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10 Facts Nursing Moms Need to Know About Leaking Milk

Bra and nursing pads for leaking milk

If you’re leaking milk, you’re probably puzzled, embarrassed, or frustrated. You probably know it’s harmless, but you’re tired of it being a messy nuisance. Perhaps, you might even need reassurance. You just want to get on with your life without worrying about a splotch on your clothes or a puddle in your bra. Here are some suggestions on how to anticipate leaking milk and options for dealing with it when it happens.

1. Leaking is normal

First of all, know that leaking is completely normal! Many women find themselves leaking milk from one breast while the baby is suckling the other breast. That’s normal, and a sign of a good let-down. But leaking milk can occur other times, too.

2. An ample supply increases leakage

Having an ample supply or an over-supply of milk is likely to result in leaking. You may find yourself leaking milk all day, every day.

Certainly, if you have enough milk to nurse twins, you have an ample supply. Even if you’re nursing a singleton, you may have an ample supply. If you’re making more than 25-30 ounces of milk a day, you have a lot of milk, and you’re likely to find yourself leaking.

3. A forceful milk let-down increases leakage

If you have a forceful milk let-down when you nurse your baby, you may find that you also have milk leaking all day, every day.

You’ve never been in someone else’s body, so you don’t know if your let-down is more “forceful” than someone else’s. And, those who have a forceful let-down describe it differently. Many, however, describe it as an explosive sensation, even momentarily painful.

4. There are specific triggers for leaking/spraying

Some women begin leaking milk as soon as they bend over. But for most others, there’s a specific sensory trigger.

Sensory triggers

Milk leaking might happen in situations where your milk let-down has been triggered. Although a baby suckling is the strongest trigger, it’s not the only trigger for a milk let-down. Other sensory triggers create leaking, too.

  • hearing a baby cry (including hearing someone else’s baby)
  • seeing a photo of your baby
  • smelling your baby’s hair
  • holding someone else’s baby (Nurses? Do you know what I mean?)
  • touching

Ah yes, touching. Sexual foreplay is enough to trigger a let-down and leaking for many women. Major-league spraying of your milk can and often does occur with orgasm. That’s because let-down and orgasm are controlled by the same hormone: oxytocin. So, if you have a strong orgasm, you can expect a strong let-down with significant spraying of milk.

Your reaction

Of course, how you react is up to you! Like other intimate experiences, every couple handles milk leaking or milk spraying a little differently.

  • Some women tell their partners that it’s likely to occur. They handle it in a matter-of-fact way, and pretty much just move on (literally!) and don’t get overly emotional about it.
  • Some partners find such spraying disgusting; others find it very erotic.
  • Some women nurse or express their milk just before having sex to minimize the amount of milk they have on board.
  • Others like to wear a pretty bra during sex. I’m honestly not sure how that helps, but apparently the increased support or the reduced stimulation is helpful.
  • Some just accept the fact that it’s going to happen, and they try to minimize the aftermath. One woman told me that she sprayed so much milk that she decided to put a plastic sheet over the bed before having sex. Problem solved!

Either avoid the triggers or find ways acceptable ways to deal with them.

Remember, too, that sometimes, there’s just no immediately identifiable reason for why your milk is leaking.

5. You can learn to deal with milk leaking  

Your milk may leak during the entire time that you lactate. It can continue to leak when you’re weaning. And I can think of at least one woman who leaked at least a little milk a year after she had completely weaned her youngest child.  

How you deal with your milk-leaking problem depends on how much milk you are leaking — a little or a lot — when and where it occurs, and the impact it has on whatever you’re doing or not doing.

6. Being over-full creates more leakage

Yes, yes, I know, we all put things off for “just a few more minutes.” But delaying a nursing or a pumping session can exacerbate the milk leaking problem. So try not to put off nursing or expressing.

7. The “stop” technique works wonders

If you suddenly feel a tingling sensation and your milk letting down when you don’t want it to happen, quickly and firmly fold your arms over your breasts. If you don’t mind being obvious about it, you can use to your hands to put pressure on your nipples. It’s the pressure will help to stop the milk from being released.

8. Clothing can conceal or reveal leaking

If you are working outside your home, you may want to choose tops that are printed, rather than plain. Floral patterns or even stripes help to hide the splotches. Dark clothing is better than light clothing. Keep a jacket handy for the office, or a poncho in the car.

9. Breast pads help you deal with leakage

Breast pads are especially useful for the woman who has continuous milk leaking. You have several options here: Homemade, disposable, commercially-made reusable.

You can make your own with several pieces of cotton cloth folded over and stitched down.

You may prefer disposable breast pads because you can trash them when they are saturated. A word of warning: Make sure that there is no plastic anywhere in the pad. Plastic can hold the moisture, and it creates an environment favorable to yeast. You can also buy merino wool breast pads that are very soft, and I would recommend them for situations where you’re trying to achieve warmth. But I’d prefer the cotton ones for plain old garden-variety milk-leaking.

But if you want to minimize expense and waste, get natural cotton pads. I suggest the ones from NuAngel. They are highly-absorbent, double-sided, and they are unlikely to slip around in your bra. Also, they are made in the USA. NuAngel has graciously extended a 15% discount for our readers with coupon code MARIE15.

Beware, though, if you’re a heavy leaker, these or other pads still might not be enough, and they may show through your clothing.

10. Consider specialty products

There are a variety of specialty products aimed at helping when leaked milk is an issue.

Catching milk

Milkies Milk-Savers are a product that literally catches the milk. If you’re a heavy leaker, you’ll want to scope these out, because they do what they are designed to do!

Many mothers feed this “catched” milk to their babies. I wouldn’t forbid that, but I’m not entirely keen on that idea, either. Multiple research studies have shown that dripped milk (which is what this is) is low in fat and high in bacteria. It’s fine to use this milk as a “snack” for your own healthy baby.

You could also use the milk for a “milksickle” for a teething child using these instructions. But think twice before you use dripped milk as substitute for your baby’s meal, or before giving it to your premature or compromised child.

Pressure to avoid leaking

LilyPadz put continuous light pressure on the nipple pores to prevent milk leaking. These are great for situations where you absolutely cannot afford to have anyone see your milk leaking, or if you are wearing a low-cut sexy gown where any other device will be too bulky to use.

I do have a word of caution, though. To my knowledge, there are no anecdotal or published reports in the literature about their use and occurrences of plugged ducts. Nonetheless, it’s probably best to have substantial “rest” between uses, just to stay on the safe side. Women with an oversupply — who are usually the ones who leak milk — are already at risk for having a plugged duct. So just use caution.

This post is already longer than most, and yet I doubt that I’ve thought of everything here. And, even if I did, there are always new products that help moms who are leaking milk or otherwise trying to just get on with their life.

What did I leave out as an effective way for dealing with milk leaking? Let me know in the comments below!

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