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The Overachievers

Jan02

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Dear Amy,

First of all, LOVE reading all your wonderful advice. Thank you so much for all the great information, especially regarding breastfeeding and cloth diapering.

I am 5 months pregnant with my first child and although I have looked through the archives, I haven’t found an answer to this particular question, and the internets haven’t really been forthcoming either.
A few weeks ago, I started leaking a little bit of something out of one of my breasts. It was only at night, and I’d wake up with something clear and crusted on my shirt. This of course led me to freak out that (1) there was stuff coming out of my boobs at not even 5 months along and (2) why wasn’t it coming out of both breasts?

Last night, after not sleeping for several hours due to extraordinary upper back pain (thank you even more ridiculously huge boobs), I woke up with the front of my shirt SOAKED in whatever is coming out of my nipples (last night a little bit finally came out of the right side, so I’m no longer stressing about being lopsided once my baby comes.)

So my question is two-fold.

1. What is this stuff?
2. Should I go ahead and sleep in some sort of bra/nursing tank with nursing pads even though I’m ONLY 5 MONTHS PREGNANT?

Thank you for your help!

L

Oh, boobs. After all those years of being just there, for mostly decorative purposes, they suddenly decide to kick into high gear and get all kinds of functional. And blah blah blah breastfeeding is normal and natural but YOU GUYS IT’S REALLY WEIRD SOMETIMES TOO.

You are leaking colostrum. Colostrum is a clear-to-yellowish liquid that can be a bit thick and sticky, hence the crustiness when it dries. It’s the first milk your baby will drink for the first couple days until your real, regular white-ish-looking milk “comes in.” It’s the really good stuff, the liquid gold, so packed with antibodies and stuff that it’s like a Red Bull for your newborn’s immune system.

And yes, you start producing it while pregnant and MANY women will realize they are leaking it, and the leaking CAN occur pretty much any time. The third trimester is the most “typical” time, but it can absolutely happen earlier. I leaked in my third trimester with all three babies, just a little. BUT long before that happened, I would occasionally see if I could squeeze/hand-express anything and usually could by some point in the second trimester. So as long as your nipples seem to be otherwise normal looking and feeling (i.e. not red, inflamed, painful) and the liquid is clear and not pus (colostrum also…tastes very sweet, in case you want to check that way OH WE’VE ALL DONE IT), I’d simply congratulate your boobs for being early overachievers. (After you call your doctor and/or promise to mention this at your next visit, that is. As always, NOT A DOCTOR AND NOBODY SHOULD LISTEN TO ME EVER.)

As for being lopsided in production — I have NO IDEA if colostrum production in pregnancy is any “real” indicator of what your milk supply will actually be like once you give birth, but in case you are concerned: It is relatively common for one boob to produce more milk than the other. I’ve nursed three babies with super lopsided boobs — the right side was damaged during a cyst aspiration and I affectionately call it the Gimp Boob, while the left side picks up the slack. I have a meal boob and snack boob, basically. HOWEVER, again, I wouldn’t worry too much about that yet, at only five months along. All signs point to your ducts doing exactly what they are supposed to, like gangbusters.

In the meantime, yes, you’ll probably want to protect your clothes with some nursing pads. You can buy both disposable and fabric styles pretty much everywhere — Amazon, Target, drugstores, baby stores, etc.  (I like the fabric ones, because they stay put better. Just toss in your regular wash with your pajamas, no biggie.) And then sleep in something comfortable that can hold the pads in place. Sports bra, sleep bra, shelf/nursing tank, anything tight but unstructured. If it starts happening during the day (some women find that the sound of running water/flushing toilets can trigger leaking), just shove the pads in your regular bra. (But since your ducts are clearly quite active, be doubly sure that your bras fit properly and watch for digging underwires and stuff like that.)

Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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10 Responses to “The Overachievers”

  1. Carolyn Jan 02 at 4:27 pm Reply Reply

    This started happening to me somewhere between 12 and 16 weeks (and I think the first place I heard about it was in the pregnancy calendar!) I SWEAR BY Lillypadz silicone nursing pads (you can find them on Amazon or Babies R Us, just search around online for the best deal). They sound kind of odd (they sort of go on like a suction cup, and by applying pressure to the nipple they stop milk from leaking out) but they work incredibly well. I think mine started to lose some of their suction-y properties towards the end of my pregnancy (they aren’t STICKY, per se, but they’re textured to grip, kind of. I’m not doing a very good job of describing them!) so I ended up buying a second set, but you’ll definitely get your money’s worth with them! (And I never saw anything online about this, but my baby was in the NICU after he was born, and the nurses were impressed with how much colostrum I was able to pump in those first few days! So maybe that was just a fluke, but I liked to think the sticky shirts and early leaking boobs came in handy!)

