Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural way to feed your baby, but it can sometimes present challenges. One of which is a slow letdown of breast milk which can result in a frustrated baby. This frustration is due to your milk not flowing as quickly as your baby expects. This frustration can lead to a variety of issues, including a reluctance to nurse, excessive crying, and a stressed-out mom. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can employ to address this issue and ensure that both you and your baby have a successful breastfeeding journey.
Why Does my Baby Seem Frustrated While Breastfeeding?
A slow letdown refers to the initial flow of milk when your baby latches onto your breast. It usually takes a few minutes for the milk to start flowing after your baby begins to nurse. However, some mothers may experience an even slower letdown than usual, which can lead to frustration for the baby.
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Additionally, there are several factors that influence how long it takes to empty a breast. Your breast milk storage capacity, baby’s age and hunger level, baby’s sucking strength, milk supply, speed of letdown reflex, and your baby’s feeding efficiency. All of these factors taken together will determine how quickly your baby is able to empty your breast.
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Causes of Slow Let Down and a Frustrated Baby
Several factors can contribute to a slow letdown of breast milk and a frustrated baby, including:
- Stress and anxiety: High levels of stress or anxiety can interfere with the release of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for milk ejection. This can slow down the letdown reflex in mom. If the baby is stressed, anxious, or in pain, they may not nurse effectively, which can impede the letdown reflex. This can be caused by factors like illness, teething, or an uncomfortable breastfeeding position.
- Breast-related issues: Conditions such as engorgement, blocked milk ducts, or mastitis can impede the flow of milk and cause a slow letdown.
- Poor latch: An incorrect latch can make it challenging for your baby to effectively remove milk from the breast, leading to frustration and a slow flow. A proper latch is essential for effective breastfeeding. If the baby does not latch on correctly, they may not be able to effectively stimulate the nipple and areola, which can hinder the letdown reflex.
- Low milk supply: In some cases, a low milk supply can result in a slow letdown as there may not be enough milk stored in the breast. Make sure you are drinking enough water and eating enough calories and nursing baby frequently to keep your milk supply up. See our article on How to Increase Breast Milk Supply (Fast!) for more help with increasing your breast milk supply.
- Hormonal factors: Some hormonal issues, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or thyroid disorders, can affect milk production and the letdown reflex.
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What to Do When Your Baby Is Frustrated by Slow Let Down
Practice relaxation exercises like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to reduce stress and anxiety. A calm and relaxed mother is more likely to have an easier letdown. Your baby can pick up on your stress, so try your best to remain calm and relaxed as much as possible. Many moms have been through this and made it through.
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Ensure a Proper Latch – Main Reason for Slow Let Down & Frustrated Baby
Pay attention to your baby’s latch. Make sure their mouth covers a good portion of the areola, not just the nipple. A proper latch can help your baby extract milk more efficiently. If you have concerns about their latch, notify your pediatrician or lactation counselor immediately. They can refer you to a pediatric dentist who can quickly remedy any kind of lip or tongue tie.
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Breast Massage and Warm Compress
Gently massage your breasts before nursing to stimulate milk flow and relieve any blockages. Applying a warm compress can also help with milk letdown. I love warming up these therapy packs in between nursing sessions.
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Nurse your baby more frequently, even if it’s for shorter sessions. Frequent nursing can help stimulate your milk production and make it easier for your baby to get milk. Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. The more milk your baby demands of your body, the quicker your body will produce breast milk.
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If your baby seems frustrated with slow letdown on one breast, switch to the other side. Sometimes, one breast may have a faster flow than the other. You may also try different holds. If you typically nurse in the cross-cradle position, try the football or side laying position. See illustrations here for different breastfeeding holds.
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Use Breast Compression
While your baby is nursing, gently compress your breast to help release more milk. This can assist in maintaining milk flow. Press along your breast and toward your nipple in order to encourage milk to flow out of your breast. You can also try using a lactation massager while breastfeeding in order to encourage milk flow.
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Offer Skin-to-Skin Contact
Skin-to-skin contact with your baby can stimulate the release of oxytocin, which may facilitate a faster letdown. Strip off your top and baby’s clothes to maximize skin-to-skin contact.
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Reach out to a lactation consultant or a breastfeeding support group. They can provide personalized advice and support to help you and your baby overcome breastfeeding challenges. There are hundreds of breastfeeding and pumping groups on Facebook and Reddit.
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In some cases, using a breast pump before nursing can help stimulate milk flow and make it easier for your baby to latch onto a breast with a better flow. See our article The Complete Guide on How to Pump Breast Milk for more help with pumping.
Be Patient and Persistent
Remember that breastfeeding is a learning process for both you and your baby. Be patient and persistent, and keep trying different techniques until you find what works best for you both. This difficulty will not last forever. Before you know it, breastfeeding will feel second nature to both you and your baby. Don’t ever give up on your worst day!
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A slow letdown of breast milk can be frustrating for both you and your baby, but with patience, practice, and the right strategies, it is a challenge that can be overcome. Remember that every mother-baby pair is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Seek support from professionals and don’t hesitate to reach out for help when needed. Ultimately, the most important thing is to ensure that your baby receives the nourishment they need while building a strong and loving breastfeeding relationship.
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