The let-down reflex makes breast milk flow. When your baby sucks at the breast or you use a breast pump, nerves are then stimulated to encourage hormones to be released.
These hormones are prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin helps with milk production while oxytocin makes the breast release milk. They make breastfeeding easier for you and your baby.
Here are signs that you’re experiencing a milk let down and how you can stimulate it.
What are the signs of milk let-down?
The experience is different for every mom. Some may not feel it at all.
Here are common signs of a milk let-down:
- A tingling sensation before or during feeding
- Suddenly feeling full
- Feeling thirsty
- Milk dripping from the other breast, the one you’re not pumping or nursing from
- Abdominal pain due to your uterus cramping (which is more common during the first few weeks of nursing)
- Baby changes their sucking patterns (from suck-suck to constant suck-swallow pattern)
Usually, let downs happen a few times while you’re nursing or pumping. But the first one is probably the only one you’ll notice.
Some moms say that they feel relaxed and sleepy during milk let-downs. This is caused by oxytocin, the “love hormone” released during let down.
How to stimulate the let-down reflex?
There may be times when your body’s natural responses won’t work as fast as you (and your baby) would want to.
Stress, anxiety, and tiredness (which are normal for new moms) can affect the let-down reflex. If you’re having trouble stimulating milk let down, here are a few tips you can try:
- Relax. Do different methods that help you relax, such as listening to calming music, having your partner massage your shoulders, or getting a warm bath.
- Massage yourself. Gently stroke your breasts to encourage milk let down.
- Snuggle. Cuddling with your baby before you nurse can help stimulate milk let down. But if you’re pumping away from your baby, you can think of them, listen to recordings of their cooing, or inhale their smell on their blankies to encourage let down.
- Stick to a routine. As much as possible, stick to the same habits and routines before nursing or pumping. Milk let down is a reflex. Conditioning your body to associate such activities with breastfeeding will help your body respond accordingly.
Brennan, D. (March 17, 2021). Grow by WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/baby/what-is-the-let-down-reflex
Let-down reflex. (2021). Healthdirect Australia. https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/let-down-reflex#:~:text=The%20let%2Ddown%20reflex%20is%20what%20makes%20breastmilk%20flow.,breast%2C%20tiny%20nerves%20are%20stimulated.&text=Prolactin%20helps%20make%20the%20milk,let%20down%20through%20the%20nipple
Levine, H. (July 16, 2021). Breastfeeding and the Let-Down Reflex. What To Expect. https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/breastfeeding/let-down-reflex