Breasts leaking colostrum during pregnancy

If your breasts are leaking during pregnancy, it means your body is getting ready to feed your baby. That liquid is colostrum, the perfect first food for your newborn.

pregnant woman holding breast
Photo credit: iStock

What is colostrum?

Colostrum is a high-protein, antibody-rich liquid that your body produces for your newborn. It's sometimes called "foremilk" because it comes in before mature breast milk. Because it's the perfect first food for your baby, it's sometimes called "liquid gold."


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  • Provides ideal newborn nutrition
  • Protects against infections
  • Is easily digested
  • Has a laxative effect that helps clear meconium from an infant's gastrointestinal tract (which in turn reduces the risk of jaundice)
  • Helps establish a healthy gut microbiome

What does colostrum look like?

Breast Milk in bottle

Colostrum looks like a clear, creamy white, yellow, or even orange liquid (orange is due to beta carotene content). It's often thick, though it can be thin, and it's sometimes a little sticky.

stages of colostrum to breast milk
“From Colostrum to Breast Milk - 4241” by Amada 44 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

More mature breast milk is more creamy looking and white or bluish-white in color. Mature milk comes in (in greater quantity) around the third or fourth day after giving birth.

When do expecting moms start producing milk?

Pregnant moms start producing small amounts of colostrum as early as three or four months into pregnancy. (You may have noticed your breasts becoming bigger before that, as your milk glands increase in number and size.) Sometime in your second trimester, your milk duct system is fully developed, so that you can make milk for your baby even if he or she arrives early.

Learn more about how your body makes breast milk.

Is it a problem if my breasts leak during pregnancy?

Leaking nipples are not a problem or unusual during pregnancy. Your body is simply getting ready to feed your baby, and your hormones are at work.

Until you give birth, the hormones estrogen and progesterone will keep you from actively producing much milk. But at the same time, the hormone prolactin becomes active, especially during the last trimester. Prolactin helps your body produce milk and is responsible if you leak a little colostrum.

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Some women leak a few drops of colostrum as early as the second trimester, but it's more common during the final weeks of pregnancy, if at all. If you do leak, you may notice small yellow or orange dots on the inside of your bra cups.

The leaks can happen at any time, or you may notice your nipples leaking when they're stimulated – during sex, for example, or if they've rubbed against your bra while exercising or walking.

Tell your caregiver if:

  • You're leaking more than a few drops of colostrum at a time, or there's a sudden increase in the amount you're leaking.
  • There is blood in the colostrum
  • The colostrum is thick

None of these are necessarily worrisome, but it's a good idea to check with your doctor because they could be signs of a clogged milk duct.

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Is it okay if I don't leak colostrum?

Don't worry if you don't leak any colostrum. That's perfectly normal, too, and your baby will be able to get the colostrum when he or she breastfeeds.

If you're curious, you can probably hand express a little colostrum in your third trimester. While most lactation experts say it's safe to do so, some studies have suggested a possible association with preterm labor and/or mastitis. To be safe, don't express if you have any risk factors for preterm labor. And don't try until you're at least 37 weeks pregnant.

How to cope with breasts leaking during pregnancy

Breast leaks during pregnancy are usually very minor and easy to handle. If they bother you, though, you can tuck nursing pads inside your bra, and avoid nipple stimulation.

Rest assured that if your breasts are leaking during pregnancy, it's a sign that your body is doing exactly what's necessary to get ready for your baby's arrival.

If you plan to breastfeed your baby – and especially if this is your first time breastfeeding – you might enjoy reading our article on getting started breastfeeding. It'll tell you how often to nurse, how to get comfortable, whether you need a special diet, what problems you might encounter, and where to get help.

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Bryant J et al. 2020. Anatomy, Colostrum. NCBI. StatPearls Publishing. a new window [Accessed February 2021]

Godhia ML et al. 2013. Colostrum - Its composition, benefits as a nutraceutical - A review. Current Research in Nutrition and Food Science 1(1): 37-47. a new window [Accessed February 2021]

Healthychildren.orgOpens a new window. 2009. Colostrum: Your baby's first meal. American Academy of Pediatrics. a new window [Accessed February 2021]

Kaiser Permanente. Prenatal breast care. a new window [Accessed February 2021]

Kavanagh J et al 2005. Breast stimulation for cervical ripening and induction of labor. Cochrane Database Systematic Review 3: CD003392. a new window [Accessed February 2021]

LLLI. Undated. Colostrum: General. La Leche League International. a new window [Accessed February 2021]

LLLI. Undated. Colostrum: Prenatal/antenatal expression. La Leche League International. a new window [Accessed February 2021]

Sadovnikova A et al. 2020. The onset and maintenance of human lactation and its endocrine regulation. Chapter 14 in Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Endocrinology: 189-205. Abstract: a new window [Accessed February 2020]

Karen Miles
Karen Miles is a writer and an expert on pregnancy and parenting who has contributed to BabyCenter for more than 20 years. She's passionate about bringing up-to-date, useful information to parents so they can make good decisions for their families. Her favorite gig of all is being "Mama Karen" to four grown children and "Nana" to nine grandkids.