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What is the Let-Down Reflex When Breastfeeding?

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If you’re breastfeeding, or worried your baby isn’t getting enough milk, encouraging the let-down reflex can help.

What is Let-Down Reflex?

The let-down reflex is the natural process by which your baby gets milk from sucking.

How Does Let-Down Work?

  • Your baby sucks on your breast, which triggers nerves in your nipple.
  • This sends signals to your brain, encouraging it to release two hormones – prolactin and oxytocin.
  • Prolactin contributes to milk production, but the release of oxytocin causes your breasts to push out – or let-down – the milk. It also widens the milk ducts to improve the flow.

The let-down reflex will occur many times while your baby’s feeding.

What Does Let-Down Feel Like?

You may feel the first release as a warmth, a tingling, or a pressure in your breast. This might be uncomfortable at first, and even slightly painful. But you may feel it less over time.

If you don’t feel any physical let-down sensations, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong. Some women feel nothing at all. So long as your baby’s feeding and gaining weight, and so long as they seem content after breastfeeding, then all should be well.

But if you’re worried about not feeling anything during breastfeeding, or if your baby doesn’t seem to be feeding or gaining weight, then talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

How To Encourage the Let-Down Reflex

There are a few things you can do to stimulate let-down to ensure your baby gets all the milk they need:

  • Try to stick to a regular feeding routine. As let-down is a reflex, you can condition your body to do it at a certain time, or in certain conditions.
  • Bond with your baby – look at them, touch them, and make direct skin-to-skin contact with them.
  • Get as comfy as possible, and try to relax your mind.
  • Gently massage your breast for a few minutes before feeding, and continue to do so as you nurse your baby.
  • Take a warm shower shortly before you breastfeed.

Some women feel the let-down reflex even when they’re not feeding or pumping. A number of things can trigger the reflex, such as hearing your baby cry, or even hearing another baby cry.

Sometimes, even thinking about your baby can trigger the let-down reflex!

Why Does My Other Breast Leak When I’m Breastfeeding?

When your brain releases prolactin and oxytocin, it can trigger the let-down reflex in both of your breasts. This is why some women find that their other breast leaks while they’re feeding.

You can read our full guide to managing leaking while breastfeeding.

And as we’ve seen, sometimes you may feel the let-down reflex when you’re not feeding or pumping. This might cause one or both of your breasts to leak, which can be inconvenient when you’re out and about.

Can You Stop Your Breasts Leaking?

Unfortunately you cannot prevent your breasts from leaking entirely, as it’s a natural bodily function. But there are a few things you can do to manage leaks. For example, breastfeeding as often as possible will prevent your breasts from ever becoming too full while training your body to adjust to a regular routine.

You can also use a pump to collect any milk when you’re not around your baby. And you can wear dark or patterned clothes to hide any marks or stains.

You can also use breast pads to absorb any leaks.

Comfortable, Effective and Green Breast Pads

Our reusable breast pads are good for you and good for the environment. They’re made from natural and sustainable materials, and once you buy a set, you can use them for as long as you need them.

These materials also happen to be softer and more absorbent. They’re totally reliable, and we specifically designed them to feel soft and comfortable against sore skin.

Take a look at our full range of comfortable and eco-friendly reusable breast pads.

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