Definition of Letdown Reflex

The release of milk from the lactiferous glands and ducts to the nipple of the breast to initiate breastfeeding (nursing).

The first sucking motions the infant makes when attaching to the nipple are rapid and pulling. These motions stimulate the release of oxytocin from the pituitary gland, which causes the tissues around the ducts to contract to push the milk to the nipple.

The mother feels this release and the initial flow of milk as a tingling sensation. The more full of milk the breasts are the more intense the sensation. Letdown occurs multiple times during a breastfeeding session.

Other events may also stimulate the letdown reflex, such as the sound of the infant’s cry. Letdown affects both breasts, often causing milk to leak from the un-nursed breast.

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