Many breastfeeding moms experience leaks, but rest assured this is normal and a sign your body is making milk. It’s also normal not to leak, so don’t worry if you haven’t experienced it. While leaking can be uncomfortable, there are easy ways to prepare for it so it is less embarrassing and inconvenient.
What causes leaking?
Women often leak for a variety of reasons: you have a full supply and your body is not yet sure how much to produce to meet your baby’s needs, your mature milk is starting to come in, you’ve missed a feeding, or perhaps you just are thinking about your baby – all of which can trigger your milk to let down outside of a nursing session. In fact, even those who are no longer nursing or have not yet delivered their baby can leak breastmilk. As you first begin breastfeeding, your body’s oxytocin hormone that produces the milk ejection reflex (MER) or let-down action is still adjusting. When breasts are full and swollen, the reflex is a way to relieve the milk glands. Have patience moms—the more you breastfeed, the more your body will respond to the amount of milk baby is taking in and will adjust accordingly. The adjustment will also happen if you are pumping in addition to feeding at the breast as your body will react and adjust to the milk being removed from the breast.
Keep nursing so body can adjust accordingly to baby’s needs
Breastfeeding mothers who experience leaking breastmilk should continue to nurse baby regularly which will be at least eight to 12 times in a 24 hour period. The frequency and amount baby takes at each feeding can vary for every mother and baby. It is essential to feed your baby or pump your milk throughout the day at regular intervals to avoid milk from building up and causing swelling and engorgement. This is important as it will keep signaling your body to make milk. When mothers frequently nurse their babies, the body learns how to regulate the breast’s reflex, eventually helping to lessen the amount of leakage over time.
Take advantage of nursing pads
Keep your breasts fully protected and your clothing dry with the help of nursing pads. These will help absorb leaking breastmilk and come in handy while your body is adjusting to baby’s feeding needs. Look for nursing pads that made of breathable materials and offer full leaking protection by wicking moisture away from the nipple and breast surface. This will help you feel more comfortable and can keep nipple and breast skin healthy and less prone to infections. Many moms prefer pads that are specially contoured as they offer discreet protection and are less obvious under clothing.
Change pads frequently to avoid infection
Even if you are using super absorbent nursing pads, it is important to change them regularly during the day and night so you can avoid or lessen the chance of getting a common yeast infection called thrush. It is important to change your pads frequently even if you are not a heavy leaker because yeast can grow and thrive in warm, moist areas especially if pads become saturated. Common symptoms of thrush are white patches in baby’s mouth (inside the cheeks or on the tongue), a red, very irritated diaper rash, or fussiness when sucking during nursing, drinking from a bottle or cup, or when using a pacifier. Symptoms for moms can include itchy, burning nipples that can also be burning, red, and shiny. Thrush can also present itself as a deep shooting pain in the breast during or after nursing or as a yeast infection. It is important for the both you and your baby to be treated even if one does not have any of these common symptoms as it is very easily passed back and forth. If you suspect thrush consult with your healthcare provider or lactation consultant.
Other helpful tips to remember
- Keep a stock of nursing pads in your diaper bag, car, purse, or anywhere you may need them so you can keep your skin healthy and you can have extras in case of heavy leaking.
- Make sure to stock up on supplies when you’re out and about—and don’t forget the coupons! Find some great ones here.
- Relax, take deep breaths, and don’t stress too much. Leaking is normal, but it will lessen as your body gets used to producing milk!
Have a great weekend,