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Ep. 122- Hacking Your Letdown

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This is Maureen Farrell and Heather ONeal and this is The Milk Minute. We’re midwives and lactation professionals bringing you the most up-to-date evidence for all things lactation. So you can feel more confident about feeding your baby, body positivity, relationships, and mental health. Plus, we laugh a little or a lot along the way.

So join us for another episode. Welcome to the Milk Minute Podcast. Hello! Today, we’re gonna talk about the letdown. The milk ejection reflex if you will. The squeezy squeezy boob muscles that forcefully fire hose your milk at your baby’s face. And then you have to yell sink or swim, little Bobby! Or it just happens and you don’t even know it’s happening actually. 

You know, when this happened to me the other day, I was out in my garden and it’s baby deer season, if you didn’t know. I didn’t know that. And there was a fawn in my neighbor’s yard who was crying and sometimes they sound like goats and sheep, and sometimes they sound like fucking human babies and it was like, eh, eh, and it sounded like a baby. No. 

And then my milk, let down, stop it. Yep. You’re like Snow White in the forest, responding to baby animal cues with your body. Oh, it’s very stressful because it was like crying and I was like, that’s actually hilarious. Go to baby animals, just leave them alone. And you didn’t put that on TikTok.

I did. Oh, you did? Yeah. You probably missed it. Okay. Oh, what I, I watch all your TikTokā€™s. It’s okay. I’ll go back. That’s so weird. It was, it was a weird day in general. Wow. Okay. Well, yeah. So I get this question a lot. What is the milk let down? Yes. So that’s important to know, and we are gonna get into what it is, how it happens and then what to do and how to troubleshoot if you have a problem with it.

But first. What first, what first? First we have to thank some patrons. Oh, good. So I am going to give a shout out to my CNM friends. Okay. Which means certified nurse midwife, who are constantly promoting our resources to their patients in their busy clinics and supporting the show. So I’m going to shout out Jackie in Chicago, Illinois, Sarah in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and the entire midwifery group at West Virginia University Hospitals Children’s Hospital. 

Thank you guys so much. So so much for, including our flyers in your prenatal packets. Yeah. At the 28 week visit when people come in to talk about breastfeeding. Thank you so much when you see people at your six week follow up and they’re mentioning something about breastfeeding, thank you for sending them our way to our Facebook group for support.

We see you and these people talk about you all the time. Thank you for the excellent care that you’re giving to people and we couldn’t love you more. Yeah, we really, really appreciate that. If you would like to become a patron, you can go to patreon.com/MilkMinutePodcast, and you can be in the cool kids club too.

Yeah. And we appreciate that. Cuz podcasts are expensive. Oh, I’m happy to do it. Okay. Okay. So we’re gonna also let’s do a question. Oh yeah. What, what’s our question today? I didn’t even read it. Okay, well, this is a good one for you, actually. Okay. So this is a question from our patron, Stephanie L. She says, do you have any tips for discreetly storing pump parts in a work refrigerator so they can be reused between pump sessions?

I plan to pump two to three times at work. Also, I used a Medela with my first child, but I’m using a Spectra this time. Any tips on being able to use Medela parts like bottles with a Spectra pump? Mm-hmm. And a third part to the question. Okay. Her commute is 30 to 45 minutes from home to work. What’s your best tips for transporting milk for storage and any advice for bringing pump milk to daycare?

Oh gosh. Okay. Okay. Let’s begin at the beginning. Work fridge. Most of the time for like work refrigerators, people are just putting their whole lunch box in there. So I would just take a normal looking lunch box and use that to store your pump parts. And if you feel like icky about it, then put your pump parts in a zip lock inside, or just get a wet bag.

Yep. And if you have your own cooler, like if you bring a cooler with ice packs, mm-hmm, that’s still refrigerated. So you can just throw all your stuff in a wet bag and throw it in your cooler. Yeah. Or just use like an opaque Tupperware. A lot of people do that. Mm-hmm. I think really if someone is looking for it, then they were gonna steal your lunch and they deserve to find whatever they find.

Look it up, Susie. Okay. So yeah, I would just use like a regular insulated lunch box or something. Same. Okay. So you’re gonna pump a couple times at work, blah, blah, blah. Let’s see. Medela and Spectra parts. Is there, like, did you find the hack? So they’re like on opposite sides of the spectrum, right? You can absolutely use the Medela bottles with the Spectra easily.

You just need an adapter that goes from a wide mouth to a narrow mouth, a ton of companies sell them. I think I have may mom ones and Nanobebe, Neni baby. Maybe it’s that one. Yeah, it’s gotta be. Yeah. But they’re really easy and like universal fit so that part’s easy. I don’t know how to connect the Medela flanges like that system to the Spectra. 

And I feel like probably there’s someone that sells it, but I don’t know that. Okay. And as far as the commute, yes, the 30 to 45 minutes, we love the Ceres Chiller. Mm-hmm. That’s just amazing. It’s very easy to pour your milk into it. It keeps it cold. You don’t have to mess with it too much.

