Do you want to increase the amount of breastmilk you get while pumping? Continue reading to learn all about breast massage while pumping, an easy technique that can make all the difference.
Why you should use breast massage while pumping
Using breast massage while pumping will increase your breastmilk output. A study on exclusively expressing mothers of preterm infants found that breast massage while pumping increased daily milk volume. Additionally, the mothers in the study who practiced this technique not only got more milk, but also had to pump less frequently than those who did not. Amazing! But, we’re not surprised. When babies breastfeed, they tend to twiddle and grab at the breasts. This is actually a natural and normal process (does your baby hit you while breastfeeding?) meant to help stimulate milkflow. Using breast massage while pumping serves the same purpose. If you’re exclusively expressing, it’s especially important. Breast massage while breastfeeding can help with younger babies, too. Here are some tips and techniques to get you started with breast massage while pumping or breastfeeding.
How to do breast massage while pumping
When you’re massaging your breasts while pumping keep in mind that you should be working your way down from the milk ducts toward the nipple. It doesn’t do much good to start massaging near the bottom, as most of the milk will be above that area. You’ll need to start at the base of the breast and work your way down toward the nipple.
To do breast massage while pumping, make a point with your index and middle fingers. Beginning at the top of the breast, apply light pressure and do a circular movement as you slowly work your way down toward the nipple. Never massage under the breastshield. Stop when you reach the breastshield, and repeat the process starting at another area on the breast. Don’t forget to massage the underside of your breast, and the area up near the armpit. Continue this process throughout your entire pumping session, and until you feel drained.
Breast compressions while pumping
Another easy method of hands-on pumping is breast compressions. Breast compressions can be done more easily if you’re pumping with clothing on, or using Freemie style cups. To do breast compressions while pumping, create a C-shape with your hand using your thumb and index finger. Using your right hand on your right breast, and your left hand on your left breast, cup your breasts with your thumb on the top of your breast, and your index finger wrapped below your breast. Be careful not to cup too close to the breastshield, or underneath it.
Apply gentle pressure, and then release. You can try holding continuously for several seconds, or applying pressure and releasing at each suck-and-release cycle of the breast pump.
Continue this throughout your pumping sessions, or until you feel drained. You can use a combination of compressions and breast massage while pumping.
Here’s an example of hands-on pumping techniques in use.
If you’re breastfeeding, you can use compressions at the beginning of the feeding to help move milk down, and continue throughout the session when milkflow begins to slow.
Tips and tricks for hands-on pumping
You can buy or make a hands free pumping bra to make it possible to massage both breasts while double-pumping. Make sure the bra you select is soft and free of stiff cabling or underwire as to not get in the way of massage or impede milkflow (wearing properly-fitting bras while you’re breastfeeding is super important for preventing plugged ducts and mastitis).
Try to keep a hand free while you’re pumping or breastfeeding. If you normally watch television while you’re pumping, try queuing up your favorite episode before you begin. Or, if you normally look at your phone or play a game, make sure you’re using your other hand for breast massage while pumping. Alternate back and forth between breasts or massage until you get a letdown on one side, and move on to the other. Consider switching hands, too, if you’re able.
If you’re breastfeeding consider wearing a layered nursing shirt or shelf-bra style nursing tank top so it’s easy to access your breasts for compressions and massage.
Here’s an example of how breast compressions and massage work while breastfeeding. Remember that you can use these same techniques while pumping, too!