How to achieve a faster milk letdown
Ah, the elusive letdown.
Whether you’re pumping and nothing’s coming out, or baby is fussy at the breast because milk just isn’t flowing like she wants, this article is for you!
Over the years and across the span of three breastfed kiddos, I’ve exclusively pumped, pumped part-time, and exclusively nursed. (Over 54 months and counting!)
I know how frustrating it can feel when you need your milk to flow but it just won’t come out!
That’s why I’m spilling all my secrets for achieving that wonderful letdown FASTER.
First things first, you might be wondering…
What is a milk let-down?
Contrary to when life lets you down, a milk letdown is actually a good thing!
A milk “letdown” is when your breast milk starts flowing.
What happens when my milk lets down?
When your baby latches on and starts to suckle, or when you start pumping, nerves in your nipple send a signal to your brain to release oxytocin.
This oxytocin causes “let-down” and also widens the milk ducts, making milk flow freely. (Source.)
How does milk let-down feel?
Some moms can’t feel any difference when their milk lets down.
Others, it feels like a tingling sensation in their breasts.
For some, it may feel like a heaviness or a fullness. The sensation usually lasts anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.
How do I know when my milk has let down?
If you can’t feel a let-down, there are other signs you can look for.
If you’re nursing, usually your baby will take longer, more rhythmic sucks rather than short, quick sucks. (You may also see milk in the corners of his mouth!)
If you’re pumping, you’ll know your milk has let down when you see (or hear!) the milk spraying out rather than just dripping.
How can I achieve faster milk let-down?
Here are 10 tips for making that magical let-down happen more quickly.
‘Cause let’s face it! You got things to do!
1. Don’t rush it.
When I’m in a hurry (like on a break at work or running late for an appointment), my milk let-down takes FOREVER to happen.
Why? Because I’m stressed. I’m rushed. I need these bottles to hurry-it-up and fill already!!
But, whether you are nursing or pumping, allowing yourself to rush it will result in a frustratingly slow let-down reflex.
Try to close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Relax all your muscles. Relax your jaw and your shoulders.
Try not to check the clock every two seconds or the bottle too much. Just focus on relaxing.
2. Don’t fight it.
When I pumped for my third baby, I was really aware that my let-down reflex felt quite painful. (Painful letdown does happen to some mothers, especially if there are milk oversupply issues.)
I noticed that after a few minutes of pumping, I would anticipate the painful feeling of let-down and my body would start to tense up in anticipation of the pain.
I had to remind myself not to fight the let-down. To welcome it.
I also had to remind myself that the pain was only temporary and would go away in a few seconds.
3. Warm it up.
If you’re nursing, be sure to warm your hands before latching baby.
If you’re pumping, you can run your breast pump flanges under warm water to make them warm to the touch so that they aren’t icy cold.
Warmth helps with let-down and cold will make you tense up!
Also, make sure your pump is not underperforming. If that’s the case (or you’re thinking about buying a new one), here are my top picks:
|Top Top||Medela Pump in Style Advanced with On the Go Tote, Double Electric Breast Pump||Buy Now|
|Top||Spectra Baby USA - S2 Plus Premier Electric Breast Pump, Double/Single, Hospital Strength||Buy Now|
4. Hand express a little
If you’re nursing and baby is impatient at the breast, try gently squeezing and tugging at your nipple (hand-expressing) a little milk before latching him on.
You can also hand-express a little before turning your breast pump on if you are pumping to speed up the let-down.
5. Listen to relaxing music
When my daughter was a baby, I’d often play classical music for her brain development.
As a side benefit, this helped me relax while nursing to get that let-down to happen faster.
6. Pinch yourself (Literally)
Okay, I know this one is “out there.” And you might think I’m a little crazy. But hear me out.
I learned this quite by accident, but sometimes a sharp pain can trigger a let-down.
So when all else fails, quickly pinch yourself in the armpit. I mean, don’t hurt yourself, but don’t be gentle either.
I know it’s tempting to multi-task when pumping or nursing.
But I’ve found that if I’m busy texting a friend or watching Netflix, my milk will trickle out at a snail’s pace.
Sometimes we have to just pause what we’re doing, take deep breaths, and think positive thoughts.
“My body makes enough milk for my baby. My milk flows freely.”
BONUS TIP: Good Vibrations
Have you heard of a breast massager?
This little vibrating massager is great for helping milk let-down and it’s also good for dissolving clogged ducts!
I haven’t personally used this one, but I’ve heard of moms who swear by this for getting a faster let-down!
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