And I mean, unless there’s another thing you wanted to mention. I mean, honestly the 30 to 45 minutes, like cold milk from the fridge, you could just throw in a little lunchbox cooler and it would be fine by the time you got home. Yeah. I wouldn’t worry about it. I wouldn’t stress too much. That’s right.

Yeah. So if you just pump directly into bottles, just put the cap on. And when you get to where you’re going, you can store it the way you wanna store it. Depending on how clean your pump parts were, how clean your hands were, because it’s that baseline bacteria count that matters most. And we will link an episode on milk storage in the show notes for you.

If you wanna learn more about that. Okay. Well, hopefully that helps. And probably as you begin to do all of that, you’ll be like, oh, all the plans I had for this are not the right plans. Let’s find a new system and that’s okay too. Yeah, for sure.

You guys Breastfeeding for Busy Moms, my little breastfeeding clinic isn’t so little anymore. I’m so excited that not only can people book with you in person here or virtually, but they can book with the other IB CLCs in your clinic. We also do accept some insurance directly. A lot of insurance will actually pre-approve you for a certain amount of visits, even prenatally.

So please head on over to breastfeedingforbusymoms.com and check out the services tab to see if your insurance is approved. Book with me or one of my IB CLCs. And we would love to work with you. You can do prenatal consults. What else can they do, Heather? Well, I often work with people who have supply issues.

We’ve got pumping troubleshooting. We’ve got preparing to go back to work, weaning, starting solids. We really cover the entire journey. So if you’re struggling, stop struggling and just schedule with me or somebody on my team at breastfeedingforbusymoms.com. Dot com.

Let’s hack our milk let down everyone. Yeah, let’s do that. I think we should. Okay. So first we need to know what’s happening here and also normalize the fact that if you don’t feel your milk let down. Yeah. You’re not broken. Yeah. I’ve breast fed now for a total of like five years, five and a half years.

And I’ve felt my let down, like three times. I, on the other hand feel it so strongly. I can recall it in my mind, even though I haven’t nursed in two years. For me, my milk ejection reflex or milk let down felt like pins and needles in my nipples. Mm-hmm. So it was almost like that feeling when your foot goes to sleep and it starts to wake back up and you’re like, Ooh, what the heck?

And it feels like a tightening in my breast and squeezing, like you’re trying to shove milk through a tiny nipple hole. It’s very interesting, but if you don’t feel that you might feel some other things that are maybe more internal. Some people get very nauseous. Yeah. I actually, the only times I’ve felt it, it felt a little bit like burning.

Mm. Which is interesting. And not like not really painful, but just like, oh, that’s weird. Is it hot? Okay. Yeah. I don’t know. Like it wasn’t, it wasn’t comfortable. Mm-hmm. Yeah. So like any kind of transient feeling can be kind of weird but normal, but if it becomes disturbing to you, yeah, that is what’s called the it’s what’s called dysphoric dysphoric milk ejection reflex. 

Yeah. D-MER. And we have an episode on D-MER. So if every time you go to nurse your baby, you feel so nauseous, dizzy, you feel OCD or you feel rage or anything like that, you’re gonna wanna check out our D-MER episode and figure out what’s going on.

Heather, I ate too much at lunch. Okay. We, we’re gonna shout out Vanessa’s kitchen in the Seneca Center. For those of you that been listening to the show for a while, we’ve been waiting for this restaurant to open. Yeah. They don’t have their liquor license yet, so we still didn’t get our noon beer. That’s fine.

But we had the most delicious lunch. And if you are in Morgantown, West Virginia, you better come down to Vanessa’s Kitchen at the Seneca Center. It’s incredible. Anyway, sorry. You were just mentioning nausea and I was like, oh my tummy’s too full. Speaking to nausea, let’s talk about the fig stuffed trout you had for lunch.

Yeah, it was delicious. Anyway. Okay, so your let down. Your milk ejection reflex, oxytocin reflex, whatever you wanna call it. Let’s talk about what it is. Yes, I am excited cuz we haven’t actually really done this yet. This is both a neurological and endocrinologic process. Sorry I said that weird. Endocrinologic. And let’s, let’s just like go through it as if we are that process.

So, I’ll be the nipple. Do me. Do me. The first step is that we have some kind of sucking that stimulates the nerves in the areola and nipple. What if there is no sucking, but you just hear the small whimper of a baby deer? Okay. Well, let’s start with sucking. We can get into the rest of that later. Okay.

Okay. But we start with stimulation. So we’re stimulating the nerves in the areola and nipple, and that activates the somatic afferent neural reflex pathway via your spinal cord. Mm-hmm. Okay. And then that goes, do, do, do to the mesencephalon, which is a part of your brain stem and then from there to the hypothalamus, which we love. We love that little ancient hypothalamus.

Yeah. It’s in the back of your brain there. And that is where those hormones are created and released. We’ve got oxytocin. So in this process, there’s oxytocin and prolactin, but oxytocin is made and released faster than prolactin. So that’s the first one, right? So the hypothalamus secretes and releases, prolactin and oxytocin via the posterior pituitary gland.

