5 Gloriously Nerdy Facts about Your Milk Supply
Making mama’s milk feels like magic. Stop to think about it, and it kind of is. (Sidenote: Unicorns are mammals, too, and we’ve got the tote to prove it.) But there’s also a lot of science behind how milk is made, and what helps or hurts your flow. Here are five facts that will delight your inner nerd—and perhaps help you breastfeed more successfully.
It all starts with Boss Baby.
When a baby begins to nurse, the sucking action prompts your body to release prolactin, a hormone involved in milk production, and oxytocin, a hormone that causes muscles in the breast to contract and push out the milk. (Oxytocin, a.k.a., “the love hormone,” also plays a powerful role in creating strong social bonds—including maternal feelings!—and seems to help forge trust and mediate fear.)
When milk starts flowing, that’s letdown.
Well, the release of milk from the breast is called letdown but, most of the time, the action is actually the opposite of a bummer. Most women experience letdown as a sweet little victory: baby settles into a satisfying nursing session, and mom experiences a physical sensation usually perceived as pleasant relief. Letdown can happen in minutes or seconds and varies from feeding to feeding, pump to pump, and mom to mom.
Just thinking about your baby can lead to letdown.
Sometimes, the magic milk systems can get a little oversensitive and the letdown reflex kicks in when looking at, hearing, or even just thinking about your baby. While this may not be super helpful when you’re in a meeting or on a plane, you can use this phenomenon to your advantage when you’re pumping (tip: look at a sweet photo of your babe when you’re pumping).
Stressful situations can slow your flow.
Stress—because you’re feeling rushed or judged, or stuck in a gross and dirty bathroom, for example—can negatively impact letdown, slow your flow, and make nursing or pumping more difficult. That’s why it’s important to find a relaxing place to nurse or pump. Download the Mamava app to find thousands of private and dignified places to nurse or pump.
Distracted babies can take a toll on your milk supply.
As older babies become more aware of their surroundings, they often get distracted easily. This can lead to quick head turns—with your nip in baby’s mouth grip (ouch!) It can also prevent you from fully emptying your breasts, which can take a toll on milk supply. Retreating to a quiet spot—or creating one with a nursing cover—may help baby focus. Check our more nip tips here!