Breastfeeding is natural, but I will never forget how bizarre it felt to nourish a tiny human from my breasts. In all honesty, I still think it's weird and am continually amazed by the human body. But nothing felt crazier than feeling my breast milk let-down reflex. It felt just like when your arm starts to "wake up" after going numb, and it was totally bizarre. Luckily, mine never hurt, but for some moms, knowing how to relieve painful let-down is at the top of their list.
It's important to note that, in general, your let-down shouldn't hurt. But if it does, La Leche League International (LLLI) noted that there could be a couple of causes and finding the solution can help you find some relief. LLLI suggested that a painful let-down is often happening as your body adjusts to feeding your baby, which means you may feel your milk ducts constrict to force the milk out. Eventually, this pain can go away as your body gets more and more used to breastfeeding.
But another cause of a painful let-down? An oversupply, which can also cause engorgement. Baby Center noted that too much milk can not only make it more painful when your milk ducts constrict, but it can also cause your let-down to be strong because there's so much milk. KellyMom suggested either trying to maintain your supply (which can be difficult) or simply letting your milk let-down into a rag or burp cloth before nursing to help with the pain.
Other causes can include a muscle strain noted LLLI, which can make your breasts feel sore and painful as your breast milk let-down happens. Baby Center suggested using your breathing techniques you learned in labor to help relieve this problem.
If none of these apply, it might be time to determine if you have a yeast infection in your breast, clogged milk ducts, or mastitis. Both infections can cause a painful let-down and so can clogged ducts. LLLI suggested massaging your breast and nursing often to rid yourself of a clogged duct and to ease your painful let-down. But if your pain turns into a fever or other signs of mastitis, it's time to reach out to a professional for help.