasn't lying about growths above the belly button being third nipples. Sorry I doubted you, doc.
I'm unique, mom! Look at me now!
But where the doctor got it wrong was saying that having a third nipple is common.
He told me half the population has a third nipple. He was wrong. It's true that many people have birthmarks, moles and freckles along the milk lines, but these aren't made of breast tissue. The breast tissue is what makes it different. This is why Harry Styles' nipple looks more like a mole whereas mine literally looks and feels like a tiny, puckered nip.
According to a study cited in Medical Daily, in 2012,
Six percent of women and one to three percent of men develop some kind of extra breast tissue growth, with nipples more likely to show up than breasts. And fewer than 200,000 Americans are born with extra nipples annually.
I guess you're wondering now if that thing on your milk lines is a nip or a mole. According to Yahoo, a third nipple has real nipple-like qualities such as a dimple in the top or hair around it.
If you're curious, ask your doctor. He or she will be able to tell you for sure. If it looks and feels like a nipple, it probably is though.
I have polymastia and I am proud. My third nipple has actually become the source of many a conversation. It is my ultimate party trick. Anyone who knows me knows that I love crop tops, but very few of these people know that a crop top makes for easy access to my third nip.
You learn something new every day. You're welcome, children.
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Citations: Exactly What Are Extra Nipples, And Why Do Some People Get Them? (Medical Daily)