My boobs were hyper-reactive when I was breastfeeding my babies. Basically, a whisper of a suggestion that they were nearby and hungry — or any baby really — and they would start to flow like a river. But, why do your boobs leak when you hear a baby cry? I mean, how do your boobs know your baby is hungry? Do they have ears? Let me tell you, this phenomenon is more than just weird — it's inconvenient at times.
Breastfeeding isn't easy in the best circumstances, but it can be darned obstructive when you're trying to do something as simple as work out or head into class and the sound of a baby crying stops you in your tracks because it triggers your boobs like the final scene of Rudy triggers my brother's eyes — they start leaking. I remember one specific instance when my feeding machines started spontaneously erupting like geysers from my chest. I was in the middle of a midterm, about to start filling in those evil bubbles on a Scantron test, and in the next class over, someone brought their baby to class. It happens in college, sometimes, especially grad school wherein the students tend to be older. At first, I was fine and dandy. I felt badly for the mom, but no leaking. Then? The baby started wailing at the top of their lungs, and I started to think of my own little lady at home who hadn't eaten in a few hours and in turn, my nipples may well have been super soakers for the spray they were putting off. OK, so it probably wasn't that bad, but it did soak the pads I was wearing and made my test taking very uncomfortable.
I asked certified lactation consultant Mandy Meier, "Why do your boobs leak when you hear a baby cry?" She tells Romper, "You know, there's been a lot of debate recently about whether or not this is really a thing, but most women who've breastfed will tell you that it is. It's hypothesized that the woman's emotional response to the sound of a baby crying releases oxytocin in the blood, which is the same hormone that triggers the let-down of milk when you're breastfeeding." The hormone is essentially, according to Meier, an "on-button" for your breasts that causes them to react, and your milk to flow. "With your baby, it allows some milk to flow out, causing the baby to want to nurse more when they smell and taste that milk, but it's a pain if you're nowhere near your baby." You're telling me.
A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology found that women with the most stable, strong bonds between themselves and their infants experienced a greater than average release of the hormone oxytocin. The article stated, "Mothers with secure attachment showed greater activation of brain reward regions, including the ventral striatum, and the oxytocin-associated hypothalamus/pituitary region." It's interesting to note that prolactin, the other hormone which is responsible for triggering the let-down of milk in the breast, is produced in the anterior pituitary region, and is also activated by audition, suggested Physiology Review.
Although, according to Neuropsychopharmacology, the half-life of oxytocin in your system is only six to seven minutes, so if you can get away from the crying baby (provided they're not yours), or if the baby is soothed, you shouldn't have to worry about a never-ending flow of milk. Once the oxytocin levels diminish, so will the let-down — even if that doesn't do a darn thing for the sopping mess in your bra.
I remember that as soon as that test was over — and I finished it in record time — I went into my car and changed my nursing pads, not caring who looked in and saw me retrieving the sodden cloths from my bra. Hopefully, if this happens to you, you'll have your baby nearby for some relief — or at least extra pads.
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