Letdown Tips: How to get a Faster, Better Letdown
What is the milk ejection reflex (letdown)? A letdown is when oxytocin is triggered and released, which contracts the milk ducts to send any stored breastmilk down and out of the breast. The hormone oxytocin is everywhere, sex, orgasm, pregnancy, labor, birth, and even in breastfeeding! Some of the same oxytocin experiences that you have already had will continue to serve you well in your breastfeeding relationship.
A quick Google search will show you that one of the most common recommendations to encourage letdown is to take a warm shower before breastfeeding. Who has time to shower every time you have to breastfeed?? Here are some real, PRACTICAL suggestions that you can do to get a letdown easily, with or without your baby.
Relax for a Better Letdown
For a better and faster letdown, relax. Turn the lights down. Make sure your environment is safe and secure.
In public and want to be covered? Great. In a corner by yourself? Awesome. Totally comfortable breastfeeding in public? Go for it. As long as you are comfortable and relaxed, that is the most important thing.
If you are at your in-laws house and the baby needs to eat and you are stressing out, you are not going to have a good letdown, so find another room. Go there and relax.
If you are at the park and feel comfortable there, whip it out, feed that baby and you might have fine letdown.
Don’t be afraid to do what you need to do to RELAX. If you are struggling to have a let-down, this might be the reason. Go into a quiet room, lay down with your baby. The side-lying position is a fantastic position. Turn on some music, and relax. You can do this!
Engage all the Senses to Letdown Faster
Sight can start a letdown.
Even just looking down at your baby and watching what your baby is doing is going to help you have a letdown. If you are away from your baby, bring photos or videos of your baby actually breastfeeding and look at/watch these while trying to get that letdown. We all have a million pictures of our baby on our phones so just scroll through them! Photos and videos can really get your mind and hormones thinking about feeding and babies.
Touch is a great way to encourage letdown.
If you are with your baby, you can stroke them, touch them, rub their little feet, play with their fingers, and of course, get skin to skin. The more skin of theirs that you can place with yours the more hormones, the more relaxing and more easily that letdown is going to come. This is why they recommend a shower or a bath, even with your baby. It’s the touch of water with warm, relaxing feelings that get milk and hormones to flow.
If you are away from your baby and pumping, lactation massagers are a great option. LaVie offers a warming lactation massager with a heat mode and a vibration mode. (Use newlittlelife10 for 10% off!) The vibration mode can help with clogged ducts. But the heat is the best part! A little bit of warmth there on your breast can really help stimulate a letdown. This would be something to consider if you are having a hard time.
You could also use your hands to massage your breast with a light downward pressure or light massage.
I remember when I went back to work and was pumping there, I would take a little toy that my son had been playing with and stick it in my pocket when I was pumping. I would hold that toy (a little hot wheels car.) It really reminded me of him and I had seen him play with it. Just touching that, not even my own breasts, really helped me as well.
Smell is another thing you can try to achieve a letdown.
You can bring a blanket or a onesie if you are away from your baby and smell that while you pump. A lot of moms really like engaging that sense.
If you are with your baby, smell them. Smell is a great way to encourage a letdown.
Sound is also useful for letdowns.
Calming music, meditative music or any type of humming can also be helpful to bring your energy and help you relax into a good place for a letdown.
These things may sound silly or crunchy, but it is little things that get the hormones going and gets those letdowns to happen!
Taste, too, can help your letdown.
This would be a great time to bust out your tea or water or something relaxing. This will help get that zen warm place going. A letdown kind of feels like a rush of warmth. The milk is warm inside your body and is rushing out. So sometimes taking in a warm drink will encourage that flow to start happening.
Focus on the sensations
You can do this whether you are with your baby or pumping. Focus on what you are feeling. This is a great way to maximize your oxytocin! We have oxytocin in sex, pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding. It’s very similar to what you need to do to orgasm. Which might sound weird??
Breastfeeding is not sexual, but this hormone is the same. How do you get the oxytocin flowing in labor? You need to be relaxed and calm and it will flow on its own. You kind of just have to get out of your own way. A lot of women find this true about having an orgasm. If you are tense or thinking of something else, it is difficult to find that oxytocin climax.
It’s a similar thing while breastfeeding. If you want that oxytocin to flow uninhibited and do what it is supposed to do, you need to get out of your own way. Focus on what you are actually feeling. It might help to close your eyes. Let the oxytocin do the rest!
Multitasking, too distracted? Or not distracted enough?
Multitasking can make it harder to have a letdown but sometimes it can make it easier, so let’s talk about that.
Sometimes multitasking can be too distracting. If you are at work and still doing work with your pumps on, you might look down after about ten minutes and find you haven’t had your letdown yet. Stop for a few minutes, breathe and relax, then the letdown will come. If you are on your phone or have a lot going on and the letdown isn’t coming, you need to step back, do some deep breathing, find what relaxes you, and go from there.
Now, if you are one of those moms that are sitting there stressing about what is happening or not happening, you might need a little bit of a distraction to get out of your head. Maybe that is a good time to put on your favorite movie, drink tea, and try not to think about what is happening. Maybe you could scroll Instagram and follow some breastfeeding accounts (Follow me for breastfeeding and pumping advice plus funny/relatable reels!) Get your mind off the task at hand and let that letdown happen. Find the balance that works best for you.
Change it Up!
If you are feeding your baby on one side and it’s just not happening, switch to the other side. You could go back and forth as much as you need until you get that letdown.
If you are pumping you can do the same thing. If that letdown is not happening, pause the pump, remove the flanges, reposition and put them back on. Sometimes the repositioning or change in pressure can get those hormones going. Sometimes your body just gets so used to what you do that it forgets to do the hormone thing. Changing things up will help.
On the other hand, try doing the same thing every time
Like a Pavlovian response, doing something the same every time you have a letdown will eventually trigger a letdown. Find a routine and train your hormones to react to it!
On the New Little Life Podcast, Kelly describes something her daughter would do every time she was feeding her. Her daughter had a sort of wave motion that she did with her hand. She would wave and then brush over the breast. That motion would always trigger a letdown for Kelly. It was crazy! Just talking about it with me, she could feel a letdown feeling start to happen, even though she was done breastfeeding! It was just something she related so strongly with the letdowns, that this movement or memory could cause it on its own.
You can really do this with just your mind! You can do a lot of things with using your mental space and telling your body what you want.
Use Visualization Techniques
Think about water or waterfalls. Stroking downward on the breasts can help. Visualize milk flowing out of you. Anything that works for you. Sounds kind of silly, but it can help!
Try something new! See what works for you. Feel free to comment down below and tell me your favorite way to get a letdown.