Compression and Massage: Helping Your Milk To Flow
The milk ejection reflex (MER) makes our milk flow. In most cases, this is all we need but there are some situations in which our milk flow could use some external help.
The most important thing is to get your baby latched on properly to the breast. With a good latch and proper sucking, your baby will get your milk flowing and keep it flowing. If your baby's having a difficult time getting milk out of your breasts, the supply will decrease and the flow will slow down making it even harder for your baby. In this case, you need to help your baby get the milk out.
First of all, get help with the latch and work on any sucking issues with a breastfeeding professional. Once baby is on, let her nurse on her own as long as she is sucking rhythmically and swallowing every one to two sucks. Once her sucking changes from a deep rhythmic suck to a shallow choppy one or you notice that she is not swallowing often, compressing your breast will encourage her to continue eating. To do this, place your hand on or around your breast up high near your chest away from your areola and press firmly, though not hard enough to hurt yourself. You are literally pushing more milk out of the alveoli, where it is made, and down to the nipple. You should notice your baby's suck become deeper and she should begin swallowing more often. When she takes a break, give your hand a break and then try again. This is helpful for babies born prematurely or who are weak or sleepy for any reason. Breast compression can also be used during milk expression to keep the milk flowing quicker as long as you do not break the suction between the breast and the flange. Remember, the more milk out, the more milk produced.
Some women find that it is difficult for them to have an MER while pumping their breasts. Breast massage is terrific for getting your milk to flow and studies have proven that women who massage their breasts before pumping remove significantly more milk. The purpose of the massage is to get the milk flowing down from the alveoli to the nipple where the pump can than easily pull it out. Though our bodies usually respond to our babies by having an MER, if for some reason your MER is delayed, massage before nursing will help.
Start by rubbing your breasts in a circular motion with your fingertips. Move your hand around in order to make small circles all over your breast. After a few minutes, begin massaging with the palm of your hand from the top of your breast down to your nipple. It also helps to bend over forward and shimmy - shake your shoulders rapidly back and forth. This movement uses gravity to bring milk down to your areolas where baby or pump can easily pull it out.