Colostrum / Nipple Discharge

Nipple discharge, or colostrum, is a normal part of being a woman, regardless of whether or not you’re pregnant. As quickly as you become pregnant, you’ll begin to see and feel a change in your breast as your body begins to prepare for child birth. Usually by the end of the first trimester or beginning of the second trimester, an expectant mother will begin to experience leakage of colostrum. Colostrum is a form of milk that is secreted from your nipples, which is produced by your mammary glands. It’s your baby’s first nutrients on the outside of the womb, until your breasts begin making milk a few days after birth.

There’s no way to stop the colostrum from leaking during your pregnancy. Many women experience it throughout pregnancy, specifically during sexual arousal and breast massages. Other women have said to experience leakage when they hear a baby cry. Early in pregnancy, colostrum is thick and yellowish in color, and as child birth approaches, it turns nearly colorless.

During the later part of your pregnancy, you may see an increase in colostrum leakage. This too is normal as your body prepares for delivery. Newborn babies have very small digestive systems after exiting the womb. Colostrum provides key nutrients the baby needs in very concentrated, but low- volume forms. Colostrum also has a mild laxative effect, which allows the baby to have its first bowel movement called meconium. Colostrum is rich in antibodies, proteins, Vitamin A and sodium chloride, and contains lower amounts of carbohydrates, lipids, and potassium than normal milk does. This is crucial to the baby’s sensitive digestive system and developing immune system.

After birth, when you begin breast feeding, the sucking the baby does helps to stimulate the body to begin producing milk, plus the sucking also creates a surge of the hormone oxytocin in your body, which helps your uterus contract and shrink down to the size it was before you were pregnant.

Although embarrassing at times, there are a few things you can do to prevent leakage problems from occurring.

Preventing Accidents

Talk with your health care provider about the amount of colostrum you are secreting. Remember that there is nothing you can do to stop the leakage, however you can purchase breast pads to control the problem. There are different types of breast pads, such as disposable or washable. Wearing these pads inside a supportive bra can reduce discomfort you may be feeling with tender breasts, as well as prevent embarrassing moments as you leak colostrum.

Another recommendation your doctor or midwife might have for you is to allow time each day to air dry your breasts. The air provides a natural blockage in the mammary glands that do not stop, but slow down the amount of secretion. Air drying your breasts after a shower is also recommended, as the shower provides ample moisture to your nipples.

Also, if you are leaking colostrum, try not to wear any shirts or blouses that you may love. This can prevent ruining them, which will only upset you more while you’re in your fragile state of mind. Wear clothes you purposely bought for your pregnancy, and invest in breast pads (also called nursing pads).

[Page updated June 2014]