Breast Compressions

By Krista Gray, IBCLC. Last updated September 7, 2013.

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Breast compressions, or breast massage, can be a very effective way to increase your milk supply, decrease the amount of time you need to pump, or help a baby with slow weight gain to receive more milk.

It can be done while you are breastfeeding, hand expressing, or pumping.  Research shows that using breast compressions will increase your milk output by as much as 93%. 1 If you are breastfeeding while doing breast compressions, think of it as pumping more milk directly into your baby.

Breast compressions are very easy to do.  Whether nursing or pumping, the idea is to massage different areas of your breast from the chest wall down toward the areola.  As you are nursing, start on one outer area of your breast and slowly and gently move your fingers toward the areola.  Continue massaging this area until it softens and you no longer hear active sucking and swallowing by your baby.

Once this area softens, continue moving from the chest wall down toward the areola all the way around your breast. Continue breast compressions while you nurse (or pump) until your breasts feel very soft and your baby is no longer actively sucking and swallowing.

Breast massage is very easy to do, as long as you have a free hand.  Sometimes this is challenging if you are having trouble supporting your baby or holding the pump flanges while pumping.

However, by using the support of more pillows it should be possible to free up one hand to use it for breast compressions.  If you are pumping, you may be able to sit up high enough that the bottles you are pumping into can sit on the counter allowing your hands to be free to perform compressions.  Whatever creative idea you work out, breast compressions are well worth the effort!

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  1. Morton J, Hall JY, Wong RJ, et al. (2009) Combining hand techniques with electric pumping increases milk production in mothers of preterm infants. Journal of Perinatology. 29(11):757-64.
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