Oxytocin nasal spray: Will it help milk ejection?

I recall reading about a hormone nasal spray that can trigger a let-down reflex. A friend who is pregnant with her third baby ended up not being able to successfully breastfeed numbers her first two because she never got a let-down. She'd like to ask her doctor about this spray.

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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

Oxytocin nasal spray (Syntocinon) has been used to help elicit a nursing mother's let-down. It is intended for short-term use, usually seeming to help condition the let-down response within a few days. This prescription medication is no longer available in the United States. I have heard that some pharmacists can make up an oxytocin nasal spray (with prescription).

During the first six weeks as the breastfeeding relationship is becoming established, it is very important that your friend allow her baby to nurse frequently. Most newborns nurse at least 10 to 12 times a day. It is also important not to time or limit his feeds.

Whether or not your friend is able to obtain oxytocin nasal spray, here are some tips that should help her to condition her milk ejection response:

  • Get comfortable. Set up a nursing corner with everything you will need within arms reach -- pillows, a drink, a snack, a book, the phone, the remote control ...
  • Apply warm, moist compresses to your breasts and gently massage prior to a feed.
  • Practice slow, deep breathing while visualizing your milk flowing like a river.
  • Hand-express a few drops of milk before putting your baby to breast.

    Work with an IBCLC to help assure good positioning and attachment.

  • Listen to the baby's suck-swallow pattern. If it slows, or he begins to fall asleep prematurely, gently massage the breast to get the milk flowing. If he stops sucking, you can also switch him back and forth between breasts as the milk flow slows.
  • Avoid smoking, use of alcohol, and caffeine. These may inhibit a mother's let-down. If you are taking any medications, check with your Health Care Provider to see if they may be inhibiting let-down (and possibly substitute an alternative.)

Long-term problems with milk-ejection are rare. If your friend has difficulties nursing baby number three, it is important to be seen by an IBCLC to help her get breastfeeding off to a good start. Best wishes to you and your friend!

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