The Lowdown on Breastfeeding Let-Down

September 17, 2020 3 min read

The Lowdown on Breastfeeding Let-Down

Let-down is your body’s natural response to healthy breastfeeding, every mother experiences let-down a little differently and if your milk isn’t flowing as much as you’d like, a few simple steps might just make the difference. Don’t let up on your let-down! Continue reading below to learn what it is and how you can encourage it.

What is breastfeeding let-down?

Let down is the reflex that releases milk from your breast. Let-down typically occurs shortly after your baby latches and begins suckling, usually after a minute or two, when your brain responds to the stimuli of breastfeeding by releasing the hormones oxytocin and prolactin. These hormones help your body open the gates, as it were, relaxing the milk-making tissues to allow for a freer flow of milk from the breast. This makes it much easier for your baby to get the nutrients they need, while you can retain breastmilk between feedings.

What are the signs of let-down?

You may feel—and even see—when your let-down sets in. In fact, your baby may not even be able to keep up! It’s not uncommon for babies to dribble a bit during let-down, or for you to hear them gulping mouthfuls of milk. Other common signs of let-down can include:

  • Cramps – Menstrual-like cramps in your uterus are possible, particularly during the first few weeks after childbirth.
  • Leaking – Oxytocin can affect both breasts simultaneously, causing the breast your baby’s not using to leak a little while breastfeeding.
  • Tingling sensations – Tingling sensations can be gentle or strong—a pins-and-needles feeling as the nerve endings in your breast are heavily stimulated.
  • Weight gains for your baby – Healthy weight gain is the goal, however you nourish your baby. If your baby is wetting more than five or six diapers daily and seems satisfied and content after breastfeeding, your let-down is likely producing results.

How you can encourage let-down

Like every aspect of motherhood, your experience with let-down will be uniquely yours. Some mothers experience stronger let-down reflexes than others, and that’s okay! If you’re not quite satisfied with your let-down, speak with your lactation consultant. They can help you work out a plan to stimulate your let-down reflex if possible.

You can also try the following tips that may help encourage let-down:

  • Find a relaxing space away from distractions, make yourself comfortable, practice some mindful breathing techniques, and consider some tranquil music. It’s possible for stress to inhibit your let-down reflex, so find your zen!
  • Physically stimulate your breasts just before breastfeeding by messaging them gently with your fingers. The physical sensation of your baby latching is often one of the most important factors that activate let-down, so this may help you prime for a stronger reflex.
  • Warm your breasts just prior to breastfeeding, either through a warm shower or by applying warm towels to your breasts.
  • Stimulate your senses by looking at, listening to, touching, and even smelling your baby. Skin-on-skin contact can be particularly helpful. Our brains are remarkably powerful and can respond simply by sensing the mere presence of your baby!
  • Do your best to stick to your breastfeeding routine. Breastfeeding at specific times can train your body to respond more consistently.

Excessive let-down is possible

If your let-down reflex is too strong, you may have too strong a flow, causing your baby to release their latch and even gag. A brief pump before breastfeeding can help you manage your supply. You can also try nursing from a more reclined position so that your baby is suckling against gravity, or nursing from only one side per feeding.

How pumping helps with let-down

Pumping can be a great way to help you maintain the routine and frequency of your let-down. Usually, the same tips above can be used to encourage let-down when you’re pumping. Fortunately, breast pumping tips are essentially the same as breastfeeding tips when it comes to managing your let-down. If you’re pumping at work or just away from your baby, you can still find similar stimulation by looking at photos or videos of your baby or smelling a piece of their clothes.

What’s more, the quiet, discrete, and gentle silicone surface of our Pumpd breast pumps make it easy to find stillness and comfort and keep your mind on that little beauty of yours, who makes your hard work so rewarding.

The right breast pump can make a difference

At New Edition, we understand how important a comfortable and safe breast pump is to a healthy breastfeeding experience. Explore our online shop for great breast pump accessories and baby-friendly sanitisers, or contact us today to learn more!

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