  2. HereWeGoAJen Jan 02 at 4:48 pm Reply Reply

    My favorite breast pads were Milk Diapers, far more comfortable than the generic-y ones I bought at Target.

    And I started colostrum early too. I could express it the first time I tried, which I think was early in the second trimester.

  3. Shalyn Jan 02 at 6:03 pm Reply Reply

    I was lopsided when I started leaking during pregnancy and I was so worried I would only produce out of one boob, but lo! both boobs work just fine. I also had tons of colostrum in the beginning, so I think early leaking is an advantage.

  4. Lolismum Jan 02 at 7:16 pm Reply Reply

    I second, third, quadruple recommendations for the lilypadz. They are silicon, pliable cups. Unlike other nursing pads, they don’t catch or absorb the leak, they stop you from leaking in the first place, they don’t move around, they wash clean with mild soap and water, they don’t give you the ripping off the band-aid effect other pads do. I loved them.

  5. Autoclave Jan 02 at 7:19 pm Reply Reply

    As for production after delivery, I had a friend who leaked throughout her pregnancy but to her disappointment that was the extent of her milk expression, so I guess don’t use the leaking as a be all end all indicator of working boobs.

  6. Erin Jan 02 at 8:22 pm Reply Reply

    I’ve found that the pads tend to shift around at night, even in tanks/bras, so I stick a trifolded prefold diaper or burp cloth in there, going across both boobs. Sure, it gives you a not-so-sexy uniboob, but it stays put better than the pads do. (In the first few months after your baby is born, your boobs will leak LOTS at night, and I recommend wrapping the diaper/burp cloth around a cloth diaper insert for maximum absorption. I like the FuzziBunz ones, you can get them in 3-packs on Amazon or from any diaper website, but I’m sure other brands are fine too.)

  7. Kim Jan 03 at 12:04 pm Reply Reply

    This is definitely a YMMV situation. The first thing I wondered when I read the post is, what side do you sleep on? Because that was the side I would leak on. I started at 7 months with my first, and around then with my second. Both times, I ran out and bought nursing pads.both times, Both times I ended up giving them away. For me, the pressure of a aleep bra was enough. I leaked more with my second, but again, it tended to be a pressure thing (I’m large. Sometimes the girls get squished on tables and stuff,)and even then it was only for the first few weeks.
    So I would try a sleep bra and a towel underneath me to see if that works before spending big money. (I still swear by the tanks I got at Motherhood, and I’ve been known to buy them when I’m not pregnant,.)

  8. beth Jan 03 at 8:55 pm Reply Reply

    Um, I’m having the totally OPPOSITE problem… I’m five months and I’ve got nada going on in the boob department. No growth, sensitivity, nothing – not even “more visible veins”, like the pregger books keep talking about. I’ve got barely B cups on a good day and am 5’10″ so they look even smaller… I was really hoping for some boobage, but no dice. I’m just hoping they work.

  9. Myriam Jan 04 at 8:47 am Reply Reply

    Just a thought, why not collect and freeze your leaking colostrum. It might be useful in case your baby is premature, or if your milk comes in late. I know it took a few days for me to produce enough for my daughter and she has a slight jaundice and it might have helped to resolve it quicker if I’d more colostrum. You can use these bags : http://www.mymilkies.com/. They are used to collect leaking milk from the other boob while breastfeeding. I found oput about them to late, but definitely plan on using them the second time around!

  10. Laura B. Jan 11 at 5:02 pm Reply Reply

    YES! YES! leaky boobs at 5 months! Same deal over here. I used breastpads and slept in a bra of some sort. It
    would come and go throughout the rest of my pregnancy. I thought it was HILARIOUS. When I started nursing and my nipples were SO SORE, I found the cloth pads awful – they would stick to my nipples and were excrutiating to pull off! but after a few months I went back to them no problem. The Lillypadz were awesome when I went back to work at 1 yr, but they lost their grippy-ness after a month so were not quite worth the money to me. Congrats on your impending birth! Hooray babies!

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