As a breastfeeding mom, you have a lot on your plate. Along with all of the other tasks of motherhood, you’re learning how to feed a child with your body, a challenge in and of itself at times. While nursing is the most natural and rewarding thing in the world, it doesn’t always come easily. In fact, sometimes it’s downright stressful and difficult. Among the other challenges you may face, you may wonder why you have a slow let down reflex, or at least assume that you do. Although this is something that many mothers wonder (read: obsess) about, luckily, there is generally not any reason to worry and it can usually be sped up with a few easy tricks.
But first, before we get into the reasons behind why it may be slow, what is a let down reflex? Parents defines the reflex as “the release of milk from the breast.” Many women describe the feeling as a pins and needles tingling or warmth, and while it generally isn’t painful, it can take some getting used to at first. Triggered by the hormone oxytocin, let down ensures that your baby not only receives enough milk, but that they’re getting the best milk. According to La Leche League, one of the leading authorities on breastfeeding, there is a difference in the milk your baby gets before and after letdown. Foremilk is the thinner milk that your baby gets before let down. Hindmilk is the thicker, more nutrient-rich milk that comes in after let down, and is important for your baby’s growth and to keep them feeling full.
Many women, however, claim they either don’t feel the pins and needles feeling or it takes longer than they expect to happen, causing them to worry that something is wrong. According to Breastmilk Counts, while it can be scary if you don’t feel your let down reflex, if you notice a change in your baby’s sucking and frequency of swallowing, your milk has indeed let down. The reflex generally takes at least a few minutes, but in some cases it may take longer. Since the reflex is so important, whether you feel it strongly or not, it’s important to make sure your milk isn’t taking too long to let down. If you suspect that your letdown is taking too long, there are a few things you can do to help trigger the reflex.
1. Nurse In A Relaxing, Quiet Environment
If you are tense, nervous, or worried, your letdown reflex will take much longer than if you are relaxed and calm. Kid Spot recommends finding a quiet place to nurse and then relaxing as much as possible.
2. Lean Forward
Before you nurse, use this technique to stimulate your milk ducts and make sure your letdown happens quicker.
3. Look At Your Baby
Looking at or even thinking about your baby while you nurse or pump helps the release of oxytocin, which triggers your letdown, according to the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
4. Massage Your Breasts
Dr. Sears recommends that, similar to leaning over, massaging your breasts for a bit before (or even while) you nurse can stimulate the release of oxytocin more quickly.
5. Increase Feeding and Pumping Frequency
One of the best things you can do to not only increase your milk supply but signal to your body that it’s time to let down milk is to simply nurse your baby more often, according to La Leche League.