The breastfeeding journey is full of challenges.
As soon as you overcome the problem of having too little milk, you have to deal with the problem of your breasts leaking breast milk.
Why do breasts leak?
When your baby suckles at the nipple, it stimulates tiny nerves in the areola and nipple area.
These nerves then tell your brain that your hungry baby is at the breast and needs milk. This prompts the brain to secrete the hormone Oxytocin.
Oxytocin goes to the milk producing glands and prompts them to release milk and push it into the ducts towards the nipple. Oxytocin also widens the milk ducts making it easier for the milk to flow out of them towards your baby.
When you start breastfeeding – you want to train your breasts to secrete milk in response to your baby’s suckling, so that your baby gets enough milk.
However, your breasts soon become a little too efficient and start pushing milk out even when your baby is not around to suckle. This causes leaking breasts.
When do breasts leak breastmilk?
- When you look at your baby
- When you think of your baby
- Before you manage to latch on your crying baby
- When you are feeding your baby on one breast the other one may start leaking
- Just before the next feed
- When you touch your nipples
- During an intimate moment with your partner
Why are leaking breasts a problem?
- It is embarrassing to have the leak appear and stain your clothes.
- It is messy and means you have to scrub tons of stained clothes and bedsheets to clean them of the milk.
- Wearing clothes moist with breast milk for long hours can lead to a fungal infection.
What is the best way to manage leaking breasts?
Use breast pads to absorb the milk that comes out.
What are breast pads?
Breast pads are pads made of absorbent material that may be disposable or reusable. You can place these inside your bra to absorb leaking breast milk so that it doesn’t stain your clothes.
How to use breast pads?
Breast pads need to be placed inside your bra directly in contact with your nipple.
You will need to start wearing breast pads within 4 to 5 days of beginning to breastfeed because that is when you may start leaking breastmilk.
It may be a good idea to wear breast pads all the time because you don’t know when you may leak breastmilk. Wearing breast pads all the time will save you the trouble of washing your clothes and the bed linen you use several times a day.
As soon as you feel your pad is wet – change it. This will ensure that you don’t get a fungal infection because of wetness.
Avoid using plastic lined breast pads. They retain moisture and may cause fungal infections.
What else can you do to manage breastmilk leaks?
- Wear dark coloured patterned clothes so that the stain does not show.
- Sleep on a thick absorbent towel.
Dr. Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD
Dr. Debmita Dutta is a practicing doctor, a parenting consultant and the founder of the website WPA whatparentsask.com – She is based in Bangalore and conducts online and offline Parenting workshops at schools and corporate organizations. She also conducts online and offline prenatal classes for expecting parents and infant care classes for new parents.