How to catch every drop during letdown
They call it “liquid gold” for a reason – breast milk is so packed full of vitamins and other good stuff that every drop is worth saving. You probably know what letdown is by now, but let’s summarize. It’s is an automatic natural reaction that happens in your body as your baby breastfeeds. When your child latches onto your breast and begins to suck, it sends a message to your brain to release the hormones prolactin and oxytocin. Letdown is ultimately a good and necessary thing because it means your baby is getting the milk they need, but it can happen in both breasts, which means the second breast can sometimes be left dripping while you feed. And no one likes a drippy nippy.
How it happens
OK, now for the nerdy bit – bear with us while we embrace our inner scientists. Because knowing what’s going on with your body is power. So how does letdown actually happen?
- Physical stimulation is the most common cause of letdown – by sucking at the breast, your baby triggers tiny nerves in the nipple.
- The letdown can also be triggered by touching your breast and nipple area with your fingers or using a breast pump.
- It can also be as simple as hearing a baby cry.
- Or just thinking about your baby can trigger it. It’s literally that simple.
Wait, wait, wait, so letdown can happen from no physical stimulation at all? That answer’s yes, which might explain why it can happen in both breasts when your little one only feeds on one.
Improving your letdown
If you’re having problems with letdown, there are some natural ways to increase it. And they’re all quite lovely solutions that will make you feel good.
- Aaaaaaand relax. Telling a new mom to relax is a bit annoying (you try relaxing with a newborn attached to your boob), but it will help with your letdown. Try a warm drink or listen to calming music. A warm shower can also help, or if there’s no time for that, placing a warm face washer on your breast for a few minutes before starting can help.
- Gently massage your breasts. Stroke your breast towards the nipple with the flat of your hand or edge of a finger. Gently roll your nipple between your fingers.
- Think about your baby. If they’re with you, hold them close – thinking about and looking at your baby will work wonders. Further proof that the female body is completely awesome.
Making the most of your letdown
As we already mentioned, letdown often occurs in both breasts meaning that your other breast might leak milk while feeding with the other. But don’t let it go to waste.
Breast milk is actually pretty resilient and can be stored well, so you might as well store up any milk that’s produced during your letdown. That means during moments when you don’t have enough time to breastfeed, you can instead use some stored milk that you caught from your other breast.
We made Elvie Catch to help mamas stay leak-free and save their milk. It holds up to 1 oz / 30 ml of milk in each cup so you’ll have no more wasted milk during feeding.
Storing your breast milk
Breast milk can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months in a sterilized container or special breast milk storage bags.
- The NHS advises to keep breast milk in the fridge for up to 8 days at 4C or lower (you can buy fridge thermometers online) – if you're not sure of the temperature of your fridge, or it is higher than 4C, use it within 3 days
- For 2 weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge
- For up to 6 months in a freezer, if it's -18C or lower
Don’t waste a single drop
At Elvie, we’re all about the things that make life easier for moms, and being able to catch your letdown and store your excess milk can be a lifeline during early rough patches or just long nights.