Written by Pradeep
While you breastfeed the baby, your body produces hormones responsible for collecting milk in the breasts. This is termed as ‘let down’ which essentially is a ‘reflex’ or a natural reaction that sends a message to your brain to release the hormones prolactin and oxytocin when your baby sucks your breast. The milk thus gets released from your milk ducts, and this is known as to let down Reflex And Breastfeeding.
This reflex occurs each time you breastfeed. However, the time of its occurrence varies- in the beginning, it occurs in a few minutes, but with the advancement of breastfeeding, the reflex becomes more efficient and takes a few seconds. A good letdown reflex is a prime requirement for being able to breastfeed your baby properly. However, too much or too little letdown runs into other issues with breastfeeding.
In This Article
Let down reflex is very important for successful breastfeeding because it facilitates milk to flow from the breast to the mouth of the baby. With no letdown, your baby will get only a fraction of foremilk.
The problem arises when this letdown becomes excessive or profuse. If your baby seems content and happy after feeding, is gaining appropriate weight, and wets 6-8 diapers a day, your letdown seems to be fine and suited to your baby’s needs.
Let down reflex is felt as a tingling sensation when your baby has been sucking at a breast for about 2 minutes. Letdowns generally occur more than once during a breastfeeding session, but most women feel the initial letdown. Some women also experience a letdown when they think about their baby or hear the baby cry.
Their milk begins to flow even when the baby is not nursing. After a few days post-delivery, you may not feel this letdown sensation as your milk has not yet come down. However, once your milk comes, you have been breastfeeding for several weeks.
You might feel the following sensations while let down reflex occurs:
Some women think that there is nothing wrong with having a fast letdown, probably they have not experienced it! Having too much milk or a fast letdown can cause many problems- both for the mother and the nursing baby.
You can easily make out whether the letdown is forceful or not simply by looking at the baby’s behavior. If your baby pulls off your breasts quite often or coughs and chokes, remember the letdown is forceful and excessive.
The mother experiences pain and discomfort while breastfeeding, whereas coughing and choking are common in babies. Engorged breast is a source of tremendous pain, and pumping seems to be the obvious solution. Right identification of the situation and proper management is required to tackle the problem.
An overactive letdown can be very distressing for the newborn who is trying to get the hang of sucking breasts and swallowing. The baby can swallow air and consume too much milk in a gush. The baby may also gain too much weight too quickly. Gassiness and colic are other discomforts your baby may go through.
Here are some simple signs indicating overactive letdown to look for:
An overactive ‘let down’ often comes along with milk oversupply. This is because ‘Nature’ wants to ensure a sufficient supply of milk for the newborn. You do not need to panic as the baby will resolve the issue on its own. Babies experiencing an overactive letdown of milk can have gas and colic problems.
This is because they are not getting all nutritious ‘hindmilk.’ ‘Hindmilk’ is creamy and gives satiety, nourishment, and contentment to the baby. Read more about hyperlactation here.
Wondering how to deal with overactive letdown? The following tips will help.
Sometimes the letdown reflex does not work effectively. It might become difficult, slow, and even painful apart from being hyperactive. Such situations can result in feeding problems and can adversely affect a baby’s health. A slow letdown can be hard on a baby who is hungry and wants to feed. This may cause the baby to cry, get frustrated, or bite on your breast.
Slow letdown can be caused by exhaustion, stress, use of alcohol or smoking, and even pain. Warm compressing, gently massaging, and pumping your milk may help to deal with a slow letdown reflex. Avoid smoking and drinking altogether. Eat a well-balanced diet and stay hydrated.
Sore, cracked nipples, and swollen hard breasts filled with excessive milk can lead to tremendous pain during the letdown process. You might notice shooting pain in your breasts and the uterine contractions also become more prominent and painful. These are more common during the first two weeks after childbirth.
The joys of breastfeeding can be tainted with a painful letdown. Fear creeps in, and mothers often become reluctant to feed, and this can lead to weaning the baby early. In such a case, you should seek medical help from your doctor or a lactation expert and have pleasant feeding and bonding sessions with your baby.
Overactive letdown fills the breasts with excessive milk, and they become engorged, swollen, and painful. Breastfeeding can, in turn, become unpleasant. You can pump the milk out and apply a warm compress. This will provide relief from pain and discomfort.
‘Let down’ is normal and make sure it should not affect your baby’s feeding. It is a passing phase and will surely pass off!
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