Learn 11 ways to encourage milk letdown when you’re breastfeeding!
Your baby has finally arrived and you’re enjoying every moment in their presence. However, getting enough sleep and allowing yourself the space to really heal does take time. But then, breastfeeding and caring for your baby on demand is even more tiring!
But you can do it, mama.
First off, you’re awesome for even giving breastfeeding a go at all.
I can’t tell you how much I stand amazed at mothers like you everyday. Motherhood may just be the hardest calling on our lives, but undoubtedly the most rewarding.
Have you been desperately searching for ways to get your breast milk to flow? Are you determined not to let this little bump in the road deter you from your choice to breastfeed your little one?
Maybe you’ve been eating well and trying everything you know to do, but the milk just seems to be in short supply.
Try these 11 simple tips to get your milk flowing!
Ways to Stimulate Milk Letdown
It’s easy to confuse your body actually producing milk with the milk let-down reflex.
So what is milk letdown reflex (also known as milk ejection reflex)?
Milk letdown reflex is when nerves in the breast nipple are triggered (often by your baby’s suck) that release two hormones (Oxytocin and Prolactin).
These two hormones both play a part in your body creating your baby’s breastmilk, the letdown process, and keeping up with the feeding demands of your baby (or babies).
Your baby’s frustration when attempting to eat at the breast doesn’t necessarily mean you have no milk in your breasts. But it may be indicating you need some extra stimulation to help your milk to flow, which is most likely the case.
The techniques I’ve listed below are the methods you can try at home before going to see your doctor or lactation specialist.
1. Breast Massage
Gently massage your breasts and nipples. The nerves in your breasts will send messages to your brain to let down your milk.
This also helps when combined with tips 5 and 6 (I’ll explain why as we go on).
Note: make sure to thoroughly wash your hands and clean your breasts before and after breastfeeding your baby.
You remember hearing this way back when your baby was the size of a lil’ peanut. ‘DON’T STRESS’. It wasn’t good for you or baby then. Baby still needs you stress-free now, too.
When it comes to how the body works, stress really does rob us of so many amazing things. And our bodies can’t be fooled!
You really do have to relax and choose not to let bad thinking habits pull you back. Stress and anxiety can directly affect your body’s ability to let down milk (and quickly).
So…find something you enjoy and do it! Do something that helps bring peace, calm, and relaxation to you.
You don’t have to spend hours. It could be a 15 minutes walk or enjoying your favorite cup of tea while you sketch and listen to the birds sing outside.
If you’re like me, you’ll benefit from doing a few slow and controlled deep breathing exercises.
3. Double Pump
Pumping both breasts at the same time increases overall stimulation which can help with your milk letdown.
Hands free pumping makes the job easier by pumping both breasts at the same time, and more frequently.
As long as you’re eating a nutritious diet often enough, your body should be able to produce enough milk.
4. Get Warm
Warmth tends to get things flowing a bit more when it comes to your body’s let down reflex. Use either a warm compress or take a warm or hot shower. This alone may be enough to do the job.
Some mothers have even found that drinking a warm beverage can stimulate their letdown reflex.
5. Think About Your Baby
Perhaps this is the best of all. I mean, how can you resist thinking about your sweet precious little one?!
It’s amazing how this actually works!
Thinking about, seeing, and hearing your baby can make a huge difference. Here are some things you can do:
- View a picture of your baby
- Imagine your baby breastfeeding and sucking (and the milk being let down as that happens)
- Your baby crying or cooing
- Watch a video of your baby
6. Bring Baby Near
You’d be surprised to find out just how much this helps, mama! Again, your baby’s smell and closeness helps your body to produce those two amazing hormones that work together to let down your milk.
So bring your baby close and cuddle, kiss your baby, and do as much skin-to-skin as possible.
Try rubbing your nipple up to your baby’s lips to see if you can get a good latch. Once your baby latches on well, give it about 10 seconds or so before assuming the milk will not flow.
Don’t give up. Often times it takes a few seconds before you can actually feel the milk letting down in your breast.
7. Adjust Suction Strength
If your’re using a pump, adjust the strength of the suction to what is most comfortable for you. While you certainly want to encourage your milk to flow, the process should not be painful.
If you’re new to using your pump, you may find pumping to be somewhat uncomfortable at first, but it should not be painful.
8. Pumping Speed
Adjusting your pumping speed to a faster rate may help stimulate your let down. But again, don’t choose such a rapid rate that it causes you pain.
You may find more success by choosing a suction and pumping speed that reflects that of how your baby naturally sucks.
This means starting with a faster rate and deeper suction for the first couple of minutes. Then, reduce both the suction and the pumping speed for fuller, more controlled movements.
9. Hand Expression
Expressing your milk by hand can easily be paired with massaging your breasts (tip #1).
As great as the breastpump is, this technique has the ability to soften rock hard and hurting breasts more gently than the pump can.
If you’re engorged, I’d suggest expressing by hand before attempting to pump.
This allows you to focus on areas of pain and tension softly. It’s a great warm-up if you still plan on using the pump.
Hand expression may not always be your first choice for helping your milk to let down. But knowing how to do it is helpful when you’re absent from your baby and need relief.
It’s also helpful to learn this technique so if your pump stops working or you forget it, you can still stimulate your milk letdown reflex. After all, baby still has to eat, right?!
10. Get Hydrated
Water works wonders, mama. It aids in proper functioning for many parts in your body. So make sure you’re drinking lots of it! Sometimes the feeling of thirst just isn’t there, but we still need to drink water.
Especially now more than ever before. You’re eating for two and your water intake has a direct impact on your entire breastfeeding experience.
A lot of what baby is ‘eating’ contains mostly water, as breastmilk is made up of about 90% water! Now that your breastfeeding, and lots of water is leaving your body, there’s an even greater demand for you to consume more of it.
The average adult needs to consume an average of 8 8oz glasses of water every day. It’s so important to listen to your body and make sure you have your water readily available to drink throughout your day.
In reality, you’re not only eating for two… you’re drinking for two!
11. Seek Help
If the problem worsens or does not get better after you’ve tried the tips above, it’s best to see a lactation specialist as soon as possible.
Lactation specialists are equipped to educate you throughout your breastfeeding journey, as well as help you overcome any obstacles you may face along the way.
Waiting too long may cause more serious issues such as breast engorgement or mastitis.
It is extremely important that your baby not only eats, but receives enough milk at each feeding.
While breastfeeding is a natural process, it takes some getting used to. Don’t feel embarrassed or inadequate if you need to reach out for help. Billions of other mothers need and seek help in one way or the other during their first years of motherhood.
Breastfeeding was the decision you choose because you believe it is best for your baby (and it is!). So asking for help is an even greater sign of your strength, love, and courage, mama.
Breastfeeding can be tough when you first start out. But don’t get discouraged! It’s normal for it to take days for mothers to get used to the experience. So don’t assume too early on that you’re just not cut out to breastfeeding your little one. 🙂
Keep going, and remember to cherish every stage of motherhood because it truly is a wonderful thing!
Which of these tips are you going to try? Share with me in the comments below.
Don’t forget to pin me for later!