When your baby is breastfeeding on the other breast, the primary reason for a leaking breast is because of letdown reflex. When those little ones breastfeed, the nerve in the nipple carries a message to the brain. The brain then responds by releasing two hormones, mainly prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin will tell your breast to manufacture the milk, while oxytocin will nudge the breast to release the milk. This sudden milk release is called a letdown.
While leaking breasts are common, not all new mothers leak. Once your baby has developed a consistent feeding schedule, your breast and brain will know how much milk you need to produce.
As a result, the leaking will occur less often or even stop as it is rampant during the early weeks when your baby’s feeding schedule is constantly changing.
Many breastfeeding mothers are surprised to learn that leaking can occur for several reasons, from when you think about your baby, when you hear your baby or any other baby cry, when your breasts overfill because of delayed or skipped feeding, to having a warm shower. Even an orgasm that stimulates oxytocin release can trigger the letdown reflex.
Can you stop breasts from leaking?
No. Since it’s a natural body mechanism, it may take time until your body gets accustomed to your baby’s feeding schedule, and your baby too may take time to grasp the breastfeeding schedule and mechanism.
This can last from a few weeks to several months, making it unpredictable and uncomfortable.
Some mothers may even experience it throughout the nursing period, right up to when their child starts weaning. In other instances, it may last only during the first few weeks of lactation.
Tips for dealing with leaky breast
Leaking reinforces the fact that you are making milk which is a good thing for your little person.
For many mothers, leaking boosts their confidence in their ability to breastfeed, but if you find leaking to be uncomfortable, embarrassing as others do, and excessive, here are some effective tips to help you deal with leaky breasts.
- Wear breast pads. Wearing breast pads in your nursing bra will help to absorb the leaking milk, prevent embarrassments and protect your clothing. They come in all shapes and sizes, disposable and reusable ones and you can as well make your breast pads using cotton fabric or cloth diapers and be sure to change the pads frequently and avoid plastic liners that trap wetness against the skin.
- Breastfeed often. If you are with your baby, breastfeed as often as possible to prevent your breast from becoming too full and it will lower the chances of leaks but remember breasts are never truly empty.
- Use breast shells. If one breast tends to leak when you are feeding on the other one, place a cloth, some breast pads, or breast shell inside your bra on that side.
- Express or pump often. If you have to take time away from your baby for any reason like returning to work, you can pump or use hand expression to relieve full breasts and help prevent leaks. Freeze and store the expressed milk for later consumption.
- Apply pressure to the nipple. When you start to feel the tingling sensation of the letdown reflex from the side of the breast that is not in use, apply pressure on your nipple to help stop the milk from flowing. You may want to limit this practice in the early weeks when you are establishing your milk supply. Your efforts to prevent leaking may cause your milk supply to dwindle.
- Wear camouflage clothing. Dark dresses, big shirts, and blouses with patterns can help disguise an accidental leak. Jackets, vests, and sweaters are great too when you need to cover up but the best are nursing clothes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do leaky breasts mean good supply?
Wet sticky breasts are never a sight to behold for many breastfeeding moms when they should be at the top of their list of joy.
The production of milk, its release, and its subsequent transfer are the three key ingredients a mother needs to breastfeed. Leaking is a clear sign of plenty of milk production and release.
It’s evident that you are making plenty of breast milk. All you need to do now is get the milk into your baby and not on your clothes.
When does the opposite breast stop leaking?
You will probably leak the most during your first few weeks of breastfeeding, but as we know now, every woman is different.
Some women report that their breasts stop leaking milk sometime in the first 6 to 10 weeks of breastfeeding, while others say they have leaked for as long as they continue to breastfeed.
Should I pump when leaking?
You will probably just make the problem worse by stimulating the breasts to make even more milk which translates to more leaks.
The good news is that this is a short-term problem that should ease up as your body adjusts to feeding your baby. In the meantime, hang in there and have your nursing pads on the go.
The breastfeeding experience is different for every woman. Discussing and openly talking about the problems associated with the process will help create a sense of ease amongst first-time mothers.
Every mom wants the best for their bundles of joy and insecurity and embarrassment associated with the leaking breasts during this period should not tarnish the beautiful experience of becoming a mother and providing for your child.