Let Down Reflex
The Let Down Reflex Breastfeeding
Milk let down is a normal process, but sometimes it can cause a few breastfeeding problems, when the flow of milk becomes too forceful or too slow.
Most mothers experience a weird pins-and-needles feeling in their breasts, when let down occurs. Other mothers say that it is quite painful! There are also those who say they do not feel a let down reflex at all.
What you need to remember, is that your body is still getting accustomed to the needs of your baby and things should start improving within a few days; then your baby should also start drinking more aggressively, which will help to normalize the milk flow.
Below is an illustration of let down reflex and what actually happens.
The letdown reflex
Overactive Letdown Breastfeeding
Is your milk flow too fast? What is a forceful let down?
It is when a mother’s milk is spraying out of the nipple too quickly, often causing her baby to become fussy or to choke at the breast.
letdown will most certainly have decreased before the baby turns 6 months, but most of the time it will have decreased by six weeks, when a mother's body has adjusted to the volume of milk needed.
What causes a Forceful Let Down?
Signs of a Forceful Let Down
- Gagging, coughing and/or choking while breastfeeding.
- The baby makes funny clicking sounds while breastfeeding.
- Baby is constantly trying to pull off the breast while breastfeeding.
Baby spits up often and is very gassy (explosive frothy stools) caused
by drinking too much foremilk. Read more about foremilk hindmilk imbalance.
Refusal to breastfeed
How to Handle an Overactive Ejection Reflex
- If an oversupply of milk is causing your forceful let down, you can
start by giving your baby only one breast at a time (change breasts only
every four hours).
If you start to feel discomfort in the full breast, you
can express a little milk for comfort. This will also prevent hindmilk
foremilk imbalance and decrease fussiness and colic symptoms.
- If you start to feel a letdown, you can gently remove your baby from the breast and allow some of the milk to flow out into a cup or cloth, until
the flow subsides, then put your baby back on the breast.
Make sure that your baby is calm before breastfeeding. Read "calm a baby for breastfeeding."
- Try not to press on your breast with your fingers while
breastfeeding, as any pressure or massage can increase the flow of milk
and cause a let down. Do not try to stop the flow with pressure as this
could cause a blockage.
- Make sure your nipple is facing the
roof of your baby’s mouth, instead of the back of his/her throat. This prevents choking.
- Lie down while breastfeeding for the
first few minutes. This will help, because it allows any extra milk to flow
out of the baby’s mouth.
Keep yourself reclined at an angle with your baby lying on his/her tummy, as
shown in the illustration. This uses gravity to your advantage, as milk
is not forced down your baby’s throat.
Another helpful breastfeeding
position: Allow your baby to straddle your leg and sit him/her upright whilst
breastfeeding, hold his/her back and neck for support.
burp your baby
often, because your baby might be swallowing air, which will make him/her even more uncomfortable.
- Do not introduce a bottle before six weeks, unless you decide to pump exclusively; your baby
might prefer the flow of the bottle and then refuse to breastfeed
Under Active Let Down Breastfeeding
Is your milk flow too slow? Do you feel like you have no let down reflex?
A Slow Let Down Reflex
Sometimes your baby might become frustrated, because the milk is not being pushed out
This will cause a baby to fuss and a mother to stress, and anxiety will decrease milk flow even further.
What causes a Slow Milk Letdown?
How to Increase Milk Ejection Reflex (get milk flowing faster)
like fennel may help increase milk flow.
Relax while breastfeeding.
Look at a picture of your baby (if pumping), touch your baby’s
hair and sing a song to your baby. The hormone Oxytocin is released during
affectionate feelings and this will stimulate milk flow.
- Pump for a few minutes before breastfeeding to get your milk flowing.
Other pages on “breastfeeding problems" in connection with breastfeeding let down reflex
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