What is the Let Down Reflex?

Hey there Mama!

As you are up in the night feeding your littlest love you may be reading this now. Have you ever felt a tingle or squeezing sensation behind your nipple or breasts? Maybe you’ve noticed your breasts feel overly full all of the sudden? Or you may notice milk dripping from the other breast during a feed (the Haakaa is a great device to catch and save this magical milk). It is possible you don’t feel it at all, and that is totally Ok too. Every woman is different and may or may not feel that “let down” sensation.

The let down reflex is the part of breastfeeding that starts the flow of milk for the baby. Think of it as if he is turning on the faucet. Once your baby starts sucking there are two hormones released, prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin helps make the milk and Oxytocin helps push it out. Milk is then “let down” through the nipple. During this time, your babies sucking will have changed from a fast sucking to a slow, deep, rhythmic sucking.

There are ways you can help the letdown to occur during a feed:

  • Relax and get comfortable. Apply warm heat to the breast prior to a feed or hand expression. Listen to relaxing music.
  • Gentle Massage stroking your breast tissue in a downward movement towards the nipple.
  • Think about your baby

Sometimes this can be quite forceful causing your baby to gulp like crazy or completely pop off causing you to shoot him in the face with milk. If you notice this to be an issue for your little one there are a few things to try.  Hand expression before the feed, reclining back when you feel the sensation of a let down occur, or taking your little off once the let down has started (you can squirt the milk into a small cup to save it for later). No wasting here.  Be sure to burp your baby well and often if you notice your let down being powerful. 

This let down can be triggered in many instances such as:

  • Breast or Nipple Stimulation
  • Hearing Babies Cry (any and all babies)
  • Watching videos or looking at pictures of your baby
  • Schedule- it may be time to feed and your body knows it.

It often occurs 2-3 times in a feed (even if you don’t feel it).  Most Moms will only feel the first letdown of the feed. In the beginning stages of breastfeeding, let down can be sporadic.  You might find yourself soaking through your clothes or waking up wet in the night. Once breastfeeding is good and established this unexpected let down should regulate itself.  

Here are some tips to handle the leaking:

  • Wear darker or lighter tops and small prints.  Definitely avoid solid gray. It shows it all.
  • Wear breast pads in your bra to help absorb those leaks.  Bamboobies  make some awesome reusable pads or there are many options for disposable pads out there as well.  Totally your preference. 
  • There are also little devices that save all the milk from the extra lets downs.  Let’s be honest, milk is like gold. We never want to waste it. Check out Milkies Milk Savers on the Go.
  • Wear a snug bra to keep the breasts from being overstimulated when not with the baby.  If your bra or shirt is constantly stimulating your nipples, it can cause an unwanted let down to occur.

Hopefully by now as you are finishing up reading this, you are getting ready to tuck that little of yours back in for the night. Get some rest and sleep well, Mama.  And as always, we are here for you!!  Click here to find a Mama Coach in your area! You are a rockstar, and don’t you forget it!

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