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A Note on Let-down

Read about milk production and let-down mechanism

Let-down (milk release or milk ejection reflex) may be the toughest part in making pumping and breastfeeding successful and productive.

It is defined as an ability of your body to release milk and let it flow freely through the nipple in response to nipple stimulation.

Here is How It Works

Your baby's sucking stimulates nerves in the nipple. This stimulation is transferred to your brain, to the pituitary gland, or hypophysis.

In response to stimulation the gland releases hormones prolactin and oxytocin.

Prolactin is responsible for milk production by milk gland cells. Produced milk is stored in the milk ducts.

Oxytocin stimulates milk release from the ducts into the reservoirs in the areola.

This process of milk production and ejection is multi-phased and every phase has to work smoothly to make the process successful.

Unusual hormonal or physiological changes in woman’s body can easily disrupt the process.

On the other hand, if milk is produced successfully, it has yet to be released and delivered to the nipple. This part of the process- the let-down- is both physiologically and psychologically conditioned.

Some women report having a slowed-down release when tired, sleepy or stressed. In others it is less vulnerable.

When milk is being released you may or may not feel a tingling sensation in the breasts. In some women milk release may happen several times during one breastfeeding session.

If your milk stops flowing from one breast, switch to the other breast. Stimulating the other breast may trigger another milk ejection reflex and bring more milk to the nipples. After finishing the second breast, return to the first one.

It will take a couple of weeks after your mature milk comes in to figure out your let-down pattern. It may also differ depending on whether you are nursing or pumping, with pumping potentially being the trickiest.

Try these tricks to stimulate milk release when your baby is not close by. Mix and match them and you will find your perfect formula!

Pumping Tricks

  • For milk to be released during pumping, pump in a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.
  • Free yourself of stresses and negative thoughts. Make pumping a get away from whatever is happening in your life or at work. Free your mind and only think about your little angel.
  • Gently massage your breasts and apply warm compresses.
  • Carry something that reminds you of your baby.
  • Record your baby making noises and laughing and save it on your phone. Listen to it while pumping.
  • Try imagining breast milk flowing from your breasts. Visualizing it makes it more real and makes it happen.
  • Looking at your baby’s picture and smelling his/her clothes may also help.

With a good pump and soothing atmosphere many women report relaxing so much that they even fall asleep while pumping. Your pumping situation may not allow it, but try your best to pump in peace.

› Let-down

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