I breastfeed each of my children for an extended period of time. I actually kind of miss it, all these years later. The bonding, the sweet time shared between me and my child, the instant sleep that would take over their bodies that I can only dream of now — good times. One of the things I don't miss though is the laundry that breastfeeding created. From leaks to spit-up, there's a lot happening. But does breast milk stain your clothes? I mean, a poopy diaper exploding in your lap is one thing, but what about an overly full, leaking breast?
Turns out, I have some good news and some bad news. In my long experience with breastfeeding, whether or not breast milk will stain your clothing is largely dependent on the fabric of the garment, and strangely, how old your child is. In the first few days after giving birth, your milk isn't the usual milk that you'll be producing for the duration of your breastfeeding. It's colostrum, which according to Science Daily, is mostly sugar, protein, water, and antibodies. It's also sticky as heck, and gold in color, making it much harder to get out of clothes than regular breast milk. (It was almost impossible to get out of the silky robe that I bought purposefully for the ease of whipping out my breast to feed my baby. That was a rookie mistake I'll never repeat.)
If you've been watching Chrissy Teigen's Instagram stories, you'll know that she recently lamented the breast milk that leaked into what looked like a very expensive bra. (The seaming is truly something to behold.) If you've ever breastfed, you'll know this pain, however, unlike colostrum, most breast milk doesn't leave a stain. While it is composed of quite a bit of fat and sugar, according to Seminars in Perinatology, it's not particularly sticky or greasy, making it easily removed with regular laundering. It will, however, look like a stain until you wash it. It doesn't dry up like a drop of water would do.
You'll want to pay close attention to the instructions on the garment you're cleaning, too. I learned the hard way that just because you think you should be washing your nursing bra on high heat to get it as clean as possible does not mean that you should. In fact, according to Charley Maternity Bras, you're going to want to wash your nursing bras in extra cold water, on the gentle cycle, and consider line drying them or lying them flat to dry because the elastic in the bra is delicate and can react poorly to the high heat of the dryer.
I asked maternity nurse and mom Amber Taylor of British Columbia if breast milk stains clothes, and she tells Romper that "breast milk can stain silk and delicate fabrics, but it doesn't really stain cotton or nylon." The big issue with breast milk staining, according to Taylor, is when it's in spit-up. "Babies also throw up mucus, and that can make the milk more viscous and prone to stay on clothes." In that case, you'll want to rinse it off right away and get it in the laundry.
However, the one time your breast milk might really stain everything, notes Taylor, is when you're having problems with cracked nipples as so many of us do in the beginning. Blood is an absolute pain in the butt to get out of clothing, and sometimes there's just no hope for it. I'll never forget waking up in the middle of the night with two bright pink Regina George-style boob patches right over my nipples. That t-shirt was lost to me forever. If your nipples are damaged, make sure that you change your breast pads frequently (or use disposable ones), because blood doesn't always want to come out. Otherwise, you're good with a little detergent and a lot of patience while you leak.