Leaky Breasts: Why it happens and What to do about it

As a new breastfeeding mom you may look down and see milk spots on your shirt.  Leaky breasts are fairly common among moms of newborns.  It’s a sign that your body is enthusiastically producing breast milk…perhaps more than your baby even needs.

fun workouts with baby__1453481909_108.89.137.58Leaky breasts occur when your breasts are so full of milk that your body needs to express it even if your baby isn’t eating.  Leaky breasts often occur when you have a let-down and your baby is not nursing at that time.  Let downs often happen to new moms when they are thinking or talking about their babies, hear their baby or another baby cry or when it is time for a feeding and the baby isn’t nursing yet.  Leaky breasts also may spring during a warm shower, overnight or in the opposite breast when your baby is nursing on the other one.

While not ideal, leaky breasts are not a medical problem and don’t pose a threat to your baby.  Sometimes breasts that tend to leak may also squirt your baby, especially at the beginning of a feeding when they are very full.  Again, this is not an issue other than your baby may be displeased when he suddenly pulls off the breast and gets squirted by your nipple.

Leaky breasts can be embarrassing, however, especially if you are in public.  The best way to stop leaky breasts is to apply pressure on them.  You can discreetly do this by folding your arms across your chest and pushing down.  If you are sitting, you can place your elbows on the table and press your forearms into your breasts.  Of course if no one is around, gently cup your palms over your breasts and apply pressure.

leaky breasts_washable padsSome women choose to wear shirts with prints that will hide leaks.  But you can avoid leaking out of your bra with nursing pads.  If you have leaky breasts, wearing reusable washable nursing pads is a smart idea.  These cloth pads are soft and won’t irritate your skin like many disposable pads.  Fabric pads soak up moisture to avoid infections.  Plus, they are washable and better for the environment since they don’t create more waste.

You may want to breastfeed your baby more often at the beginning to help regulate your milk supply.  Usually leaky breasts end after 6 to 12 weeks when you and your baby are on a solid breastfeeding routine.  Your body will then recognize when it should express milk and when to close off the faucet until the next feeding.  Until then, if you cannot breastfeed or pump and you realize your breasts are extremely full, excuse yourself to the restroom and manually express a little milk from each breast to relieve the pressure and avoid a leak.

Lastly, keep in mind that breastfeeding is natural and leaky breasts sometimes come with the territory.  It may be embarrassing or inconvenient, but try to have a sense of humor about it.  Just like other aspects of motherhood, for better or for worse, leaky breasts are part of the experience.