Mm-hmm. The first one to come out is oxytocin. So that makes its way all the way back to the boobies. And let’s see, so that oxytocin, then there are these little receptors on the myoepithelial cells, the little, tiny muscle cells, your boob muscles, if you will. Yes. Yeah. Let’s flex our boob muscles a little bit.

So anyway, they’ve got receptors on those cells that are surrounding the alveoli. So those are like the little grapes, like the little sacks of milk, right. And those get squeezed. And then your ducts your milk ducts expand. So we have squeeze, open, squeeze, open. Mm-hmm. And that is what causes your milk to eject.

Just like when you had a baby in your uterus and oxytocin began flooding your body and the receptors on your uterus muscle started to contract to excrete your baby. So now we’re just squeezing to excrete milk, but it’s a squeezy hormone. Just remember oxytocin is a squeezy hormone. But the interesting thing to think about with this is how this reflex is dependent on having a healthy brain.

Right. It’s dependent on electrical activity in your neurons and your hypothalamus. But it’s not so specific that it’s only a baby’s mouth, which means if your partner sucks on your nipples or if you’re in the shower and you’re facing the water and the water is repeatedly beating on your nipples, your brain is just like, it’s stimulated.

It’s go time, which is why you leak in the shower and you leak during sex. Yeah. And there are other ways that your body stimulates the production of oxytocin too. And we still, no matter what have those receptors on those myoepithelial cells. So that’s why those let downs sometimes happen at other times.

It’s not so specific that those receptors like close up or anything. They’re just waiting. They’re always waiting. They’re ready. At they’re ready. So yeah, it can happen when we anticipate feeding. That’s really common. When we hear a baby cry, et cetera. It can also happen when the pressure in your breast becomes so great that it needs to come out and your body won’t necessarily do like a full let down.

Right. But it’ll start to kind of squeeze out just a little bit to get, to get it going to remind you like, Hey, are you sure there’s no baby out here that needs to be fed? Cuz like we’re pretty full right now. Yeah. And, and it’s something that you become conditioned to. Right? It’s a reflex that your body’s conditioned to that is influenced by the sensations you have and the feelings you have.

So it can take time to adjust, to having new things, to trigger your let down like a new pump or getting back to nursing a baby if you were exclusively pumping. It’s really interesting the way your body essentially gets trained to release the, that hormone at a specific time. And the age of your baby.

Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s pretty wild. And we’re so much more sensitive to that in the first few weeks. When your body’s like, we’re not conditioned to do anything, let’s just try it out and see what works. I’m like, why am I such a perv? I’m like, it’s like when a little boy gets a boner for the first time and they just can’t control it.

They just get boners everywhere. It’s like your muscles and your nerves are just trying to get on the same page. Well, since we both have children with penises, we are so familiar with that. It hasn’t really happened. Like the conversation hasn’t happened yet where it’s like, mom, this keeps happening to me.

So I’m like just waiting for the day. But oh, soon. My brother, my brother will kill me for saying this, but when he was a toddler, he’s very, so he has Touretteā€™s, and it’s a milder form of Touretteā€™s, but so he can control it a little bit, but he’s very sensitive to sensory input and he hated wearing jeans.

And my mom had ’em in jeans one day and took him to the grocery store and he got like a little baby boner like they do. And he stood up in the cart and starts smashing himself in the penis screaming, my penis is big! My penis is big! And he was so upset cuz the jeans were so tight and he just needed his penis to not be big.

And my mom is like, oh my God, sit down. And he’s just like, my penis is big! You know, it’s just, I like love toddlers. I know. It’s just such a problem when your body just starts doing weird neurological muscular things that you can’t control. And like they’re finally aware of it at that age. Mm-hmm right.

Like they, they, and they can express it. Yeah. Yeah, I we’ve finally really strongly moved out of that with Griffin. You know, he’s six now and now we’re into like him thinking a lot more conceptually about things. Okay. You know, he’ll be like, but why does that happen? Oh, let’s talk about it. I’m like, okay.

But you know, he’s still satisfied with simple answers usually. Thank God. Like, oh, okay. It’s this process in your body. And he’s like, cool. Can I have some fruit snacks? Yes, you can. Oh, anyways. So, you know, we have some problems sometimes with this connection between our brains and our muscles. So initially we can’t control it.

It’s just like, it’s like, everyone’s reading the same book, but we don’t know what chapter we’re on. So it’s just a hot mess. But then as you get conditioned to feeding and you’re more on a pattern and baby suckles and within a correct amount of time for baby, typically mm-hmm, the milk will let down.

Baby gets a nice big drink and then calms down. You see their little eyes roll in the back of their beautiful little baby heads and you’re like, oh, I know they’re getting milk because look at that little eye roll and then they move into a slower pattern and that’s when the letdown is over. So it’s initially very quick. Often you’ll hear gulping.

Definitely you’ll hear swallowing. Sometimes if the letdown is so forceful, they’ll pop off. Yeah, sometimes there’s a little bit of choking. It’s okay. Just mild choking. Sometimes it’s a little more than that. But anyway, sometimes things get in the way of this process. Yeah. And we’re gonna go through a list of some of those things, and then we’re gonna tell you maybe some things you could do about it.

Yeah. Okay. So when were you let down by your let down Heather? My, and so I think that this is a pretty classic case, is my baby was about seven months old. I was getting home from work at a time in the day, like four o’clock when my milk volume was the lowest and my stress was the highest. And baby was also more distracted and less willing to learn new things like they are at that 10:00 AM moment of the day where you’re like, oh, you’re so bright eyed and bushy-tailed and able to learn new things. And you’re smart and you’re sweet and you’re patient. And by four o’clock, your kid is like a small demon child and you have no milk. 

And you’re stressed and you’re like, just feed! And your boobs are full, but that’s not happening. And so between the distracted nursing and the stress, I could not get my milk to let down at that time. Baby would get more frustrated, start physically assaulting me with their fingernails and biting, and I would just pop her off and I would put her down and I’d be like, we cannot.

Yeah. Like this is not okay. That kind of persisted. And I wish I knew more than what I know now. I would’ve probably worked at it a little bit more, but I just kind of decided not to worry about it. Yeah. You know, just kind of like, let it go. And then we’d nurse at night before bed and it was fine, but that was the roughest time trying to get your milk to let down.

Yeah. I think I have the hardest time while pumping mm-hmm because I, I, I can’t I don’t know. It’s, it’s hard to focus on things that make me feel good while pumping and I keep getting distracted by the sensations I’m feeling and the sound of the pump. Right. So I’ll be like, I’m gonna try to meditate or watch this TV show or whatever, but I can never, like my focus keeps getting snatched back to the parts of what I’m doing, that I don’t like. Brains.

Screw them. Yeah. These, these weird things with electricity and blood in our heads. They’re so weird. It is weird that they’re like blood sponges. It is, it’s super strange. Like we like to think of our brains as they’re just like up there, they’re like weird gray slimy things, but they are full of blood.

They are actually full of blood, which is so creepy to think about anyway. But on that note, the very commonly stress, pain and emotional upset inhibit your ejection reflex. This is why often, if we have a kid who’s on a full nursing strike, I like to ask my patients gently, is there anything stressful going on in the home right now?

This happened to me with my son, whenever his dad moved out. And he was 10 months old and he went on a nursing strike and I just quit breastfeeding. Right. Completely. I didn’t push through it because I didn’t realize it was probably a result of that. Maybe large in part, but yeah. That’s and it was probably cuz my milk wasn’t letting down cause I was so incredibly stressed. 

Right. I, you know, now that you mentioned that, I can’t, Griffin had one big nursing strike. I cannot remember if there was anything like that going on. But I do remember he went a full 24 hours without nursing. So basically eating nothing, right. Because he, he was old enough to eat, but didn’t eat a lot yet.

Didn’t really drink water much. It was like, it was wild. I got him to take a bottle in his sleep, which was like the only time he’s ever had a bottle. And then he just started nursing again and I was like, don’t know, they’re so strange. What happened there? They’re so strange like that, but the reason stress is such a big issue for letdowns is because cortisol.

Which is the stress hormone, directly interferes with the oxytocin. So it doesn’t matter how much oxytocin is getting pumped out or how high up on the suction you have your pump or how hard your baby is trying to suck. If you have a ton of cortisol in your body, it is going to interfere with the binding of that oxytocin onto those receptors.

Same thing, like when you’re in early labor. And you’re in a good pattern at home and then you go to the hospital and all the fluorescent lights are on and they stab you with an IV. And like you’re only one centimeter and then your contraction stall. And it’s because the, the uterus with all the oxytocin receptors is getting interfered with by the cortisol.

So, yeah, we’re just humans, we’re not robots. Exactly. Some other things. Alcohol and medication can contribute to. Alcohol inhibits your letdown reflex and often medications do. And we don’t know that when taking them, we’re like, oh yeah, they’re safe for breastfeeding. They’re safe for baby, but then you don’t get told the other side of it.

Right. And so we see this a lot with SSRIs. Yes. So like Lexapro and Zoloft and Prozac. A lot of those just like how you have some sexual dysfunction with SSRIs, like you can’t achieve orgasm. Mm-hmm. What is an orgasm? It’s an oxytocin rush. Yeah. That squeezes your pelvic floor muscles. So same thing, not to say that breastfeeding is sexual because it’s not, but it’s the similar hormonal pathway where medication gets in the way.

Yeah. I, so a friend of mine from college is a neuroscientist and he was saying not that long ago, like he, he was kind of on like a tirade about medication and mental health and he struggled with a lot of. About how doctors are really quick to prescribe medications because there’s like, quote an imbalance in your brain.

