Let-down reflex: Should you be able to feel it?

I have a few questions regarding the "let down" reflex. As I understand it the reflex is releasing more milk, and creating the hindmilk. Sometimes I can feel it (as a tingling sensation) and sometimes I can't. Is this normal?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

The function of the let-down, or milk ejection reflex, is to propel your milk to the lactiferous sinuses where it is easily accessed by your baby. The process goes like this: As your baby suckles, the hormone oxytocin causes your milk to let-down. This is a contraction of the myoepithelial cells which surround the alveoli, or milk producing cells of the breast. This milk is ejected into the ductules and then moved to the lactiferous sinuses.

Milk typically ejects several times during each feed. When your baby is put to your breast, prior to your milk letting down, there is some milk available to your baby. As your milk ejects you may notice the frequency of your baby's sucking and swallowing increases as he keeps up with the flow of your milk. If you were expressing your milk, this is the time you would see your milk droplets turn to sprays.

Nursing moms don't always feel their milk let down. Some moms never notice when their milk ejects, and others have a very strong (pins and needles) feeling as their milk lets down. This may occur during a feed, or in other situations, as you describe - often in response to their baby's cry.

Whether or not you feel your milk eject, you can be sure that your little one has enough milk if he has good output, and is growing and developing normally.

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