What is Letdown in Breastfeeding? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
While breastfeeding is one of the body’s most natural responses, there are still unfamiliar intricacies that you may be unaware of at the start of your journey.
Letdown, for example, is a physiological process that plays a major role in your ability to feed your baby efficiently. A slow vs fast letdown in breastfeeding might be the reason your baby is feeding longer or cluster feeding. An overactive letdown, on the other hand, could be the reason you have a large freezer stockpile of breast milk for bottles.
The truth about letdown is that the flow of milk from one mother’s breast to her baby’s mouth is different for everyone. By better understanding letdown in the early stages of breastfeeding and beyond, you can make the proper adjustments and set your little one (and yourself) up for success.
Understanding the Letdown Reflex
At its core, letdown is all about your body understanding that it’s time to feed your baby.
Letdown refers to the release of breast milk from the milk ducts into baby’s mouth. The act of breastfeeding begins when baby is latched to the breast, but the letdown reflex in breastfeeding defines the release of breast milk from the milk ducts into baby’s mouth.
This can also be referred to as milk-ejection reflex (MER). When baby starts to suck, nerves are activated that encourage the brain to release prolactin and oxytocin. This leads to the let down reflex, producing and releasing milk to satisfy the baby.
When Does Letdown Occur?
Generally, letdown happens about two minutes after baby is properly latched and consistently sucking on the breast. But letdown might happen even earlier than that. Letdown is your body understanding that it’s time for baby to eat.
In this way, some mothers may have milk letdown while a baby is crying. It’s the body’s intuitive response to a hungry little one, and serves as a natural factor of the undeniable bond between mother and baby.
How Do I Know It’s Working?
It’s important to remember, however, the letdown isn’t always easy to confirm, and it can sometimes be hard to tell by glance if baby is actually getting any milk. The good news is that letdown occurs multiple times during a single breastfeeding session, ensuring that the baby receives an adequate amount of milk.
Sensation may play a role in your ability to determine if your baby is in fact feeding. But what does let down feel like in breastfeeding? The truth is that it’s different for everyone. Some women feel a warm or tingling sensation, while other mothers can’t feel the flow of milk at all.
If you’re wondering if you’ve triggered the let down reflex in breastfeeding, but you can’t tell by the feeling, pay attention to your baby’s swallowing patterns. If you notice a steady swallowing motion, or can hear your baby swallowing, you’ve had a successful breastfeeding session. If you notice your baby struggling to feed, or you’re concerned about your letdown, get in touch with your women’s health professional or a lactation consultant.
Factors that Impact Letdown
A slow flow of breast milk can make any mother worry, especially with a growing baby to nourish. If you’ve noticed that your milk doesn’t flow easily, there are a number of factors that could be getting in the way, such as:
- Improper latching. Baby’s position on your breast makes a big difference in letdown.
- Stress. Feeling overwhelmed can keep the body from working properly, ultimately impacting your breastfeeding sessions.
- Body temperature. Your baby might be less inclined to get close to your body if it’s cold.
- Poor habits. Drinking alcohol inhibits the release of oxytocin which plays an important role in the letdown reflex.
An evaluation of these factors can help you take the next best step toward simplified feeding sessions.
Tips for Encouraging Letdown
In need of tips on how to increase letdown in breastfeeding? There are various lifestyle factors that you can change to encourage a forceful letdown and ensure your baby gets enough milk in each feeding session. Here are a few tips you can do right now that can make a difference in your letdown:
- Take your time. Relax and cuddle with your baby to get them ready for a feeding session. This is a simple way to stimulate both of your senses, and maybe get the letdown moving before breastfeeding begins.
- Try a warm shower. Get your body ready for breastfeeding by regulating your temperature. Massaging your breasts can also help, encouraging milk flow.
- Make time to relax. If stress is a big worry, try to take some time to decompress. Whether it’s a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood or a yoga session in the morning, finding ways to relax on your own can benefit both you and baby.
- Quit the bad habits. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine can hinder your ability to produce milk. Reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption can be a smart move, as treating your body well will also impact the baby.
Celebrating the Breastfeeding Journey for a Lifetime
Breastfeeding takes strength, courage, determination, and patience from both you and your baby, and once you reach the end of this journey together, it’s worth celebrating. Hold your breastfeeding journey dear to your heart and take it with you wherever you go with a piece of our unique breastmilk jewelry.
Shop the full collection at KeepsakeMom today!