Sorry, this is semi-related. But I just thought of it. And he was like, we don’t know that. He was like, we don’t know what the normal levels of all those things in your brain are also don’t have a way to measure them. And we don’t know that, but we do know that sometimes those medications work. So it’s like the backwards logic of like, well, if that works, you didn’t have enough serotonin.

Is that really true? We don’t know. Hmm. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, but it does mean that you’re probably not broken in a way that you’ve been told you are. Right. Like it does mean that actually our understanding of that is a little bit not correct and like, maybe we need to think of those in a different way and frame that differently.

Yeah. When we’re talking about that with patients. Yeah. And also the, the craziest thing about our brains is that we can trick them into thinking the problem is solved. Yeah. Yes. So like the placebo effect, for example, wow. Is so wild. So if we can, like, here’s one of my favorite examples of the placebo effect.

They actually showed that the more invasive the placebo, the more it works. I bet. So if you give somebody a pill and you tell them it’s morphine, they’ll feel better. They’ll report. Yeah. Decreased pain. But if you take them back for surgery, cut a little cut on their knee and don’t actually do anything but that and tell them they had full knee surgery, they will have almost full function of their knee and be like, yep, it’s all better. 

And it’s like way more of an effect than just the pill. So when you’re having these milk, ejection reflex issues know that the power is within you. Right. Like, you can pretty much hack it, but it does take time and patience and awareness. And awareness that it’s happening.

Yeah. And you have to be willing to do some crazy stuff sometimes. Yeah. Just to check it out. I interrupted myself and I didn’t finish. Two more things that can inhibit your milk ejection reflex. One is unfamiliar stimulation, like using a pump for the first time. It can take some time to condition your body to respond to it.

Again, on the flip side, say your baby gets home from the NICU and you’re finally latching. That might be actually really hard to adjust to. And actually this just happened to a patient of mine who was using incorrect flange sizes. Came to me. I sized her correctly. She’s a 15, so she’s pumping with the 15.

It’s very comfortable. Having tons of milk, ejection reflexes, lots of good volume. And then she forgot them at work and tried to pump with her 24s at home and she couldn’t get a drop, not one drop. She was like my body completely conditioned itself to only use the fifteens now. And she’s like, ah, so she bought a second set for home.

Good, good idea. Menstruation also sometimes makes it difficult to achieve a letdown. And I think menstruation makes it difficult for everything. To life, to everything. Yes. To just life. And, and I think that’s often what happens when people say their supply is dropping during menstruation is that it’s harder to get a letdown.

And the things that they normally do are not working. Yeah. Is it, do you think it’s actual menstruation or PMS, like pre menstruation? I, I don’t know, but I, I do know that prolactin levels are also lower at that time in your menstrual cycle. So it’s just a lot of things that really suck super suck all together.

And you’re bleeding, like, come on. I’m bleeding right now. I’m so sorry. It’s fine. I, my cycle is not regular yet, of course, but it’s, it’s like every cycle I’m like, Ooh, that like, it’s like one less day weird. Mm-hmm, , mine’s being a weird creep. It’s like I was 28 on the dot and now it’s like 30, 32. I miss the dot 34 30.

I’m like, when are you coming? And why is it taking so long. Why am I PMSing for 10 days? Yeah, that is so obnoxious. Yeah. It’s super annoying. Okay. So what are we gonna do when we’ve got this milk ejection reflex issue? Something’s disturbed the mechanism. So I feel like just, I have to preface this. I feel like this whole list should be a song.

But I didn’t write it. Okay. Well, so maybe one day, maybe one day, I’ll just like in the middle of an episode, I’ll be like, I finally finished the letdown song. Let’s do it. Stimulate the right way. Oh, oh yeah. Oh, it’s from the nineties. Okay. Of course. It’s of, no, maybe it’ll be like Alanis Morrissette style instead.

And whatever they want is to let down. Someone that I can spray this milk on. So sorry. And what I really want is good posture. Okay. Okay. We will write it at lunch. Stimulate the right way. Okay. So this is usually when we have trouble with getting a letdown pumping, right. Is the stimulation is not what your body’s used to or responds to.

So we are fitting the flanges. Sometimes I get pushback on this when I tell people and they’re like, well, 24s fit fine. Well, great. Don’t come to me then about it. But if you want help resizing them, we can do that. And frankly, I am willing to accept more friction and rubbing and stimulation on a smaller size than having more of the areola sucked in for a larger size.

Also you can use lube. Yes. So if it’s a little bit painful because of the hard plastic flange, pain increases cortisol levels, mm-hmm, which also interferes with oxytocin. So if you’re pumping and it’s slightly uncomfortable because the flange is either too soft or too small or too large. That could be something that’s actually getting in the way also. Mm-hmm, yeah, because then also you start this mental cycle of like dreading pumping when it’s painful.

Right. And then that makes it even worse. You know, so we’re also going to try to hack this by starting with breast massage and nipple stimulation and even hand expression. Right. You could hand express for two minutes until you start to feel your let down and then pump. We wanna be using the right settings, not too high of a suction. Too low is usually not the problem.

