When you breast-feed, your baby's sucking stimulates nerves in your nipple. These nerves carry a message to your brain, and a hormone, called oxytocin, is released. Oxytocin flows through your bloodstream to your breasts, where it causes tiny muscle cells around your milk glands to squeeze milk out of the glands and into the milk ducts. This is known as the let-down reflex or the milk ejection reflex.
Once your let-down is working well (usually by 2 weeks after delivery), you may feel a pins-and-needles or tingling sensation in your breasts when you nurse or pump. Milk usually will drip from one breast while you are feeding on the other side. Sometimes your let-down will occur when you hear your baby cry or think about nursing your baby. A well-functioning let-down reflex helps ensure your breasts get well-drained and your baby easily gets milk.
Sometimes a woman's let-down reflex doesn't work as well as it should. This can make it hard for your baby to get milk when breast-feeding or for you to remove milk easily with a breast pump.
Several things may prevent the let-down reflex from working well.
The following suggestions can help trigger the let-down reflex and improve milk flow:
Some mothers have a forceful let down that causes too much milk to flow out of the breast too quickly. The mother may have sharp, shooting pain, and the baby may gulp, cough and sputter while feeding. Sometimes the baby may bite down on the nipple to decrease the flow, causing more pain. This most often happens within the first month of breastfeeding.
To help baby deal with forceful let down: