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Newborn Breastfeeding Let Down Reflex

Let Down Reflex

What is let down reflex?

The let down reflex for most mothers usually occurs within seconds of their baby attaching to their breast to feed. This is due to the release of prolactin and oxytocin when the baby sucks, stimulating the nerve endings around the nipple.

Oxytocin is an essential hormone for breastfeeding. It enables your breast to push out or let down your milk.

If you are stressed this can initially inhibit your let down reflex and can be a problem if expressing milk.

When breastfeeding your baby, you may experience multiple milk let downs during the feed or when expressing breastmilk.

What does let down reflex feel like?

Some mothers report no noticeable sign or sensation of the let down reflex.

Other mothers notice one or more of the following signs:

  • Tingling or prickling ‘pins and needles’ in the breast.
  • Sudden feeling of fullness in the breasts.
  • Skin temperature increase.
  • Dripping or leaking of milk from the opposite breast while breastfeeding.
  • Feelings of wellbeing or relaxation.
  • An intense thirst or dry mouth.

It may take you several days of observation after ‘the milk comes in’ to recognise these changes. If you don't feel or see any changes, you can confirm a let down by watching your baby swallow or gulp at the start of a feed. Also, your breast will get lighter and softer at the end of the feed.

In the immediate postpartum period after birth, you may also feel uterine contractions. This is due to the effect of oxytocin when letting down milk.

Can you get a let down when not breastfeeding?

Yes. You may also experience a let down if you think about your baby or even see another baby. This can happen even when your baby is not with you at the time.

This can be handy if you need to express and you are not with your baby. Have a picture of your baby there to help you with the release of breastmilk.