Although everybody tells me, like, I have to use this really high setting. What if we waited another minute and used a lower one? Mm mm-hmm. How does that work for you? Because I see a lot of nipple injuries from using the highest setting. Or then we get used to the highest setting and don’t respond to lower ones anymore, or there’s just like inflammation.

And inflammation is a bad thing. Right? And if the issue is that it just takes a long time for your milk to let down for whatever reason and baby gets frustrated, just try stimulating your let down prior to latching. Yeah. So you can do some gentle nipple rolling. Nipple stretching is actually a great way to get things going.

So actually grabbing your nipple at the base where it meets the areola and stretching it out. Pinching in and stretching. You can also use the haakaa. So some people respond to the haakaa, or if you really want to have the whole thing be a pain in your ass, you could pump for a couple minutes before latching.

Yeah. That is so annoying to do, because what if you actually do accidentally let down in the pump and then you have to wash the whole thing and, ugh. I know, but if you are having trouble having those let downs in time before baby goes berserk and starts like biting and headbutting and all that you can try those.

Yes. Okay. So other thing that you can do, posture. Posture, pay attention to your posture. Yes. As we both simultaneously sit slightly straighter, yes. Yes. And everybody listening does too. It’s like when we take, we’re like everyone, take a nice deep breath. You better believe they’re all taking one, too. 

Ready everybody? Take a nice breath. Ha isn’t that? Nice, welcome parasympathetic nervous system. Back online. So what we’re gonna do before we pump or nurse is we’re gonna sit comfortably with our back straight, but not like stretched and hurting. We are going to roll our neck a little bit and take those shoulders and bring them up to your ears and let ’em drop.

And roll them around a little bit. Right? We’re gonna take some deep breaths, make sure our seat is like sustainable. Not something you’re gonna get sick of in two minutes and then you’re gonna latch and then you’re gonna pump. And if when you latch, you find that you are suddenly hunched over because that happens, what I like to do, cuz sometimes, you know, you’re like I can’t latch with a straight back baby’s here.

My boobs here, whatever. Latch and then imagine everything from your boobs up is like one unit that moves together and you just kind of roll everything up and back together, and then you can take baby and lean back or the pump and lean back. Right. And they will stay latched. There you go. Yeah. So posture’s really important for the flow.

Mm-hmm. Anyone that studies chakras or any of that kind of stuff will tell you that posture is very important for the general flow of your body, for your lymph system, which is connected right in with your breastfeeding system. So posture’s important. Yeah. And also like we know that nerve functioning is essential for this process. 

And those nerves basically go from our chest to our spinal cord and when that’s happening like in that space, if we have poor posture, we could be pinching nerves. We could not be having like ideal functioning there. We could be having pain, which inhibits your let down reflex. Right. So we wanna be very comfortable and we also don’t wanna contribute to like long term back and neck problems.

Mm-hmm. So remember when I told you how your brain was really special and it can, a special sack of blood. I think that’s fun, a special sponge of blood that you can train. So this next one is actually, this next one’s fun. It’s fun. So you can actually condition your body to have a letdown with other stimuli than baby suckling. Mm-hmm.

So let me give you an example of something else. So like paraplegics, for example, who are in relationships can actually with practice and time, have orgasms with touch that they can feel in other places. Mm-hmm so maybe they can’t feel anything from the waist down, but they can feel on their neck.

And they can feel with their lips and they can feel their arms. And so with enough practice with your partner, sometimes they’re able to actually achieve orgasm just from like kissing on the neck. So not that that’s exactly the goal here, but no, but it’s a similar process, right? It’s an oxytocin feedback loop, right?

Mm. And we are just, you know, dogs, salivating with a bell. Right. Thanks Pavlov. And how about like whenever I was in calculus, for example, yeah, in high school, the teacher was amazing and he used to let us listen to music. And he would tell us if you listen to the same music, when you study, I will let you listen to that music while you take your test.

And so that’s nice. That was super nice. And it was really cool for me to be able to see how my brain functioned in that way. And it worked because then when I got to a specific section of my test, I would be like, oh yeah. And I was listening to this when I was reading this and it would jog my memory and I would nail the test.

Totally. So it’s similar. So you can do the same thing. You can listen to the same album when you breastfeed over and over each time, the baby latches. Yep. And this is especially useful if say you are going to return to work in a few weeks, you can be like, cool. Here’s this music that I like, I’m gonna put this music on every time we nurse or most of the time.

And then you can listen to the same music when you’re pumping or, you know, you can try to recreate the sensations that you have when you’re holding your baby. Baby’s smell, baby’s sound, looking at baby with pictures or videos. Right. But it is really cool that we can train our bodies to do this. Mm-hmm, it’s amazing.

And actually the ole factory sensation, which is smelling, is the most effective. Because I don’t know why, but it is like, when you it’s, like, when you smell, when you’re walking in a crowd and you smell somebody’s cologne and it smells like your grandpa who passed away, but immediately you’re like, oh my gosh, it smells just like my grandpa.

