June 30, 2022 3 min read

Once you start breastfeeding, milk leaking from the breasts is very common among mothers. It is also known as milk ‘let-down’. While this is not the most comfortable situation to be in, it is part of being a breastfeeding mother. In today’s blog, we explore everything about milk leaks and how to handle this situation.

mother breastfeeding baby

What exactly are milk leaks or let-down?

Your breasts have been preparing for producing and providing milk to the baby even before the baby is born. After the delivery, the hormone called prolactin is responsible for producing milk in your body which the baby receives from the nipples. 

Why does let-down occur in breastfeeding mothers?

Milk leaks are involuntary. They occur without notice. When you breastfeed your baby, two hormones come into play - prolactin produces milk and oxytocin causes the milk to release so your baby can feed.

These two hormones are triggered when you breastfeed. But they can also be triggered at other times causing milk leaks. Here are some of the major reasons for the hormone trigger and milk leaks.

  • Milk is in oversupply and when the breasts are full and the baby is not feeding, milk is let down. This usually happens during the initial days when the supply and feeding routine are not established.

  • When a routine for feeding is set and it’s time for the baby to feed but the breastfeeding session is skipped for some reason.

  • When there is an oxytocin trigger such as seeing your baby, hearing your baby cry, or hearing any baby cry, etc. All these triggers tell your brain that there is a hungry baby that needs milk and the milk starts leaking.

  • When you take a warm shower, the milk ducts can get activated and release milk involuntarily.

mother breastfeeding baby

Usually, in the early phase of breastfeeding when a feeding routine has not yet been established, there is a chance that the milk produced in the body automatically comes out from the nipples even when the baby is not feeding. The milk can come out in a spray or in a trickle. Some mothers feel a tingling sensation in the breasts just before let-down.

Can you prevent milk let-down?

Milk leaks are not comfortable. They can make you feel sticky in the breast area. When not cleaned and dried, it can also lead to fungal infections and rashes. And of course, when the milk leaks, it can soak your nursing bra and even the top you are wearing.

mother breastfeeding baby

Due to all these reasons, you might be looking for ways to prevent milk leaks. Here are some ways in which you can do this.

  1. You should try to feed your baby on time. This helps establish a feeding routine and empties your breasts on time, preventing the chances of a let-down.

  2. If you are not feeding at regular intervals for reasons such as going back to work, you can pump the milk. You can store it and feed it to your baby later.

  3. For stopping milk from leaking, you can press the palm of your hand firmly against the nipples. However, please do not do this during the early phase of breastfeeding since it can interfere with your milk supply.

How to deal with milk let-down?

Even though there are some ways in which you can prevent or reduce the chances of milk leaks, you still might experience leaking breasts. Here are some ways to deal with this situation.

lovemere bamboo washable reusable nursing breast pads

  1. Wear nursing breast pads. These pads absorb leaked milk and keep the breast area dry. However, when using breast pads, please make sure to change them often. Also, wash and dry them between uses.

  2. Place a thick folded towel under you when you sleep. This will help catch any leaks and protect the mattress.

Many mothers experience milk leaks at some point during their breastfeeding journey. Being aware of this and taking appropriate steps can help you prevent discomfort and chances of an infection. So, stay informed, and enjoy this wonderful phase with your baby.

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