When it comes to breastfeeding, there are a lot of perks involved. It’s great for mother-baby bonding, it provides what’s probably considered to be the best nutrition to your baby, and it boosts their immune system.
You know what isn’t so great about it, though? The stains that breast milk leaves on your clothes … Oh those annoying, annoying stains …
It’s leaks galore right out of the blue, regardless of where you are at the time (and how embarrassing it is for you to go through something like that for everyone else to see) and what you’re wearing (favorite top on? These leaks don’t care – they’re as ruthless as they come!).
What Causes Breast Milk To Leave Stains On Clothes?
Breast milk has many components; fat, carbohydrates, water, vitamins and minerals, amino acids, white cells, enzymes, and protein. It’s considered by experts to be the perfect mix of nutrition to meet your baby’s needs at each stage of their development.
But it’s that last ingredient – protein – that causes all the staining problems.
Breast milk stains are protein-based stains. They’re similar to feces, dairy products, and blood. At first, they’ll look like a grease stain. Left to dry over time, they’ll turn yellowish in color.
Because they’re protein-based, they’re harder to get out of clothes if not treated properly and straight away.
And it’s not just your own clothes we’re talking about here, you’ll also find these stains on some of your baby’s stuff – such as their own pieces of clothing, burp cloths and blankets.
How To Remove Breast Milk Stains From Clothes
So, assuming you’re not a fan of going out and buying a whole new wardrobe just because milk stains ruined your current clothes, what is it exactly you need to do to remove breast milk stains?
Your best bet is to treat breast milk stains, like any protein-based stain, promptly. The sooner you give it your attention, the better your chances are of saving that piece of clothing from having to be thrown away.
For starters, keep the stained clothes away from heat and use an enzyme-based cleaner on the stain. These enzymes are necessary to attack the proteins in the stain with efficiency.
Below are the steps to follow for getting a breast milk stain out of a piece of clothing right away.
- Rinse the stained area in cold water immediately. Avoid using hot water, since that makes the staining worse off than it already is.
- Pre-treat the stained area with whatever stain remover you’re comfortable with/are using to using.
- Scrub at the area with an old sponge or toothbrush.
- Wash it like you normally would. (Note: If washing any of your baby’s clothes or items affected by breast milk stains, don’t forget to only do so using baby safe laundry detergent).
- Leave to air dry in the sun for optimal bleaching.
What If I Don’t Catch A Breast Milk Stain Right Away?
Unfortunately, sometimes a stain doesn’t appear until weeks – or even months – later. Or it does appear but you don’t notice it (or the lazy side in you said “meh, I’ll get to it later”).
Whatever the case may be, don’t panic just yet – not all hope is lost.
You can follow the same steps as above, but add soaking in cold water for 10-15 minutes after you pre-treat the stained area and before you scrub it. If that doesn’t work, try soaking the garment in an oxygen bleach solution.
Follow the steps below.
- Dissolve the oxygen bleach in hot water.
- Add that water to a larger amount of cold water (do NOT put your garment in the hot water).
- Use a sink, tub or washing bucket that you can dedicate to having the piece of clothing soak in overnight.
- After soaking, wring the garment and launder like usual. For best results, use an enzyme-based detergent, too.
Note: It’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to use bleach to get breast milk stains out of affected clothes, but you should know that bleach contains harmful chemicals that can cause skin irritations to your little one (especially if they have sensitive skin to begin with), as well as cause all sorts of respiratory problems. So, if you can get another method to work for you besides using bleach, that would be best.
What Not To Do When Trying To Get Breast Milk Out Of Your Clothes
Avoid heat at all costs. An iron, hot water, or a dryer will all set-in the stain. That’s why air-drying after the first attempt at stain removal is best.
If it doesn’t work, you won’t have completely set the stain in with a hot, electric dryer.
Which Stain Removers Should I Use?
If you’re a natural mama who strives to avoid using chemicals whenever possible, you do have some natural stain remover options you can choose from.
Lemon juice, with its acetic acid, is a natural bleach that works very well on white clothes.
Hydrogen peroxide is environmentally safe and a decent bleach agent, as well.
Some moms have reported success dabbing baking soda mixed with water on the stain immediately after it happens, too.
This youtube video has a great overall of a lot of common baby clothes stains and natural removal methods, most of which work on adult clothes, too.
Many moms swear by OxiClean Baby, while others have used Dawn dish soap (it is a grease stain, after all).
How To Prevent Breast Milk Stains For The Future
Now that you’ve gone through all the trouble of getting these annoying stains out of your clothes, how do you prevent this from happening again in the future to begin with?
Here are some tips on how to prevent breast milk stains from forming again in the future.
Use Nursing Pads
Nursing pads are thick, round pads that you can slip into your bra between your breast and the bra’s material.
They’re available in two different types you can choose from depending on personal preference: disposable pads you can only use once and reusable cloth versions which you have to wash. It’s a very similar decision to having to choose between disposable and reusable diapers.
If your nipples leak, or there’s any milk left on them after a feeding, nursing pads will soak up the liquid and prevent it from reaching your clothes.
Get A Nursing Bra & Wardrobe
Invest in a good nursing bra and nursing wardrobe.
Nursing bras have snaps that allow you to drop down the front portion of the bra’s cup so that baby can get at the nipple with as little messing around as possible. A specially designed nursing bra means less struggle with getting your baby to the breast, which in turn leads to less leaking all over yourself.
Slits in nursing clothes make it easy to pop baby on the breast. There are different kinds of access; a top with a false front that snaps off, or which lifts up so you can slide baby under to feed, drop-down pieces of cloth that velcro, snap, or zip into place, V-necks with bands of cloth under the breasts that conceal slits for nursing.
Specially designed bras and clothing for nursing eliminate the hassle of tugging at clothing to get it out of the way to nurse, which is when your breasts are more likely to let-down and spill.
Put Down Blankets Or Sheets You Don’t Care About
Cover your nursing pillow with a blanket or an old t shirt you don’t really care much about and don’t wear anymore. Put an old, ratty sheet between you and your bed when you’re sleeping.
Breast milk doesn’t just stain clothes; it can stain bedding, mattresses, your couch and baby glider – so protect these valuable items you care about by making use of something you don’t really care about.
Use Burp Cloths Or Bibs
Stains aren’t just caused by leaking; milk dribbles from your baby’s mouth and goes all the way down their chin while they’re feeding.
It may seem silly to put a bib on your baby while they’re nursing, but it can prevent any spillage from reaching your clothes.
And, when burping them, be sure to also use a cloth.
Wrapping It Up
If you’re a new mom, it won’t take long for you to get comfortable dealing with the stains that various bodily fluids leave on yours and your baby’s clothes.
It might take a bit of trial and error at first, but you’ll soon become a seasoned pro and find yourself passing on tips you’ve learned along the way to other mommy friends/family members of yours who desperately need them.
If you’ve already successfully removed breast milk stains from your clothes before, what tips do you have for other moms? Anything you’ve put to the test yourself and worked out for you that we haven’t mentioned in this article? Make yourself heard in the comments section and let us know all about it!
Oh and, speaking about stains, you can read all about how to remove poop stains from clothes here just in case you also happen to be in that sticky situation too.