Yeah. And you’re flooded with all these memories or alternately, if it smells like your ex and the rest of your day’s ruined. Exactly. It brings you right back there. Yeah. So smell is very triggering and you can actually take your baby’s onesie and you can smell it while you’re pumping and your brain is like, oh, baby is right here.

How great. Yeah. And I really encourage people to pay attention to the things that cause them to let down that are not necessarily baby suckling. Do you let down, when you hear them? You know, do you let down when they make a funny noise and like, if you’re going back to work, videotape that, right.

Have a recording of your baby crying on your phone if that’s what makes you let down. Because you know what, you’re having a stressful day at work, all your other stuff’s not working. That’s sadistic. But it works right. Whatever works for you. I, I actually think it’s great, but yeah, take that baby’s outfit to work.

You know, I was talking to somebody who said they were basically conditioned to let down now from the beeping in the NICU. Oh, whoa. I know. And they were having trouble then at home when baby came home because they were not in that environment. So like baby’s cries didn’t do it, but like the beep beep beep beep from the NICU did.

And I was like, oh my God, I guess you need to YouTube NICU sounds. That’s so stressful. Yeah, but that wasn’t stressful. Like that sound, which stresses me out was more relaxing for them cuz that’s when they got to spend time with their baby. Wow. Isn’t that wild. That is super wild. Yeah. And how about, I think you had mentioned this at one point in an episode where sometimes even taking your vibrator out of the drawer, to like even hold it, it like automatically calms your brain down and your brain is like, Ooh, I’m about to get a treat.

Totally and then you have a milk let down and you’re like, all right, you put the vibrator back away right back. It’s like just, or not. Sometimes our brains just like really need to know that something good is about to happen. Yeah. Yeah. Instead of something bad. And, you know, we’ve said this before and a lot of people always are like, I can’t do this, but just consider meditation and visualization, which takes practice.

It does. And so again, if you’re, you know, planning to return to work, maybe start practicing while you nurse. And especially like those more relaxing nursing times when things are quiet, maybe baby’s about to go down for a nap. You know, maybe you put on like the YouTube sound bath that gets you like really relaxed.

The like bowl singing thing or whatever it is that like calms your brain and you start to like go through the process of counting your breaths or whatever it is that you do, when you try to calm your mind. On that note, we got a message during lunch that I have not shared with you yet. Oh, tell me. So this is a message that we got on our Facebook page from Sarah F.

She says, hi, I’m listening to episode 68 right now, which is the meditation episode, getting to the part where it said, find someone’s voice you just enjoy and wanted to let you know that I listened to your podcast while pumping to help me relax and kind of distract myself. Oh, to help focus on something other than my milk output.

I am so happy to find this podcast. You have helped me realize I’m not alone for a lot of things and I’ve learned so much from it. I’ve been marathon listening and will be so sad when I reach the most recent. Thanks for making the podcast. Oh. So if it’s our voice giving you a letdown, right now that’s freaking hilarious and cool.

Thank you so much, Sarah. Awesome. I have actually thought if we should record like a combined visualization, like track together. Oh, I think we should do it. We’ll do it. Okay. Anyway so there are lots of 15 and 20 minute guided meditations on YouTube and podcast. Start listening when you pump or feed, right.

Use the prompts that they give you to relax and to let your oxytocin do its thing. Okay. On the flip side of the oxytocin, I don’t know whatever it is, consider comedy. Yes comedy cause laughter is so good for your soul. I think a lot of people during the pandemic realized that they couldn’t listen to true crime anymore.

Like they, or the news, like they just had to turn it all off and they had to only do comedy because it was just too much. And they had to train their brain in a different way. Like shout out to my friend, Abigail. She was like, oh no, I, I just can’t do that. She was like, I’m only reading female authors in 21 and I am only watching comedy or happy romantic things. 

Yeah. I basically have windowed down my elective reading to only fantasy. That is not anything like real life. Amazing. Yeah. So it’s okay to have a nice little escape. Laughter is good for the soul. It’s good for your let down and smiling is good, you know? Yeah.

Like, and a lot of us, when we’re like listening or watching comedy, we have a freaking dead pan. You know, and you’re like, wow, that’s so funny. That’s so funny, but like, let, like, make yourself smile and then let it happen naturally. Like let the laugh out, make it a fake laugh at first and then let it be real. Also, you know, if you’re listening to this and you’re like, I don’t remember the last time I laughed heartily.

There’s a problem in your life. Maybe take a perinatal mood disorder screening. Well, I will fully admit on my way here this morning to the studio I realized I haven’t laughed heartily in like a while. And I was like, Heather, you know what, maybe this is a little bit of burnout talking like, maybe we just need to start paying attention at this moment to maybe say no to everything for the next month, you know? 

Yeah. Like do the things that are already on your plate, but don’t take anymore. I was supposed to meet up with friends last night and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it cuz I just had too much going on. And every time I get together with those friends, I laugh, you know?

