Leaky boobs in pregnancy

Why do I have leaky breasts? And what can I do to stop wet patches suddenly appearing on my top when I'm pregnant?

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You might be totally unaware that your boobs can leak way before your baby’s even born – until it happens and takes you and your nice new top by surprise! But although it can be a bit embarrassing, it’s completely normal. And the good news is, there are ways to camouflage wet patches and dribbling nipples…

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“This most often occurs in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy but can happen as early as 14 weeks,” explains midwife and feeding consultant Nikki Khan. 

Is it milk that comes out or what?

“The fluid is a yellowish liquid called colostrum which is what you will feed your newborn in the first few days after birth,” says Nikki.

This high protein substance is sort of like the forerunner to breast milk (which you start producing about 3 days after you give birth). 

Am I the only one it’s happening to?

No! It’s super-common!

“It can be annoying,” admits MFMer Spring “Mine started leaking at 24 weeks and my sister said hers did at about 20, so it’s all very normal. Just one of those things people don’t tell you about beforehand!”

Why am I leaking colostrum when I haven’t even had my baby yet?! 

“The leaks from your breasts are caused by the high levels of pregnancy hormones which are preparing the body for your new arrival,” explains Nikki. And it’s completely normal.

“Oh yes, totally normal,” agrees Anonymousmumdrum. “I have had it for a while now although no leaking, only when…umm… squeezed. I have bought some breast pads just in case I do leak though!”

And while it may feel strange it really is nothing to worry about. It’s just your body getting ready to feed your baby.

How do I deal with it? 

Leaking is annoying but breast pads inside your bra – something you’ll have to use if you breastfeed – will mop up any leaks. If colostrum forms a crust on the nipples, keep them dry and wash them twice a day.

“Usually it will only be a few drops at a time,” says Nikki “but if you’re prone to it you may feel more comfortable wearing a breast pad in your bra, just in case.”

On this point, Spring has a top tip: “I have invested in some washable breastpads as you’ll spend a fortune otherwise!”

You can also occasionally stop leakage by using your wrist or the lower part of your palm to press gently against the nipple, but don’t do this too often as it could result in a blocked milk duct.

And Tammi (aka tamarabell) says, “I wouldn’t worry about letting them leak. I give mine a squeeze every now and again as my nipples are so painful! A lot of women leak loads and others not much so think everyone is different, and I know some people even express the milk before lo arrives just to release the pressure!” 

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What if it stops and starts?

This is what MFM fan Cazzak experienced: “Mine started leaking at 19 weeks and then stopped and have just started again.”  

Again this is completely normal and may be related to surges in hormones.  Of course, if you’re worried, do have a chat to your midwife. 

Let’s talk about sex, baby!

As with so many pregnancy symptoms, hormones are a factor.  So don’t be freaked out if you experience a bit of leakage when you’re feeling a little fruity or, indeed, having sex!

Not saying that’s what spikeygoodness was doing or anything, but…”I only leaked pre-birth during the night which was handy, but regularly woke up with cup sized patches on my pyjama top!”

Hang on a sec – I’m not leaking at all! What’s wrong with me?

Absolutely nothing! If you’re reading this and worrying that you haven’t had any leakage at all yet, don’t panic – because that’s totally normal too! And it certainly has no bearing on how good your milk production will be or how easily you’ll take to breastfeeding.

And anyway, there are other boob-related symptoms to look out for.

“I haven’t had leaky boobs yet, but can feel the ‘let down’ reflex sometimes,’ says MFM fan and mum-to-be clairhair. “It’s a really weird sensation, and I have to check my boobs as I’m sure one day I will check and I will have leaked!!” 

If you don’t already know, the ‘let down reflex’ is the sensation you feel when your boobs are about to produce milk. 

Just to end on a note of caution, if the milk leaking from your breasts becomes bloodstained, do talk to your midwife or GP. But other than that, it’s all good and proof that your body’s gearing up, getting ready for your baby when they come into the world.

As MFMer xxLadybirdxx says, “I wouldnt worry, i had leaky boobs from about 20 weeks – they leaked throughout my pregnancy. Now i am breastfeeding my baby girl and i have a really good milk supply so i imagine the leaky boobs were a good sign!”

Altogether now, awwww!

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