Dear Lactation Consultant,
I have a 4 and 1/2 year old daughter and I still have the feeling of my milk dropping when I hear other babies. I still have the openings on my nipples, no milk coming out. I have not lost any of my breast size since I stopped breast feeding 4 years ago. My physician says its fine, but I thought 4 years is too long. What should I do now?
Thanks for your help.
I don't think that you have anything to worry about. Some women's breast return to their pre-pregnant size almost immediately after they stop nursing, while others never do. Some women will leak for years and years, while others never leak at all. The tingling feeling associated with let-down can also last for years, and lots of grandmothers still feel that sensation when they are around babies.
I stopped nursing my last child 7 years ago, and can still squeeze a few drops of milk out of one breast after I shower. I also occasionally get a slight feeling of let-down (not as strong as it was when I was nursing, of course) when I hear a baby cry or hold one in my arms.
If you develop swollen breasts, tenderness, or lots of leaking, then you probably need to have it checked out. Occasional leaking of a few drops, or being able to squeeze some out in the shower is one thing, but lots of leaking and soreness is something else.
There are some medical conditions that can cause milk production when you're not lactating, so it should be checked out if it seems to be causing a problem. What you're describing sounds perfectly normal and I wouldn't worry about it at all.
All the best,
-- Anne, IBCLC
Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a health psychologist, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and Research Associate Professor of Psychology specializing in women's health at the Family Research Lab, University of New Hampshire. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in both the Divisions of Health Psychology and Trauma Psychology. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a La Leche League leader, chair of the New Hampshire Breastfeeding Taskforce, and the Area Coordinator of Leaders for La Leche League of Maine and New Hampshire.
Dr. Kendall-Tackett is author of more than 140 journal articles, book chapters and other publications, and author or editor of 15 books including The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood (2005, Hale Publications), Depression in New Mothers (2005, Haworth), and Breastfeeding Made Simple, co-authored with Nancy Mohrbacher (2005, New Harbinger). She is on the editorial boards of the journals Child Abuse and Neglect, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse and the Journal of Human Lactation, and regularly reviews for 27 other journals in the fields of trauma, women's health, interpersonal violence, depression, and child development. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is the "Ask a Lactation Consultant" columnist on Pregnancy.org and serves on the Board of Directors of Attachment Parenting International.
Dr. Kendall-Tackett received a Bachelor's and Master's degree in psychology from California State University, Chico, and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University in social and developmental psychology. She has won several awards including the Outstanding Research Study Award from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and was named 2003 Distinguished Alumna, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, California State University, Chico.