And I’m just like, man, I probably could have used that. It’s really good for you. Yeah. So assess your life. You know, maybe you can’t change anything right now, but just maybe start saying no to some stuff and yes, to other things. Well the last thing I wanted to mention, which I don’t think I’ve actually mentioned on the podcast before is singing.

Mm. So singing particularly what we call social singing or group singing produces a lot of oxytocin. And I was reading some interesting studies while I was looking at this and I was like, does it really? How much? And you can trick your body into thinking you’re socially singing by singing along to music.

Especially if it’s a recorded group of singers. If you have like surround sound in your car or like, if you record yourself and then sing along with it, Aw. Wear headphones makes you feel like surrounded by other singers and singing as loud as you want. Sing like you’re in the shower, you know, I hope you sing in the shower.

If you don’t, you should start. Cuz it’s fun. You know, it’s great, it’s like your one woman concert and don’t take yourself too seriously. Yeah. Yeah. And this is not the kind of singing where you’re like, oh, I’m not good at singing. This is the kind of singing where you’re just having fun. And the music is like so loud you can’t really hear yourself anyway. 

You know, like that kind of singing where it’s fun and it’s funny and it just makes you feel good. And when you sing, you breathe really well usually. And that is an important part of this too. Right. You’re taking those big, deep breaths and you’re really expanding your diaphragm, you know, and babies love singing.

Right. So if you’re nursing and you’re doing this great, I get, you might not be able to do this in the hospital lactation room or whatever, but like, if you’re nursing or pumping in the car on the way to work, sing your heart out y’all. Sing your little heart out. Mm-hmm. Peter Paul and Mary. I listen to Amy Winehouse usually. Oh, Amy, when I’m in the car driving, that’s weird.

I was actually just listening to her the other day. She’s just really, like, I like really belting it out to that. You know what I’ve really been into, which is so obscure. Mm-hmm. Verte. Hmm. The song by now. Okay. Have you heard it? No. Maybe I’ll play a little bit at the end here, cuz it’s so beautiful. 

So the way that this whole episode culminates, right. You know, we, we named it something like hacking your let down. It’s to encourage you to take an active part in this subconscious reactive thing that your body is doing. And to know that you can have influence over it, and frankly it is all in your head. So, you know, you’re in your head too. You can try to make it happen.

You can try to condition your body to do things. It’s not something that you have zero control over. So we really, you know, we want you guys to let us know if these work for you, like, you know, send us an email if you’re like, you know what? I started singing when I pump and my output is fabulous or you’re like, oh, funny enough.

Like I started listening to Sheryl Crow when I was nursing and now I listen to it at work and my pumps are great. I also love Sheryl Crow. Yeah. So, so let us know if any of this works for you. We really love to know how like theoretical you know, study based research stuff, actually pans out for you guys in real life, because we know real life is not necessarily what, what we always get to talk about on the podcast. 

So yes. Give us your feedback, tell us what you’re doing and also keep sending us your wins so we can give you an award. Yes. Join our Patreon. We prioritize our patron wins first.

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Okay. So our award in the alcove today goes to Dani G who’s part of the breastfeeding group. And Dani says, well, I think it’s official. One week ago today, my 20 month old nursed for the last time. In true mommy style, it happened while I was on the toilet. Yes, it did. We had an amazing journey and I couldn’t have done it without this group.

That’s great, Dani. Of course, you know, and at least you remember when it was. Cause I don’t really remember the last time I nursed, you know, mm-hmm and I wish that I did remember, I don’t care where it was. I wish that I just had been a little bit more present during that time. So that’s so sweet. That’s oh, I like that.

Hmm. Okay. Let’s give you. Yeah, Dani, we’re gonna give you the Flushing Finale Award because obviously that’s, that’s what you need to have. Yes. Congratulations on your whole amazing 20 months you said nursing your kid. Mm-hmm. Awesome. Amazing. And I’m sure you will fondly look back at all the times you nursed your baby on the toilet over the next few years. 

That’s amazing. All right. Well, everybody, thank you so much for listening to another episode of the Milk Minute. The way we change this big system that is not set up for lactating families is by educating ourselves, our partners, our children, sometimes our providers and ourselves.

If you guys appreciated this episode or any other you’ve ever listened to we could really use your help. We need more people to join our Patreon, to support us financially so that we can make this a sustainable thing for Heather and I. So just for as little as $1 a month, you can support us.

That’s like 12 bucks a year, so cool. It’s actually, if you pay annually, it’s only $10 and 20 cents. So you could give us $10 and we would be your best friends forever at patreon.com/MilkMinutePodcast. And if you can’t do that, we totally understand. But if you could share this with a friend, maybe a friend who’s even having a problem with their milk let down, it’s a win-win for everybody and we greatly appreciate your support.

Okay. Friends, you’re doing great. We love you very much, and we think you can absolutely do it and meet whatever goals you have. We know you can. Great job hacking your let down and go train that brain of yours, that little blood sponge. You got this. Bye bye.

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