Should I feel my milk let down while breastfeeding?

Updated: Jun 22, 2019


Following birth of your first baby, awareness of the sensation of the milk moving through the ductal networks within your breasts increases with time. Some women explain how they were not fully aware of the feeling before 6 to 10 months. The talk about how their experience of awareness was much earlier following the birth of their next baby. Others describe the sensation as “painful”, “sensitive” or “tingling”. The individual woman just “knows” when milk is flowing through her breasts.

Another way of knowing when milk is flowing is associated with a distinct change in the baby’s drawing and swallow rhythm. The short, stop-start, arhythmical episodes of the intra-oral cavity and lower jaw first stimulate the release of hormones that create the milk to flow. As the milk flows out of the nipple ducts over the back of the baby’s tongue into the throat, the draw-swallow episodes change. The movement becomes more rhythmical the drawing episodes are longer and deeper. A distinct swinging movement of the lower jaw occurs with this change in intra-oral function. The milk rhythmically flows from the nipple ducts over the back of the tongue and into the throat. The pressure of the milk flow synchronises the rhythm of the draw-swallow-breathe reflex.

These episodes of stop-start stimulation of maternal hormone release, followed by the flow of milk from the nipple ducts, continues intermittently until the baby’s stomach reaches volumetric and caloric satisfaction. Feeding from both breasts with a ‘Rest to digest’ period after each breast appeases individual appetite and slows the digestive system (see both breasts per feed). Pressure within the breasts reduces simultaneously with the transfer of milk into the baby’s stomach (see gastric volume satisfaction). Gastric and emotional satisfaction is realised when the baby shows signs of relinquishing the breast in a relaxed, euphoric state.

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Dr Robyn Thompson

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