What is Breast Compression? (Hint; It’s Not Painful!)

One of the most beautiful effects of motherhood is that you begin to have a better appreciation for your body and all that it is capable of. This can be particularly true if you choose to breastfeed your child. This choice, of course, also brings with it some new challenges – and forces you to adopt new habits, too. Breast compression is one of these.

Below we’ll discuss everything you need to know about this common and useful practice.

What is Breast Compression and Should You Do It?

The term ‘breast compression’ sounds a bit painful – like a medical procedure you’d gladly avoid. But, it’s actually not a painful process at all.

Breast compression is simply the practice of gently squeezing your breast during a nursing session in order to massage the milk glands. This has the effect of releasing more breast milk for your baby and increasing milk flow. Essentially, it’s a practice that stimulates the milk ejection reflex, more commonly called let-down.

If you’re hoping to keep baby at the breast for longer periods of time, breast compression will ensure the milk glands are totally emptied. This means your child gets the maximum amount of milk you have available. It’s a practice that many moms can and do benefit from, so don’t shy away from giving it a try.

If this doesn’t sound like the method for you, check out a couple of other ways to increase milk supply here. 

When to Use Breast Compression – and How to Do It Properly

You may want to try breast compression if you feel like your baby isn’t fully emptying your breasts on his own, or if you’re concerned that you aren’t producing enough milk. If you’re struggling with either of these challenges, here’s how to begin using breast compression:

Step 1: While breastfeeding, wait for the moment when your baby stops sucking. You’ll notice jaw movements have slowed down and you won’t be able to hear any swallowing.

Step 2: While you’re still holding your baby to the breast with one hand, use the other hand to cup the same breast. Then, place your thumb on top of the breast. Next, begin squeezing your breast gently between your thumb and fingers.

Make sure your hand is placed far enough away from your baby’s mouth. This way you don’t interrupt her latch, but you’re still able to massage the milk glands.

Step 3: When the milk begins to flow, keep the pressure on your breast as your baby continues nursing. When you notice a pause in swallowing, you can release the pressure and relax your hand, too. You can continue adding and releasing pressure as long as you feel milk flowing and your baby is interested in continuing to nurse.

Tips to Remember if You’re Struggling with Breast Compression

Like most things in motherhood, you may not master breast compression the first time you try – and that’s alright! If you don’t feel like you’ve quite figured it out, try these tips for more success:

  • Make sure you’re in a comfortable nursing position and that baby has a deep latch. A Boppy Nursing Pillow can be really helpful in achieving this. 
  • If your breasts are on the smaller side you might feel like there’s not enough room for your hand and your baby’s mouth to coexist. Try a different hand position and back your hand up a bit. Then, instead of squeezing the top and bottom of the breast together, place your fingers on top of your breast and press it back against the chest wall.
  • Try to keep your fingers in place, rather than letting them slide back and forth along the breast.
  • If you experience pain or discomfort, you’re pressing too hard. In this case, you should stop immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural practice that many moms enjoy. That is not to say it isn’t also one of the most stressful and frustrating parts of motherhood.

If you’re already worrying about your milk supply and whether your baby is getting enough nourishment and gaining weight, sometimes the thought of trying something new can seem overwhelming. This is especially true if you have questions about it. Below you’ll find answers to the two most common questions about breast compression:

  1. Will breast compression increase milk supply?

The short answer here is yes, breast compression will typically increase milk supply when done consistently over time. Your breasts operate in supply and demand. As demand increases, the breasts empty more often and more thoroughly, your body gets a signal to begin producing more milk. Since breast compression is often better at emptying a breast than a newborn who is still mastering nursing – or even an older baby with a latch that’s a bit too shallow – consistent breast compression will usually lead to an increase in milk supply.

  1. Will breast compression cause a clogged milk duct?

No! In fact, breast compression is often recommended by doctors and lactation consultants as a way to treat a painful, clogged duct. This works because emptying the breast more often helps to stimulate milk flow and release a troublesome blocked duct. In this case, you won’t use breast compression during a nursing session. Instead, use it before or after so that you can work to move the milk toward your nipple without concerns for your baby’s latch.

Final Thoughts

Nursing your baby is a very personal experience, and it’s different for all women. If you think breast compression may help you accomplish your breastfeeding goals, give it a try. Your doctor or a lactation consultant can provide guidance to help you get it right if you’re feeling unsure.

If it ends up being difficult for you, or you don’t feel comfortable continuing, be gentle with yourself. All women are different. What works for one mom won’t always work for another. Just because breast compression is common doesn’t mean it will produce the results you’re looking for.

No matter what your breastfeeding experience looks like, remember that it is unique to you and your baby. You are building a special bond. However, it is also quite challenging on a number of levels. If you’re struggling with milk supply or your baby isn’t fully emptying your breasts, use the above guide to give breast compression a try.

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