If you haven't started breastfeeding and have come across the term "letdown", you're probably wondering what that means.
What is a 'Letdown'?
When your baby first latches on to nurse, they don’t actually get much milk at first. Instead, their suckling sends a message to your body to release milk stored in your milk ducts. When the milk is released, this is called the 'letdown'. A 'letdown' is a reflex that typically occurs within the first minute or two of feeding.
How Does the Let Down Reflex Work?
If milk flowed out of your breasts instantly when your baby latched on, you’d probably leak constantly. Instead, your breasts store milk until it is needed.
The letdown reflex is primarily triggered by your baby's suckling at your breasts which stimulates both the production and release of milk.
When a letdown occurs, you may feel a heavy sensation in your breasts as your milk is released, and sometimes tingling sensation - different mothers have different sensations of their ‘letdown’.
A breast pump works by mimicking a baby's suckling, stimulating the nipple to trigger a letdown.
Other 'letdown' triggers
Other things besides a baby's suckling may trigger a letdown. For instance, because mothers are hardwired to care for their baby, hearing your baby cry (or any baby, really) could trigger a letdown - causing unwanted milk stains.
A breast massage can also help open your milk ducts and release oxytocin to encourage a letdown as well.
If you're having difficulty triggering a letdown, try physically messaging the breast or applying a warm compress to encourage a letdown. It can also help to relax and think about your baby (FYI - stress is one of the biggest reasons for a delayed let-down), or even looking at adorable photos of them. The goal is to help your body release oxytocin to trigger the letdown flex to release milk.
If you still don't fully get what a letdown is, that's completely normal!
A letdown is one of those things that is almost impossible to completely understand unless you've experienced it yourself - which you will once you start breastfeeding :) It's a natural reflex that just happens! So just trust your body and in the process x