Are you a breastfeeding mother that has trouble achieving let-down while either breastfeeding or pumping? This can cause stress and anxiety for any mom that is having issues and once problems begin, they can often have a snowball effect that continues to build even to the point where some moms are forced to give up pumping or breastfeeding all together. I have personally experienced these issues and have had to find my own ways of coping with the many roadblocks that one meets, especially while pumping. I pumped 3 times a day for over a year with my first daughter and I worked in a very small office and the only place available to pump was in a dingy bathroom sitting on the toilet â€“ yuck. It wasn't exactly an ideal environment but it was all I had, so I had to make it work. If you are having problems achieving successful let-down when breastfeeding or pumping, then keep reading and hopefully some of the tips I've found can help you!
The most powerful tool when attempting to achieve led-down is your mind. It can also be your worst enemy if you let it. The biggest help is definitely to remain relaxed which is usually easier said than done, especially if you are worried about being able to provide for your baby's nutritional needs, or you are at work and worried about how your little one is coping without mommy or just plain miss your little angel! I have been through it all and there are certainly tricks you can use to help you relax and get you into the right frame of mind for maximum let-down. A very simple, yet effective help is to bring along a picture of your baby. Many breast pumps actually have a little spot for one or more pictures just for this purpose. I, personally, had a picture of my daughter nursing in my pump bag and that picture helped me to get into the right state of mind to have a good pumping session. I would look at it for a moment, then I would close my eyes and imagine I was nursing my baby. This method is called visualization. Visualization is a very good tool that is easy to do and extremely effective. Close your eyes and try to conjure up the sights, sounds, smells and feeling of nursing your baby. Try to remember the exact way it feels when you're milk comes down. The more detailed you get with your visualization, the more real it will seem and the easier it will be to achieve a successful let-down when breastfeeding or pumping. If you want to take your visualization to the next level, bring along a pair of pajamas or a onesie that your little one slept in and put it in a ziploc bag. When it comes time to pump, pull it out and smell it. This may seem weird, but our sense of smell is one of our most powerful senses, especially when it comes to recognizing our loved ones. The scent of your baby will trigger the production of oxytocin, which will, then trigger your milk to come down for pumping or nursing.
Another trick you can put into practice when trying to achieve let-down is breast massage. Many times, when massage is done before the start of pumping, it will not only increase the likelihood of let-down, it can also cause you to produce more milk, which is always a good thing! To read about increasing your milk supply, check out my article, Natural Methods of Boosting Your Breast Milk Supply. Begin under your arms and slowly, but firmly massage your breasts from armpit to nipple. Do this several times, ending with a firm squeeze to the breast after each stroke. Don't massage too hard because causing yourself pain will backfire and have the opposite affect of what you're trying to accomplish.
You can also create "triggers" for yourself. This is more for those moms that are trying to pump, as the triggers are created during actual breastfeeding sessions. Have you ever heard of Pavlov's Dog? Pavlov was a scientist who studied what he called the "conditioned reflex." In Pavlov's experiments, the ringing of a bell would accompany the dog's food. After a short amount of time, the dogs learned to associate the sound of the bell with the expectation of being fed, so when the bell rang, their salivary glands would begin working in anticipation of food. Much like this, we can condition our brains to release oxytocin in response to certain triggers. How you would do this, is to create and environment during breastfeeding that is easy to replicate while pumping. You could make yourself a cup of hot tea each time you nurse your baby and then do the same while pumping and your brain will begin to associate that tea with breastfeeding and thus release oxytocin which will cause you to achieve a successful let-down. You could also listen to a specific song that could be played on your mp3 player or light a particular candle scent. The more consistent you are with this method, the better it will work for you!
One last method that has piqued my interest, but that I don't have any personal experience with is an oxytocin nasal spray. This is a spray containing synthetic oxytocin that you spray into your nose and it will facilitate let-down. I have read several instances where moms have had success using this type of treatment to achieve letdown. Beware of using something like this unless it is necessary as you can become dependent on the product and unable to achieve independent let-down.
All in all, just try to relax and remember that whatever you are able to do for your baby is enough. Even if you only pump enough breastmilk to supplement your little one's formula feedings, you are doing an awesome thing and you should be proud of yourself and all the good things your baby is getting from your efforts!
Here are some links to some other helpful articles!