Many mums find that in the early days, their breasts may leak milk. This might happen when you are feeding from one side and your other breast leaks. Or it may happen at any time even if your baby isn’t feeding.
Why do breasts leak milk?
Leaking breasts are one sign that your breasts are making milk. In other words, the hormones are doing their job. Leaking usually stops or eases as your baby gets older. For some mums, it continues to be a sign of their let-down reflex. But some mums don’t leak much at all. If your breasts don’t leak, it doesn’t mean they aren't working.
Breasts may continue to leak for a longer time, even for months. Leaking isn’t a guide to how much milk you are making.
How to manage leaking
During the day
- Wear breast pads in your bra. There are a variety on the market – some washable, some single-use.
- Shaped breast pads are less likely to press and flatten your nipples.
- A silicone breast pad that presses against your breast can stop leakage. You can also apply pressure yourself to stop your breast leaking. Be careful not to do this too often as pressure on the breast can cause it to become inflamed.
- Change breast pads when they are wet to stop your nipples becoming sore or damaged.
- When your baby is feeding, your let-down reflex may cause milk to drip from the other breast. You can soak up extra milk with a soft cotton cloth or towel.
- Some mums catch the leaking milk to use later. A silicone milk catcher can suction some of this off or you can just catch the milk in a clean container. See below for warnings about using milk catchers.
- Wearing a sleep bra or singlet-top to bed can provide gentle support and hold breast pads.
- A mattress protector, waterproof underlay or folded towel may also help keep you and your bed dry.
When you're out and about
- If you are out with your baby and feeding, have some spare breast pads on hand or tuck the corner of a clean towel into your bra over the leaking nipple to soak up your milk.
- Sometimes you may want to stop leaking milk completely. You can press firmly on your nipple with your fingers, hand or forearm for several seconds as you feel the let-down. It’s not a good idea to do this all the time in case it leads to problems.
- Some mums wear patterned, loose clothing when they’re out because it’s less likely to show wetness from leaking milk.
Most mums find that leaking stops after a few weeks, or at least becomes easier to manage.
Be careful if using a milk catcher
Some mums use a silicone milk catcher to collect leaking milk, either while they are feeding or between feeds. While these may be effective in one way, they can also pose problems. The continual suction can remove more milk than necessary, causing your breasts to make more milk than your baby needs. This may create an oversupply. Some mums also find the suction can cause their nipple or breast to hurt if they use the catcher too often or for too long.
© Australian Breastfeeding Association February 2023