Few things on this planet are more embarrassing than realizing your nipples have just leaked breastmilk all over your shirt, in public, where everyone can see it. The bad news is, if you’re a new mom, you’ll very likely experience leakage at some point. The good news? Here are four great tips you can use to prevent and deal with it when this situation inevitably arises.
What Causes Breastmilk Leaks?
Before we talk about what to do in this situation, you should understand that it is an entirely natural process. Leaky breasts often occur most often during the first month of breastfeeding; however, it can be an ongoing issue for some moms. The breasts release milk to avoid engorgement and the discomfort that results from it. Oxytocin, the hormone responsible for milk release, can be triggered when a mother hears her baby cry. It can also trigger leakage in the opposite breast than the baby is nursing on. This hormone triggers milk release for a variety of reasons and at a variety of times. Now that you know there’s nothing wrong with you, here’s how you can prepare.
Express Milk Regularly
Whether you choose to breastfeed or pump
, expressing milk regularly goes a long way in stopping leakage from occurring. Infants often nurse every two to three hours initially, and you may find your breasts adjusting to your baby’s desire to nurse. If your baby takes an extra-long nap and you feel the milk let down reflex, grab a pump and express the milk to avoid any discomfort. If you’re out and about running errands solo, pop into a changing room and manually express the milk. But whether you breastfeed exclusively or pump, either can cause sore nipples. It’s a great idea to invest in a good nipple cream
to soothe raw nipples—especially during the first few months.
Wear Clothing with Prints
Busy prints can often provide a bit of extra camouflage if your milk leaks through your bra. While milk stains are immediately noticeable on a solid color because the color darkens, they are often less noticeable through a busy print. Invest in a few great prints that work well with a nursing bra and breast pump.
Mixing darker colors with lighter ones distracts the eyes and allows for an extra tool to combat escaping breastmilk. Set aside some time pre-baby or treat yourself to some retail therapy after the baby arrives to find some print styles you love, and invest in at least a week’s worth of new print shirts for yourself. Why so many? Well, inevitably, one will get spit-up on it, another will get stained, a third will experience leakage … maybe all on the same day, so it’s best to be prepared!
Invest in Cloth Nursing Pads
The current nursing pad market is divided between cloth and disposable nursing pads
. These pads are small and fit snugly around the nipple and areola to catch breastmilk when it overflows. Cloth nursing pads are reusable; however, experts recommend washing them in dye and fragrance-free soaps to limit irritation and reactions.
While disposables may seem the way to go, they can sometimes cause more harm than good. Disposable nursing pads with plastic linings will work to keep clothes dry. However, the trade-off is that the nipple often stays damp. This dampness can contribute to sore nipples and even fungal growth, such as Candida. If you do decide to use disposable pads, change them as often as possible.
Layer It Up
You’ll never know when leakage may occur, so I would suggest becoming an expert at layering. Keep a lightweight sweater, a neutral blazer, or jacket with you in case of leakage emergencies. These can provide you with an extra layer to disguise any leakage that may occur, especially if you’re at work or just out and about running errands.
Also, keep an extra shirt or bra with you for quick wardrobe changes. Now that you’re a mom, you’ve got a huge diaper bag stocked with anything your little darling might need—don’t be afraid to use some of this bag’s real estate for yourself!
Leakage will happen—to some moms more than others. And while you may take precautions, you may find yourself in a public situation with a damp shirt. Don’t panic! Dig deep, rely on a bit of humor, and just brush it off. A little breastmilk on your shirt is nothing. And besides, if they’re leaking, then your lactation process is probably working great!
Jenny Silverstone is just another mom trying to do her best. She loves making lists and trying to help others find what they are looking for. When she’s not using her powers to find her kids missing socks, you can find her sharing the latest parenting hacks & tips on her blog and Pinterest.