Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural experience that creates a unique bond between a mother and her baby. For moms who need to balance work, personal commitments, or health issues, pumping breast milk is necessary in order to continue on the breastfeeding journey. To maximize milk output and ensure efficient pumping, achieving multiple letdowns during a session is key. In this article, we’ll explore the concept of letdowns, and discuss effective strategies on how to get a second letdown while pumping.
What is a Letdown When Pumping?
A letdown is a physiological response that occurs in breastfeeding moms when their baby or a breast pump stimulates their nipple. During a letdown, the brain releases oxytocin, a hormone that triggers the muscles around the milk-producing cells to contract, pushing milk into the ducts and towards the nipple. Achieving letdowns during pumping is crucial as it significantly impacts milk expression.
Related article: No Letdown When Pumping? Here’s 5 Helpful Tips.
How to Get A Second (or More) Letdowns When Pumping?
The number of letdowns a mom should aim for during a pumping session can vary from person to person and even from session to session. On average, most breastfeeding experts recommend aiming for at least two to three letdowns during a typical 15-20 minute pumping session. However, some moms may experience more letdowns, especially during longer sessions.
It’s essential to remember that the frequency and success of letdowns can depend on several factors, including a mom’s individual physiology, stress levels, comfort, and the efficiency of the pump being used. What’s most important is not to fixate on achieving a specific number of letdowns but rather to focus on ensuring effective pumping.
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Steps for How to Get a Second Letdown When Pumping
If you are pumping for 15-20 minutes and not experiencing a second letdown, there are steps you can take to trigger your body to letdown breast milk. Try one or several of the following to see what work best for you.
1. Relaxation is Key
Stress and anxiety can inhibit letdowns. Find a quiet, comfortable space where you can relax and focus on the task at hand. Deep breathing, mindfulness, or listening to calming music can help ease tension. Look at pictures and video of your baby, and try not to be distracted by anything else. Some moms like to watch a show on their phone or even play a game in order to fully relax. Do what works best for you! Your body needs to be relaxed to get a second letdown when pumping.
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2. Comfortable Pumping Environment
Ensure that you are using a comfortable and well-fitted breast pump. The right fit and suction settings can significantly affect your ability to achieve letdowns. See our articles on The Best Breast Pumps for Working Moms and Does Flange Size Affect Milk Output? Yes, Here’s How for more information on our favorite pumps and how to pump comfortably. Make sure the area you are pumping in is comfortable, too. Comfy chair, pillow if needed, snacks if possible, and a small table to hold your pump. If you are uncomfortable, your body may not be able to relax enough to get a second letdown when pumping.
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3. Nipple Stimulation
Gently massaging your breasts or using warm compresses before and during pumping can help stimulate letdowns. You can also try rolling your nipples between your fingers to mimic the sensation of your baby’s mouth or try a lactation massager. Nipple stimulation triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin from the brain. When oxytocin is released, it causes the muscles surrounding the milk-producing cells in the breast to contract, pushing milk into the ducts and facilitating letdown.
Related article: Breast Milk Vs Cow Milk Taste – Are They Similar?
Some moms find that visualizing their baby or thinking about pleasant, nurturing experiences can trigger letdowns. Creating a mental connection to your baby can be a powerful stimulus. Trying looking at pictures or videos of your baby to assist with this.
Related article: Can I Reuse Bottles for Second Baby? Yes, But Consider This.
5. Breast Compression – Easiest Way to Get a Second Letdown While Pumping
In addition to using a breast pump, you can try hand expression techniques to stimulate letdowns. Many moms find that using their hands in combination with a pump can be more effective. Hand expression directly stimulates the nerves in the breast tissue. When you gently massage and compress the breast, you activate the nerve endings around the areola and nipple. This stimulation sends signals to the brain, triggering the release of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for milk ejection. After your initial letdown, use your hands to express milk for a few minutes to stimulate additional letdowns.
Related article: Drop in Milk Supply 4 Months & How to Fix It!
6. Frequent Pumping
Pump more often, even if it’s for shorter durations. Frequent pumping sends a message to your body that more milk is needed. In response, your body adjusts its milk production to meet this demand. This can lead to a greater likelihood of achieving multiple letdowns during pumping sessions.
Frequent pumping sessions can also mimic a baby’s feeding pattern, which typically involves multiple letdowns during a nursing session. Babies often start with quick, shallow sucks to trigger the initial letdown, followed by slower, deeper sucks to extract more milk. By pumping frequently, you’re replicating this natural rhythm, which can encourage multiple letdowns.
Related article: Hand Me Down Breast Pump: Good Idea or Not?
7. Empty One Breast Before Switching
If you’re double-pumping, make sure to empty one breast before moving to the other. Emptying one breast completely before switching to the other ensures that the breast being nursed or pumped is efficiently emptied. This is important because breasts have different flow rates and breast milk storage capacities. The first breast may have a faster flow and more milk stored, so starting with it ensures thorough milk removal.
Additionally by emptying one breast before switching, your baby or pump has the opportunity to access the higher-fat hindmilk that is present toward the end of a feeding. Hindmilk is richer in nutrients and can help satisfy your baby’s hunger more effectively.
Related article: One Breast Producing Less Milk Than The Other? Mine, Too!
8. Hydration and Nutrition – Essential to Get a Second Letdown When Pumping
Stay well-hydrated and maintain a balanced diet to support healthy milk production and letdowns. While the exact amount of water a breastfeeding mom needs can vary based on individual factors like body size, activity level, climate, and diet, a general guideline is to aim for about 8 to 12 cups (64 to 96 ounces) of fluid intake per day. Additionally, ensure you are eating enough calories, and those calories are healthy, calorie dense foods–not just junk food! Check out some of our recipes here:
- 3-ingredient peanut butter lactation balls
- Lactation fudge
- Lactation oatmeal banana bread
- Baked lactation oatmeal
- Lactation oatmeal – 4 staple recipes you need to know
Related article: Slow Let Down + Baby Frustrated = Stressed Mom
9. Maintain a Routine
Consistency is vital. Stick to a regular pumping schedule to train your body to anticipate and respond to letdown cues. Establishing a routine helps regulate the hormones involved in milk production and letdown. Prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production, operates on a circadian rhythm. By nursing or pumping at consistent intervals, you help regulate prolactin levels, which can enhance your body’s ability to initiate letdowns.
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The journey of breastfeeding and pumping breast milk is unique for every mother. While achieving multiple letdowns during pumping sessions is essential for milk expression, it’s equally important not to stress over a specific number. Instead, focus on creating a conducive environment, maintaining your well-being, and using various techniques like those mentioned above to stimulate letdowns naturally.
Remember that every drop of breast milk you provide for your baby is a precious gift, and your efforts are praiseworthy, regardless of the number of letdowns you experience. Be patient with yourself, seek support when needed, and cherish the bond you share with your little one, both during breastfeeding and pumping.
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