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Leaking Breast Milk While Breastfeeding: Causes And Prevention Tips

Leaking breast milk is common and some women experience it during breastfeeding. It usually occurs during the first few weeks after childbirth. Your breasts may leak often in the morning when your breasts are full, from just one breast during every feed or from both your breasts when you aren't breastfeeding [1].

It's quite normal for new mothers to experience leaking breast milk, while some mothers may not find it a problem but others may find discomfort.

What Causes Leaking Breast Milk?

Leaking breast milk is a good sign, which means that your breasts are producing lots of milk for your baby. Usually, your breasts will leak when there is an overabundant supply of milk or when the hormone oxytocin triggers the muscle cells in your breasts to release milk (let-down reflex) [2] [3].

There are other reasons that make you more likely to leak breast milk:

  • Your breasts may leak when you hear your baby or another baby cry or think about your baby.
  • While breastfeeding, your other breast which you are not using may leak
  • When you take a hot bath, the warm water will help the milk flow more easily which can cause leaking.
  • Your breasts may also leak during sex.

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Leaking Breast Milk And Sex

The hormone oxytocin is released during breast stimulation and orgasm. This is the same hormone that triggers the flow of breast milk during breastfeeding. A breastfeeding mother may have a let-down reflex when she has an orgasm during sex [4][5] [6].

If leaking breast makes you uncomfortable, you can talk to your partner about it, feed your baby or pumping breast milk before having sex, or wearing a nursing bra can help contain leaking breast milk.

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How Long Do Breasts Leak?

A mother may probably leak the most during the first few weeks of breastfeeding and then it takes some time for your body to adjust to how your baby feeds.

Also, every woman's body is different, for some leaking breast milk will continue throughout breastfeeding and during weaning and some may find that their breast milk has stopped leaking during the first 6 to 10 weeks of breastfeeding.

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Tips To Prevent Breast Milk From Leaking

  • Breastfeeding your baby often will prevent your breasts from becoming too full. Try to breastfeed or pump breast milk daily and don't skip feedings.
  • Try putting a tissue or maternity breast pads inside your nursing bra to absorb the breast milk. They will help you stay dry and comfortable. Make sure to change your breast pads daily when they become damp to prevent nipple soreness or a thrush infection.
  • You can also try expressing your breast milk before your breasts become too full. You can freeze and store the expressed breast milk for later use.
  • When you are feeling a tingling sensation or a feeling of fullness that the breast milk is going to release from your breasts, apply pressure on your nipples to stop the breast milk from flowing. You can do so by pressing your palms gently against your nipples.
  • Wear patterned and layered clothing to help breast leaking less noticeable.

When To See A Doctor For Leaking Breast Milk

Consult a doctor if you experience the following situations:

  • If the breast milk leaking from your breasts contains blood.
  • If you continue to leak breast milk three months after you have fully weaned your baby.
  • The leaking milk makes it difficult for you to breastfeed your baby.
  • Your breasts feel sore, painful and lumpy.