Why Does Milk Let-Down When Baby Cries?

Engorgement Oct 12, 2021

It felt pretty unbelievable the first few times I felt tingling in my breasts and a release of milk when my baby cried. I noticed this would happen when I reminisced about my baby or even when I heard a stranger's baby cry. Incredibly, a person's body can react instinctively. Our bodies are so perfectly made to supply the needs of our babies.

I recall that one embarrassing moment when forgetting to wear breast pads and leaking in public. Some mothers have leaked right through their breast pads. My left breast leaked a lot more than the right one; apparently, mothers often leak more from one breast than the other! Some mothers don't leak at all, and this is normal too.

I Noticed That Leaking Happened More Frequently When:

  • I was engorged; this is usually the case during the first few weeks after birth, as your body is trying to regulate the amount of milk it needs to produce.
  • When I had a let-down, which happened several times during feedings and in between, as mentioned above (when I heard my baby cry)
  • A let-down can also occur during love-making, which causes you to release the same hormone, Oxytocin, the love hormone.
  • I noticed that my milk would flow much more after a warm shower or bath or when the weather was hot.
Photo by Luiza Braun / Unsplash

What Causes This Phenomenon?

It's all due to the hormones our bodies produce postpartum. Please read more about breastfeeding hormones and how they work.

What I Have Learned That Might Help You

  • If you keep your breasts on the emptier side to prevent engorgement, you will minimize leakage. Breastfeed your baby as often as you can. Try not to go for too many hours without draining your breasts.
  • If you want to prevent a let-down, cross your arms over your chest and apply gentle pressure, this can help stop the milk flow.
  • When you go out, pack an extra top and breast pads. Don't forget to wear a pair of breast pads.
  • While breastfeeding, the free breast would usually quirt profusely during a let-down. You can collect this milk with a nursing shell; this way, you can freeze it and provide it to your baby later or at least prevent the milk from spraying all over the place.

I stopped leaking after two months of breastfeeding, but some moms may continue to struggle with this for up to 6 months postpartum.

After weaning, some mothers find that they still have breast milk leakage for a few months and even years, but this is a rare occurrence.


The letdown reflex is a physiological response that occurs when a breastfeeding mother hears or sees her baby or when she thinks about her baby. The reflex causes the muscles in the breast to contract and the milk ducts to open, releasing milk from the breast. The letdown reflex is triggered by the hormone oxytocin, which is released by the mother's brain in response to the baby's cries.

A woman's body produces high levels of the hormone prolactin during pregnancy and after childbirth, which stimulates milk production. After childbirth, levels of prolactin remain high until breastfeeding is well established. Prolactin and oxytocin work together to stimulate milk production and release, and the combination of these two hormones causes the letdown reflex.

The letdown reflex is an important part of the breastfeeding process, as it helps to ensure that the baby is getting enough milk. When the letdown reflex occurs, the milk flow increases, which makes it easier for the baby to nurse. Some breastfeeding mothers may feel a tingling sensation in their breasts when the letdown reflex occurs, while others may not notice any physical sensations at all.

It is normal for the letdown reflex to be more pronounced in the first few weeks after childbirth as the mother's body adjusts to breastfeeding. Over time, the letdown reflex may become less noticeable as breastfeeding becomes more established. If a mother is having difficulty with the letdown reflex or has any other concerns about breastfeeding, a lactation consultant or healthcare provider can provide guidance and support.


Tracy Behr

Mom of two, breastfeeding helper, qualified nutritionist and lover of all things natural! Studying a breastfeeding counselor course via Childbirth int.

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.