It is common for new mothers to have questions about breastfeeding and several of those questions center around the terminology. One term that is often unknown before pregnancy and birth is “let-down.” Below you will find information on breastfeeding let-down as well as how it works when pumping.

What is a Let Down?

In the simplest terms, a breastfeeding let-down is a release of milk from the breast tissue. The process begins when nerves in the breast are stimulated, typically through some form of sucking. This stimulation triggers the release of oxytocin which causes the muscles surrounding the milk-producing cells to contract. The result of these contractions is ejection of milk from the cells into the pathways that carry the milk to the nipple and eventually out of the body. There are other ways your breastfeeding let-down may be triggered that you should be aware of and can read about here. One of the better-known examples is the sound of a baby crying which has been known to create embarrassing situations in public.

How Do You Know When It Happens?

According to KellyMom, “most moms describe let-down as a tingly, pins-and-needles sensation in their chest, which can happen right after birth or even several weeks into breastfeeding. The tickly feeling is actually milk making its way through the ducts to your nipples.” You can tell a breastfeeding let-down when it’s happening because your baby will change their sucking pattern from short and choppy (think pacifier suck) to longer, rhythmic nursing once the let-down has begun. Additionally, your baby will start swallowing more frequently as they get more milk from you.

Pumping

Let-down also occurs during pumping sessions but in some cases may require some intervention to stimulate it. By far, one of the easiest ways to stimulate milk production is to relax. Using a little bit of breast massage or a warm compress on the breast to help the milk flow. You may also be able to think about your baby, look at pictures or videos to help you stimulate a let down. For more ideas on ways to encourage let-down while pumping, check out this article.