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Colostrum Production During Pregnancy

The Overachievers

By Amalah

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

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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 Ama...

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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