Buying baby bottles is confusing — fast flow nipples, slow flow nipples — none of it seems to make any sense. A huge plus to breastfeeding, right? Nobody has to worry about milk flow. Except for when you realize your baby is fussy on the breast and you're trying to figure out what a slower milk flow means and how you can make it easier for your baby to nurse.
The first thing you need to understand is how your milk flow varies during a breastfeeding session. International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Beverly Morgan wrote for MOBI Motherhood International that your milk flow will always slow down as your baby nurses. When they first latch on, there is a much faster flow, but all milk slowly tapers off as your baby gets full and begins sucking for comfort, not nutrition. Keeping that in mind, if you notice that your baby is fussier at the end of a nursing session, then they may need to switch to the other breast for a flow they prefer.
But if your baby is fussy when they start to nurse, tugs at your breast, or prefers one breast over the other, they may have a flow preference. According to KellyMom, however, a slow let-down or flow doesn't mean anything's wrong. The website noted that often a slow let-down is the cause of anxiety, pain, embarrassment, or stress. If you're smoking, drinking alcohol, consuming a lot of caffeine, or taking medications, that could also affect your flow. But in most cases, it's mind over matter — as you stress about your slow milk flow, it becomes slower, your baby becomes more irritated, and they cycle starts all over again.
The Palo Alto Medical Foundation suggested that if your baby is pulling off of the breast and frustrated, looking confused as they try to suck, or sucks and swallows, but then seems lazy, you may be dealing with a slow flow. You can massage your breast as your baby eats to help your milk flow, according to KellyMom, as well as using heat compresses.