The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms exclusively breastfeed their children for the first six months of life for optimal growth and development. "Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child," says the AAP. But despite the many advantages of nursing, working or busy moms may find it difficult to continue breastfeeding out of the home. Especially when breast milk leakage is a problem.
How common is breast milk leakage?
Nearly all moms experience breast milk leakage (BML)—an involuntary and often inconvenient release of milk. Nursing mothers are often told that they should expect BML for the first two to three weeks postpartum. Yet according to a study conducted by J.M. Morse, RN, PhD, and J.L. Bottoroff, MN, MEd, and published in the Journal of Nurse Midwifery, more than 90 percent of breastfeeding mothers experience BML at two months postpartum, and 66 percent still struggle with BML at six months postpartum.
Why do these leaks occur?
Oxytocin is the culprit. This hormone initiates the breasts' milk ejection reflex or "letdown." Thinking about your baby, preparing to nurse, or the sound of a baby (yours or not!) may trigger the release of oxytocin and elicit a letdown. You may notice that your free breast leaks slightly while nursing, which is also due to the milk ejection reflex. And lastly, don't be surprised if your breasts leak during intimate moments with your partner, since oxytocin is released during orgasm.