I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of breast compressions, but if your breastfeeding it’s time you learn.
Surprisingly a lot of new moms (or even experienced breastfeeding Mamas) don’t know about this technique.
Breast compression is a great skill to add to your breastfeeding toolkit.
Seriously it can help with so many breastfeeding issues.
I’ve created this guide for you to learn all you need to know about breast compressions and why it can save you a lot of tears on your nursing journey.
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Breast Compressions When Breastfeeding
What are breast compressions?
It’s pretty basic really and is as it sounds.
Compressing the breast, squeezing the boob, eating the boob sandwich.
Ok I made that last one up, but you get the picture, right?
Breast compression can be done any time after your milk ‘comes in’ which is around 3-5 days postpartum.
It’s just the name giving to a technique of squeezing the breast as your baby is breastfeeding.
You may be confused why you would need to do that, so let’s find out.
Why should learn breast compression when breastfeeding?
Jack Newman is a world-renowned lactation consultant who swears by breast compressions for:
Gentle breast compressions and massage while breastfeeding can help to prevent engorgement by emptying your breasts effectively.
Relieve clogged ducts/mastitis
When to have blocked ducts or mastitis compressions can help to keep the milk flowing and slowly ‘relieve’ the affected ducts as your baby feeds.
Breast compression help milk to flow quicker; therefore, your baby takes in more milk during a feed. The longer your baby feeds effectively at the breast then they will get fattier calorie-rich hindmilk. This type of breastmilk help baby feel fuller for longer and help with weight gain.
Baby get more milk
If you struggle with long feeds or are just unsure how much your baby is getting, breast compressions will help. As technique helps improve milk flow and your baby will get more in a 20-minute feed that they would without using breast compressions.
Increase milk supply
When your baby drinks more milk during a feed, this signals to your body to make more milk. IF you are struggling with a dwindling supply, breast compressions can help you tell your body that your baby needs more milk.
Pump more milk
Expressing breast milk can be so time-consuming and soul-destroying when you’re a busy new mom. Doing breast compressions can help to mimic your baby on the breast and remove more milk during a session. It’s a technique that works really well if you only get small volumes with a breast pump.
Speed up feeds
As a new mom, you’ll have a busy life with lots to pack into each day. It’s all good when you have time to relax and feed but some days you just don’t. Breast compressions can help you to fit a good breastfeed into a shorter time. It’s a great skill when your baby is cluster feeding and just wants to be on you all-the-time!
Poor weight gain
If your baby is struggling to gain weight, there may be lots of causes for this. Usually, poor weight gain is caused by a poor latch, and this needs to be assessed first.
Breast compressions will help if your baby has a slow suck reflex or are sleepy and have little energy to feed.
Increasing the milk flow will help your baby to take in more calories without having to put in as much effort as they would on their own. This can save you from having to supplement baby with formula feeds.
Colic in the breastfed baby
When your baby is actively feeding, they are unlikely to fuss at the breast. Breast compressions really help your baby to focus on the ‘task at hand’ and not to get distracted during a feed. This can help to ease colic symptoms as it ensures baby likely to maintain a good latch. The reduction in fussing or crying can help to reduce air intake and discomfort from trapped wind during a feed.
When you’ve got sore nipples, the thought of breastfeeding is terrifying. Sore nipples are usually always caused by poor attachment, so you need to sort that first.
You’ll need to feed as they heal, so and breast compressions will help.
As the milk flows quicker, you can have a good feed in a shorter time. This means less friction on your nipple and more time for your nipples to heal without baby feeding.
When your baby doesn’t feed at the breast they aren’t being lazy, they simply lack the energy required to breastfeed. Breast compressions are an excellent way for you to help baby to get the milk they need (for energy) without having to work hard for it.
You’ll notice with each feed your baby will start to feed more effectively once they have the energy to do the work themselves.
How to do breast compressions while breastfeeding
1. Position and attach baby
Make sure you use a position that is comfortable for you and baby. Help baby to attach to your breast with a good deep latch.
2. Watch baby
Your baby should begin with short quick suck. They will then slow down to long slow sucks. You want to watch out for when your baby stops sucking. Their jaw will stop moving, and you won’t hear them swallow.
3. Hold your breast
Use one hand whichever is most comfortable for you. Cup around your breast in a C shape with fingers on one side and thumb on the other it doesn’t matter which way up. Finger can be positioned above and below or side to side, opt for the position that is most comfortable for you. Just be aware you may need to reposition to get a better flow.
4. Position your hand
I often find that breasts have a ‘sweet spot’ that differs with each mom. A good starting point is usually the middle of your breast tissue, but it will depend on your breast size. You’ll have to experiment with different positions to find your own. You want to keep your hand far enough away from your areola, so you don’t disturb the latch.
5. Press in
Apply gentle inward pressure on your breast form both your fingers and thumb. Again the amount of pressure will vary for each mom. The pressure should never be so hard it hurts. Remember your breasts will probably be sensitive the fuller they are.
6. Wait for the pause
You should notice baby start to suck again as you press on your breast. Don’t worry, it can take a few seconds. When you see them suck and swallow keep pushing in until they pause. When you get the pause, let go of the pressure.
Your baby will begin suckling again after the pause, this is when you start the next compression. Continue this pattern until your baby stops actively sucking.
8. Offer more
Once your baby stops sucking on one breast, you can offer them the other breast. Repeat all of the steps above until baby stop sucking on that side.
