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Leaking Breasts During and After Pregnancy

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 14 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Leaking Breasts Pregnancy Nursing Milk

Leaking breasts, while sometimes disturbing and often embarrassing, are also quite common during and after pregnancy. The amount of fluid leaked from the breasts will vary from woman to woman, so not leaking at all or leaking quite a bit could be entirely normal for any individual. Understanding why breasts leak during and after pregnancy, how best to cope with this condition and when to expect and end to leaking breasts should all help women feel more comfortable with this entirely natural occurrence.

Understanding Why Breasts Leak During and After Pregnancy

Breasts leak during and after pregnancy because the mammary glands have matured and are now producing colostrum. Colostrum is a thick, yellowish fluid which high in protein and fat and contains antibodies. This thick liquid is ideal for feeding infants who need such nutrients and it’s purpose is in fact to feed babies for the first few days of life before a mother’s mike comes in. Often, however, the production of colostrum will begin during pregnancy when there is no baby to feed. Many women experience this production and associated leaking breasts in the third trimester, though it can also be completely normal at any other time or not at all during a pregnancy. Some women experience more leaking at night while pregnant, but this is not always the case. After milk comes in, leaking milk is still quite common. Many mothers leak if they produce too much milk and are unable to nurse or express, as a reflex to their babies being near their breasts, when simply thinking of their babies and nursing and while engaging in sexual intercourse.

Coping With Leaking Breasts During and After Pregnancy

Before a breastfeeding routine is established there is little a mother can do to entirely stop leaking breasts, but there is much she can do to cope with them. Using cloth nursing pads is a great way to protect clothes and keep dry and guard against the stale smell of leaked fluid. Wearing pads inside easily laundered cotton bras should also help with laundry later. Wearing clothing which disguises wet patches (dark clothing, busy patterns) and carrying a cardigan or jacket to put on should leaking occur can also make women feel more comfortable. When breastfeeding women may feel a tingling sensation before leaking, so recognising this feeling and applying pressure to the breasts (crossed arms) may help stop a leak. Finally, breastfeeding or expressing/pumping more often may also stop leaks before they occur.

Expectations for Leaking Breasts During and After Pregnancy

Leaking breasts may occur sporadically or regularly during pregnancy, but even if they don’t occur at all they may well begin (again) after giving birth. When you cease breastfeeding or pumping it will take about 10 days for breast milk to dry up, so leaking may still occur even if you are not or did not begin nursing. Continued leaking of colostrum, however, may be an indication of an infection such as mastitis. While you are waiting for your milk to dry up be sure to wear supportive bras and only express a little milk if your breasts become painfully engorged. Try not to tightly bind the breasts as this can encourage infection. If you do suspect an infection and experience a fever, chills and/or other muscle aches then be sure to contact a medical professional immediately as antibiotics may be required.

Leaking breasts during and after pregnancy is not something most women look forward to, but it can be dealt with with minimal fuss. Understanding why breasts might leak during and after pregnancy, strategies for coping with leaking breasts and when to expect an end to leaking breasts can all help women cope more effectively with potentially embarrassing situations.

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