Ways to Encourage Your Milk to Letdown
Original Article: https://omahabreastfeeding.com/newsletter-archive/ways-to-encourage-your-milk-to-letdown/
Diane Erdman, RN BSN IBCLC
The letdown reflex is a way to put the milk making and milk delivery systems together. Some moms, especially new mommies, find it difficult at first to begin letdown. This month’s newsletter gives you more information about this amazing reflex and tips to help get the milk flowing!
After a baby starts to nurse, mom’s oxytocin level rises causing milk to let down then baby starts to gulp milk. She will often feel a pins and needles sensation as the breast fills up with milk and the milk begins to flow. It may take up to 2 weeks after delivery for a mom to start to experience the letdown sensation. The letdown reflex doesn’t just occur when babies are nursing but anytime if mom thinks about her baby, it’s getting close to feeding time or she hears another baby cry.
Many things that are going on in mom’s brain affects how her milk will letdown. Stress, anxiety and embarrassment may inhibit the letdown reflex. This can occur if baby is a preemie in the hospital, if mom is busy at work trying to pump or she is out in public trying to breastfeed. Excessive use of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine can delay the letdown. Painful engorgement and sore nipples can also have a negative effect on the letdown reflex. Breastfeeding should not be painful and it’s always important to know how to relieve engorgement and correct the cause of nipple soreness.
Here are some physical suggestions to help your milk to let down:
- Apply warm moist heat with towels a few minutes before nursing
- Warm the flange of the breastpump before putting it to the breasts
- Sip on a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate
- Stand up, lean over and shake your breasts together
- Massage each breast with a circular motion
- Express your milk by supporting your breast with your 4 fingers and using your thumb to gently stroke your breasts from the top down towards the nipple
- Gently roll your nipples between your thumb and forefinger (avoid this if your nipples are sore) and your brain will think your baby is latching on, causing the milk to let down
Psychological methods to help your milk let down:
- Look at and touch your baby if you are in the hospital while pumping
- Have a picture of your baby to look at while you pump
- Watch and listen to a video clip of your baby crying on your phone
- Have a t-shirt or something your baby has worn to have baby’s scent nearby
- Be in a warm, quiet, private environment. Have a door that locks and put a sign on the door such as “Breastfeeding mom pumping”.
- Take some slow, deep, relaxing breaths. Try to separate yourself and thoughts from your work environment, thinking about your baby instead.
- Think positive thoughts: visualize milk flowing from your breasts or a dam bursting and a huge amount of water rushing down a narrow canyon
- Play relaxing music
- Watch something on TV or read a book or magazine if being distracted and not concentrating on pumping works better for you