If you have the let down reflex (usually a tingling sensation from under the armpits towards the nipples) your second breast will probably have started to leak. Have a nappy ready to mop up any overflow. (This drip milk has been successfully collected for milk banks.)

The let down reflex occurs when the hormone oxytocin is released into the bloodstream after one or two minutes of sucking. This stimulates the cells which store the hindmilk to release it into the ducts and sinuses around the nipple. Extrasensory stimulation such as the baby crying can stimulate the let down reflex as well. Hindmilk is rich in fat and protein which gives it its creamy appearance. The first milk the baby gets, before the let down reflex, is called foremilk and it constitutes about a third of the total milk supply. It is watery and bluish in colour and contains little fat and protein.

Often, in the first few weeks of breast feeding, the let down reflex may not be working efficiently and the baby gets only the foremilk. As a result she does not gain much mass and you may think you do not have enough milk. However, once the reflex is working efficiently and all the milk becomes available to the baby she gains mass. This is probably the origin of the idea that mothers milk can be too weak. However it is not the fault of the milk but due to the let down reflex.

Remember, too, that breast milk is almost totally absorbed, therefore more kilojoules become available compared to a similar amount of formula.

Allow your baby to suck on the second breast for as long as you and she likes. You may find that after five or 10 minutes her deep sucking and swallowing movements have become small and quick as though she were sucking on a dummy. She has probably emptied the breast and is having a blissful time sucking for satisfaction.


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