How Breast Compressions Build Breastfeeding Milk Supply

Woman breastfeeding

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Technically, breast compressions refer to a breastfeeding technique used to help a baby feed more efficiently and build a mother's milk supply. While the baby is drinking milk, the mother holds the breast with the thumb on the top and the other fingers on the bottom and gently squeezes her breast to help her baby get more milk.

That's the official definition. The unofficial definition is, it's essentially milking yourself to make sure you empty out your breast fully and your baby gets all of that milk.

Why Breast Compressions Help Increase Milk Supply

Breastfeeding works on a "supply and demand" system, so you need to make sure your breast is emptied fully to send the signal for your body to produce more milk.

The milk at the end of a feeding is called hindmilk and has more fat and calories than the foremilk at the beginning of a feeding. Breast compressions can help make sure that your baby gets all of the milk that they need to grow properly.

When You Should Do Compressions

Breast compressions are helpful in the following situations:

  • With newborn babies who fall asleep at the breast and have difficulty finishing the feeding. Sometimes compressing the breast to force a little extra milk into the baby's mouth will help them finish feeding. It's almost like a gentle reminder to keep eating.
  • When babies have shown slow progress with weight gain
  • For mothers who need to increase low milk supply
  • For mothers who are experiencing sore nipples and need to find a way to shorten the feeding time without reducing the amount of milk the baby consumes.
  • For babies who may have latching difficulties. One study showed that some babies create vacuums with their mouths to get the milk out of breasts while others compress the breast with their gums, so it may be difficult for some babies to compress the breast as necessary. You might just want to give them a helping hand,
  • When mothers are experiencing mastitis. Mastitis is a painful infection of the breast and can be caused by a clogged milk duct, making milk expression difficult. Performing breast compression while you have mastitis might sound painful, but you can compress the breast above the affected area or around it to help keep the milk flowing.
  • Mothers who are pumping while away from their babies. Breast compressions are not necessary while pumping, but they may help you empty your breast faster and help keep your supply levels up.

Should You Do Breast Compressions?

Not every mother needs to do breast compressions while breastfeeding. If your baby is eating well and gaining weight appropriately and your milk supply levels are adequate, you don't have to perform breast compressions.

By Jennifer White
Jennifer White has authored parenting books and has worked in childcare and education fields for over 15 years.