It's normal for breasts to leak when the pressure builds. Mostly, this is a minor inconvenience, but on occasion it can cause embarrassment when without warning milk gushes forth and runs down the front of your clothing. Find ways to manage leaking breasts.
What causes breasts to leak?
Leaking breasts are a common inconvenience while breastfeeding is establishing. In the early weeks of breastfeeding nursing mothers often have and abundance of breastmilk. Breasts often leak when they become so full of milk that they overflow.
Breasts also leak when a "let-down" (milk ejection reflex) is stimulated by a baby's suckle. This will cause the opposite breast to leak during feeding. Occasionally a let-down may kick in at unexpected times and you may find your breasts leak when you hear a baby cry or when you think about feeding.
Leaking breasts is your body's way of preventing engorgement and relieving that feeling of fullness. You will find your breasts leak less often by the time your baby is 6 - 10 weeks old. This doesn't mean that you are losing your milk, but rather that your body is regulating your supply to equal the demand of your baby.
Don't worry when leaking eventually stops, you'll still be making plenty of milk to meet your baby's needs.
What to do
Leaking is unpredictable, unfortunately. You can't control your milk overflow or when your "let-down" occurs, but you can plan for it.
Nursing pads worn inside your bra will absorb milk overflow between feedings. You can purchase disposable or reusable, washable cotton nursing pads. You can also make your own nursing pads from cut-up cloth diapers. When you purchase disposable nursing pads, look for the ones without plastic linings; these hold in moisture, which can lead to sore or cracked nipples.
Breast pads may not be enough to absorb larger leaks from a "let-down". When feeding at home, keep a cloth diaper or small towel handy to soak up the milk from your opposite breast, that way you can then save your breast pads for outings.
If you feel a "let-down" in a situation where you cannot feed your baby, slight pressure against your breast will stop the leaking. You can use the base of the palm of your hands to press over your nipples. Or when you need to be inconspicuous, try crossing your arms, hug yourself and gently press against your breasts. Or if you are sitting at a table, cup your chin in your hands and press your forearms into your breasts.
When you are out and about, wear patterns that can camouflage a milk stain (prints work well). Always carry extra breast pads and an extra top, jacket or sweater just in case.
Written by Rowena Bennett