Breast compression video
Help my baby isn’t sucking
If your baby doesn’t start to suck more than 10 seconds after the first compression, let go of the breast and try again.
If baby still doesn’t suck after the second breast compression, experiment with different hand positions on the breast or swap hands.
Remember you’ll eventually find your sweet spot, so keep it in mind for the next feed.
How to do breast compressions while pumping
When you are expressing milk, you obviously don’t have a baby to show you when to stop and start.
The best way to use breast compressions when pumping milk is to us a repetitive cycle which is similar to your baby feeding.
Some moms find it easier to hold for a set time, let go and repeat.
For example, compress the breast for 15 seconds, let go for 5 and repeat until the breast empties.
Some moms find it easier to work with the breast pump cycles.
For example, compress for 3 pumps and let go for 1 and repeat.
You don’t need to use breast compressions through the whole pumping session, but you may find the longer you use the compression, the quicker the session or, the more milk you get at the end.
Remember, compressing the breast should be firm but not sore.
When you press too hard while compressing, you are likely to block the milk-making hormones (oxytocin) which slow an excellent flow.
When to do breast compressions
You feel baby is not getting enough milk
Breast compressions will help your baby get more milk without having to work so hard during a feed.
Baby is losing weight
Your baby will get more calorific hindmilk which will help them to gain weight and more energy to feed effectively.
Baby is dehydrated
Your baby will get more milk which will rehydrate them and increase their energy to feed more.
Baby has green poop
This may mean your baby is getting too much foremilk and needs more hindmilk.
Baby has diaper rash
Again a foremilk imbalance can cause your baby to get too much milk with lactose sugars. Too much foremilk can cause a diaper rash as these stools are more acidic and irritate your baby’s skin.
You don’t get much when pumping
Using breast compressions helps your milk to flow better and yield more during a pumping session.
Baby always sleeps at breast
Your sleep baby needs more energy to feed, and breast compression means you can give them a helping hand to get those much-needed calories without using up all their energy to get them.
Baby has attachment issues
Breast compressions can assist you in getting a good latch for baby. You can read more about great breast hold for attachment here, and do compressions at the same time.
If you don’t have time for baby to have their usual 40minute feed, you can speed it up a little with compressions without compromising their intake. This is great for night feeds so you and baby can feed quickly and get back to much-needed sleeping.
Breastfeeding is painful
When your breasts are sore, you want to minimise the time your baby is at the breast to help them heal. Breast compressions are a great way to do this without affecting your supply, or the amount baby gets during a feed.
If you are trying to relactate breast compressions are fantastic for signalling to your body to make more milk and increasing your supply quickly.
Benefits of breast compressions
Relieve painful issues
Breast compressions mean more calorie-rich milk for baby with less time at the breast. That sounds like heaven if your nipples are so sore from breastfeeding.
However, please see a feeding specialist to have your positioning and attachment assessed as well as potentially baby evaluated for tongue tie issues.
Improves milk supply
The more milk you drain from your breasts, the more milk your body will make. Its simple supply and demand as your body thinks your baby needs more milk to survive.
Breast compressions help your milk to flow quicker and keep your baby focusing on feeding rather than casually grazing at the breast.
Prevents Formula supplementation
Whenever weight is slowed or static with your breastfeeding baby, a lot of professionals want to jump in with the formula. Using breast compressions can help you to either feed effectively at the breast or pump more milk in-between feeds to use that as a backup rather than reaching straight for the formula.
Build a bigger milk stash
If you plan to go back to work soon, then you are probably thinking about building up a milk stash for your baby.
Knowing how to use effective compression when pumping gets you on the right path to getting as much milk as possible for when you return to work. It’s incredible what load that will take off your mind.
Giving expressed breastmilk through the day can also help you to continue breastfeeding when you’re at home, long after your return to work.
Improves baby’s health
Breastfeeding has so many amazing benefits for your baby’s health. FI using skills such as breast compressions can help you to achieve that for longer, then your baby’s health will benefit from that now and later in life.
Quick, effective night feeds are where it’s at when you are so sleep deprived you have no idea what day it is. Using breast compressions during the night is fantastic for achieving that while keeping your milk supply high.
Survive growth spurts
Growth spurts make you feel like you can get nothing accomplished as your baby needs to feed all the time. Breast compressions can speed up those much-needed feeds and help you to feel a little more accomplished and less of a feeding machine.
Survive the heat
Breast compressions are excellent during hot weather to help your baby to keep hydrated. Plus, as they speed up feeding time, you get the benefits of nursing your baby without the prolonged sharing of body heat which can be tip you over the edge when you’re already so hot.
Help you breastfeed longer
Using breast compressions can help with a lot of breastfeeding issues as we’ve discussed. One of the main benefits is it can really help prevent formula supplementation is often a nail in the coffin for many breastfeeding journeys.
Pumping at work
Using breast compression when your pumping will get you more milk and quicker. This is ideal if you have a time limit on a pumping break and the pressure is on to get as much milk as possible in that time.
To sum up, learning how to do breast compressions is a great technique for all breastfeeding moms. Whether it’s to fix a breastfeeding issue or to help baby along when you’re having a busy day, it’s a fantastic skill to have in your nursing toolkit.
If you found this guide helpful please share it with other breastfeeding moms to help them on their journey.