There’s no denying that electric breast pumps are invaluable. They enable moms to work full time and continue breastfeeding, and make it possible for parents to go on the occasional date night. But they’ve also done a decent job of overshadowing a valuable mom skill; expressing breast milk by hand.
By using hand massage and compressions you can:
- Increase your supply. Some women report up to a 40% increase when they combine hand massage with pumping! Doing breast compressions while you pump can help stimulate additional let-downs, and will help to thoroughly drain all of the milk ducts. While you are pumping, make your C (explained below!) and use one hand to massage your all the way from your armpit to as close to your nipple as the flange allows. Finish with a few squeezes of the breast. You will be surprised to see after you stop pumping the milk will still come.
- Encourage the flow of milk to your baby during a feed. If your baby slows down or gets sleepy during a feed, help them along but doing some compressions. It will help move the milk quickly and give them a burst of milk in their mouth, which usually helps them to engage. Make the C with your fingers and use one hand to compress and massage your breast all the way from your armpit or nipple.
- Increase the fat content in your milk.
- Help to drain/soften your breasts decreasing clogged milk ducts and engorgement.
Before you begin, as odd as this may sound, you have to really get up close and personal with your breasts. You can do this sitting up, standing or more comfortably in a hot shower. You are on the hunt for any strange feeling lumps and bumps…most likely small, about the size of a pea. Don’t just feel around the top and don’t be gentle, you won’t break I promise. Lift your breasts and check the sides and underside, where clogs can hide.
Now that you have made friends with yourself, let’s get you on your way to massaging and compressing like a pro. You have to practice this before you use it. Breasts are very sensitive to moist heat or hot water in general, so to begin and help stimulate your milk, apply a warm compress or hit the shower. The basic technique called the Marmet Method. Hold your breast with your thumb and index finger about an inch to inch and a half behind your areola (imagine your breast as a clock, your fingers would be on twelve and six–or your fingers should form the letter C). Gently press back towards your chest wall, roll your thumb and fingers gently together and toward the space behind your nipple. It takes a little practice but as you get more comfortable it will become second nature, I promise. Adjust your hands and move positions until you see the milk spray or leak. (Useful visuals as a guideline over on Medela’s website.)
Make this part of your routine and take the time to learn, believe me you will be very happy you did! It’s not really that hard, once you get the hang of it, but feel free to contact me if you have any questions at all.
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