What does it feel like to lactate? Whether you’re simply curious, about to give birth soon, or having second thoughts about bottle feeding, let’s read through this article and discover what mothers have been saying about their own experiences.
Not all mothers experience the same sensations when lactating. You can experience warmth, a tingly or tickly sensation, or even pain while lactating. There are others who don’t feel any sensation while lactating.
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Lactation and the let-down reflex
Our bodies produce hormones that help in the production of breastmilk. The hormone prolactin is directly in charge of milk production. On the other hand, the hormone oxytocin helps trigger the release of breastmilk.
Oxytocin plays an important part in lactation — the milk-ejection or let-down reflex. When your breasts are stimulated by your baby, such as when their mouths touch and start to suck on your nipple, your body secretes oxytocin. This hormone causes small muscles in the milk ducts to contract, allowing milk to be released at the nipple area.
The more your infant suckles at your breast, the more oxytocin is released. In the long run, a constant release of oxytocin signals your body to make more breastmilk. This is what sustains the breastmilk supply of most mothers.
Just to clarify
Breastfeeding is not the same as lactating. Lactation is simply the production of breast milk, while breastfeeding is the act of feeding milk to a baby through the breast.
You could feel something, or nothing at all
The lactation experience is unique for each mother. As infant suckling starts and breastmilk forms, most mothers feel various sensations in their breasts, while others do not feel any unusual sensations. It doesn’t matter if you feel certain sensations or not while lactation or breastfeeding — this doesn’t affect the amount or quality of your milk.
A lot of mothers associate different sensations with lactating. What is mentioned below may come from various forums and websites to give you a well-rounded set of experiences.
It’s warm and tingly
Some mothers feel a warm and tingly sensation going through their breasts. One mom likened this feeling to the tingling sensation when a foot falls asleep. After the release of milk (either through expression or breastfeeding), their breasts feel less full for a few minutes or so but quickly fill up again.
It’s itchy or burning
Other mothers are more bothered by lactation because it feels like an itching or burning sensation to them.
It’s ticklish, like a sneeze
Some moms report that funnily enough, lactating is a weird sensation and the best words they could put to it are a tickling, sneezing feeling whenever their breasts are stimulated to release milk.
It’s a pinch or a sting
Lactation sometimes makes moms feel like their breasts are tightened muscles that sting when they’re engorged, right before breastfeeding starts.
Lactation is sustained by the hormones prolactin and oxytocin. The milk-ejection or let-down reflex triggers lactation and the sensations that go with it. Each mom will have her own unique experience with lactation. It may be painful, painless, ticklish, or downright strange, but whether you feel something or not, this doesn’t affect the quality and quantity of your milk.
Sarah is a healthcare writer, motivated by her love of reading books while growing up. She took up human biology and further studies in medicine, in order to fulfill her passion for helping kids. While she isn’t a biological mother yet, she has taken a young Siberian husky named Indy under her wing. She would love to someday travel the world and meet kids from different cultural backgrounds.