What every new mom needs to know about baby's first feeding, latching on, and letting down.
Breastfeeding and Your Body: What to Expect
Beginning right from your baby's very first feeding
and each time you breastfeed, your body will have a natural reaction called the
"let down" reflex -- the process that starts your milk
For the first few feedings, "let down" can
actually take a few minutes. But after a day or two, the process should go much
faster. Sometimes only seconds are needed before your baby can begin to
During your first week of breastfeeding, the "let
down" reflex might also cause you to feel some cramping or contractions in
your uterus, similar to light menstrual pains. Sterna says this is because
nursing involves the natural release of oxytocin, a hormone that stimulates the
contraction of cells inside the breast that in turn help push your milk from
the ducts into your nipples. But oxytocin has another effect: it can cause
uterine contractions, which may initially cause some cramping.
The comforting news here: "Not only is the
cramping normal, it's a sign that your uterus is beginning to shrink down to
its prepregnancy shape and size, which means you're on your way to a flatter
tummy," says Sterna.
All breastfeeding-related cramping should diminish in
about a week or 10 days. If it doesn't, talk to your doctor.
To help make "let down" faster, particularly
during your first week of breastfeeding, experts from La Leche League
International offer these tips:
- Choose a comfortable chair with good back and arm
support for each nursing session. Many women report a rocking chair works
- Make certain that your baby is well positioned on
your breast for optimum milk flow.
- If you are feeling tense or nervous, put on some
relaxing background music while you nurse, or sip a nutritious drink, such as a
fruit smoothie or yogurt shake while baby eats.
- Make certain not to smoke, drink alcohol, or use
recreational drugs while nursing. All can interfere with milk production and
make "let down" more difficult.
- Invest in a nursing bra and, if possible, some
nursing tops with flaps that snap open and make positioning your baby
- Think about nursing. Sometimes just the thought of
feeding and nurturing your baby will help stimulate milk to flow.