Breast compressions can be useful in a baby with poor weight gain and/or a baby who feeds frequently and/or who takes a long time at the breast (longer than 45 minutes per feeding). A baby who is sleepy at the breast, a baby who has latched but is not sucking, a baby who pops on and off of the breast, or a baby who has stopped actively drinking, may be stimulated to return to a swallowing pattern when you use breast compressions. If you are using a nipple shield, breast compressions can help to drain the breast more effectively. Performing breast compressions during a pumping session can yield higher milk volumes and may help to protect against plugged ducts and mastitis, we call this “hands on pumping.”
How to use breast compressions while nursing:
- Make sure your baby is latched deeply to the breast. Baby should begin sucking (small, quick sucks), and then drinking (longer slower sucks where the baby’s chin drops and pauses as the baby swallows) when your milk lets down.
- When baby stops actively drinking and returns to just sucking, put your hands in a “C” shape and squeeze an area of your breast. If the breast compression is effective, you will see your baby return to a pattern of drinking and swallowing. Continue to hold that area of the breast until the baby stops drinking. If your baby does not respond to the initial compression, move to another area of the breast and try again.
- Continue breast compressions, moving around all areas of the breasts. Don’t forget to squeeze underneath. Eventually, your baby will stop responding to the breast compressions, and will only be doing the quick little “pacifying” sucks or nothing at all. This means that it’s time to unlatch, burp the baby, check the diaper and then offer the second side.
- Experiment with how you hold and squeeze your breast. Try taking your flat hand and “rolling” your fingers down your breast, towards the nipple, starting with your thumb and ending with your pinky. Or “knead” your breast with a closed fist (gently!), again working towards the nipple, and pausing and holding the pressure if you see your baby start drinking again.