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Leaking Breast Milk

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Updated November 21, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Leaking milk from your breasts is a common and sometimes embarrassing experience that occurs with breastfeeding. In the first few weeks after your breast milk comes in, milk may drip or even spray out of your breasts at any time.

For some women, leaking is not considered a problem at all or possibly just a slight inconvenience. It usually diminishes or even stops once the milk supply adjusts to your baby's needs. For other women, including those with an overabundant milk supply or hyperactive let-down reflex, leaking may continue. It can be messy, embarrassing, and frustrating, especially if you have to go back to work.

Common Times When Leaking Occurs:

  • You may begin to leak a small amount of colostrum at the end of your pregnancy.

  • If your breasts become too full, they may leak. Leaking can relieve pressure in your breasts and help prevent some of the common problems of breastfeeding, such as engorgement, plugged ducts, and mastitis.

  • When you are breastfeeding your baby from one breast, your other breast may leak.

  • When you hear a baby cry, think about your baby, or see a picture of your baby, it might trigger your let-down reflex and cause leaking.

  • When you take a shower, the warm water flowing over your breasts can stimulate leaking.

  • Your breasts may leak when you are intimate with your partner.

  • Leaking may occur for no reason at all.

Leaking During Sex

The hormone oxytocin is released during breast stimulation and orgasm. Since oxytocin is the same hormone that triggers the let-down reflex during breastfeeding, milk may leak or spray from your breasts during sex. If this makes you uncomfortable, you can:

  • Talk to your partner. Discuss your feelings and find out how they feel about it.
  • Nurse your baby or pump before having sex.
  • Wear a pretty nursing bra or other lingerie to help contain leaks and sprays.

How to Deal With Leaking:

  • Breast Pads: Wear breast pads in your nursing bra to absorb the milk, prevent embarrassment, and protect your clothing.

  • Breastfeed Often: If you are with your baby, breastfeed often to prevent your breasts from becoming too full. This can help decrease the amount of leaking.

  • Express Your Milk or Pump Often: If you have to return to work or take time away from your baby for another reason, you can pump or use hand expression to relieve full breasts and help prevent leaks. Freeze and store your expressed milk for later use.

  • Apply Pressure to Your Nipples: When you feel the tingling sensation of the let-down reflex begin, put pressure on your nipples to help stop the milk from flowing.

  • Wear Clothing That Can Help Hide Leaks: Dresses, shirts, and blouses with patterns can help disguise an accidental leak. Jackets, sweaters, and vests are also great to keep on hand in case you need to cover up.

For some women, leaking will continue throughout breastfeeding and even during weaning. Leaking may even continue for up to three weeks after a child has stopped breastfeeding. However, you should speak to your doctor if you continue to leak milk from your breasts three months after you have fully weaned your baby.

Source:

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition. Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.

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