What Is Your Let Down?
Like most things in motherhood, breastfeeding is something that is hard to explain. We can try to describe it but the truth is, that until you experience it for yourself it’s hard to imagine. One of the first things that surprises many, is that our bodies express milk about as much as babies actually draw it out.
Your body has a reflex known as a letdown reflex. This reflex is generally stimulated by breastfeeding or a breast pump. We’ll get into some other causes or inspirations a bit later in the post.
Strong Let Down Reflexes
Until you chat with other breastfeeding or pumping moms, you might wonder what your letdown reflex should look or feel like. The amount of milk or the flow of milk express at this time varies from person to person, and some may experience a stronger flow of milk. This is often found in individuals who have an oversupply of milk.
If your baby has trouble swallowing, coughs, or it seems like they can’t keep up with the flow of breastmilk when you first start to feed, there is a chance that you might have a strong or overactive let down. Don’t despair though. There are ways that you can help your baby and make breastfeeding work for both of you. First, if you are nursing, try reclining and feeding your baby. Gravity will work with you and may potentially slow the flow of milk or make it easier for your baby to keep up. Second, try manually stimulating your letdown and expressing that first bit of milk onto a washcloth or into a bottle.
Pumping can be a great option for people with strong letdowns. Combined with paced bottle feeding, your baby can relax and drink at their own pace while still receiving all of the amazing health benefits of breast milk.
How Do You Know It’s Happening?
Some people describe the feeling associated with your letdown as a tingling sensation. Others don’t feel anything. A portion of moms feel like their breasts are full. Some know that they’re having a letdown because their babies suckling pattern changes or they can hear the “kah” sound commonly used to described babies swallowing.
Do you notice a change in your mood when you breastfeed? You might have something called D-MER or dysphoric milk ejection reflex. This is a temporary dip or change in mood caused by a change in your hormones during your letdowns. Click here to learn more about his condition and learn what you can do to help.
Ways to Promote Your Let Down
While your letdown is natural, it often doesn’t happen spontaneously. Earlier we mentioned that it is most commonly triggered by breastfeeding or pumping. Pumping because it mimics breastfeeding, but there are other ways that you can encourage your body to let milk flow. If you are pumping, inspiring a let down can help make your sessions more productive, or shorter in length.
Snuggle Your Babe
The sights, sounds, and smells of your baby are designed by nature to inspire your milk ejection reflex. Find a quiet spot where you can be with your baby sans distractions. Relax and snuggle together. Pay close attention to your little one’s scent, particularly at the top of their head. Talk to them and play with them.
Look at Photos or Videos of Your Babe
If you are away from your little one, they can still help inspire your letdown! Take out your phone and scroll through your favorite pictures and videos. You’ll experience similar hormone level changes to when you cuddle them.
If you have to be apart from your baby for any length of time, try packing an item of theirs to take with you. A freshly washed onesie, "blankie", or burp cloth might help inspire thoughts of your little one, and therefore achieve a similar hormonal reaction. Close your eyes, relax, and allow the scent to transport your mind to your baby.
Have you ever noticed breast milk leaking in the shower? Warm water helps us to relax, as it also helps milk to flow. Some moms will use milk collection cups or bottles to capture this milk. If you don’t have the time and space to hop in the tub or shower, you can mimic this by using a warm wet washcloth or heat packs that you can keep in your pumping bag.
Gentle nipple stimulation, mimicking a baby’s suckling, can help you to achieve a letdown. You can try to achieve this with the letdown mode on your pump, or a lower level of suction. Gently rolling your nipple between your fingers can also help. Take a few deep breaths to relax and then try one of these two methods.
Unintentional Ways Your Let Down Might Be Triggered
There are those times when we don’t actually want our bodies to express milk but it seems to happen anyway!
Hearing Another Baby Cry
Our bodies are designed to respond to our babies’ needs. But sometimes it doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish our babies from others. If you are out and hear another baby cry or fuss, your body might respond to them.
Intense Emotional Feelings
You might notice your milk leaking a bit if you experience higher levels of anger or sadness. Yes, being triggered might trigger your let down reflex.
Each of us is unique. Our bodies will respond to different stimuli. If one of these methods doesn’t work for your body, keep trying. You’ll eventually find one that becomes your go to pre pump session.
Pain Impedes Letdowns
Did you notice a trend in the list of ways to inspire your letdown? Most of them revolve around relaxing, and focusing on your baby. If you are feeling pain when you pump it can be difficult to achieve a let down. This is a self exacerbating problem. If you are in pain and not experiencing a letdown, you might be pumping longer, which puts your body in more pain.
Try using a pair of our innovative Breast Pump Cushions. These cushions are a gel-like barrier between your sensitive tissue and the hard plastic of your flanges. With the cushions, you can pump in greater comfort which means getting more out of each session.