Managing leaking while breastfeeding

What to Know

  • Why you’re leaking and how to manage it
  • Ways to reduce the likelihood of leaking by supporting the demand and supply cycle

Leaking most commonly occurs earlier in breastfeeding when your body is learning how to adjust supply to meet your new baby’s demand. But leaking can happen at any time while breastfeeding, especially when there is a change in your child’s feeding needs and your body must adjust accordingly.

Disposable nursing pad

For example, as your baby gets older and goes longer periods between feeds (like sleeping through the night, fingers crossed!), you may initially leak around the time your baby used to feed until your body can catch up with the new normal.

Leaking may also occur due to the following factors:

  • Scheduled feedings – a regimented feeding schedule (as opposed to feeding on demand) is a common contributor to leaking
  • Storage capacity – smaller breasts sometimes cannot hold in the milk in time to get to your baby for a feed
  • Emotional triggers – hearing your baby cry, seeing a picture of your baby or even thinking about your baby may influence a hormonal response to release milk
  • Oversupply – if you’re a milk production machine, you might leak more frequently and over longer periods of time
  • Breastfeeding – while feeding from one breast, it’s quite common for the other side to leak

Some woman leak, while others may never experience it. Read on in the What to Do section for ways to manage this common side effect of new motherhood.

What to Do

Feed often

Pay attention to how your body feels as you adjust to your baby’s feedings and don’t let your breasts get too full.

If you are near your baby when you start to leak, feed the baby!

It’s ok to have your baby “snack” to help release milk, even if it hasn’t been the 2 or 3 hours since the last feed.

Remember that regimented feedings is a major contributor of leaking, so don’t get too caught up in the schedule.

If you are not near your baby (or otherwise unable to feed) when you start to leak, apply pressure to the breast

Applying direct and even pressure to the breast can help to stop the flow.

If you’re out in public or at work, cross your arms tightly across your chest. You can also wear a snug (but not constricting) bra or shirt with nursing pads to keep leaking to a minimum.

Try products designed to collect the excess milk

If you want to save the leaking milk, check out products that fit right into your bra and collect the extra milk. Many women use these devices, for example, when one breast begins to leak while feeding the baby from the other side.

Keep your nipples clean and dry to avoid infection

Just like anywhere else in the body, yeast grows in dark and wet places, so regularly replace nursing pads or bras to stay dry.

Layer up

Wearing layers can help to camouflage any surprise leaks. Try a nursing tank under a looser shirt.

Speak with our Happy Family Coaches (many are certified lactation counselors!) for tips on regulating your supply

An LC can help if you’re worried that oversupply is the cause of leaking.

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