Breast compressions - Transcript
When your baby first comes to the breast he will do fast sucks initially – and that is to send impulses to the brain. The brain then releases hormones and those hormones will cause your milk to let down on both sides. So that milk will come shooting down a whole load of ducts, come out of your nipple and hit the back of your baby’s throat. Your baby will then start to swallow. So that’s when you start to see the pattern slowing down and your baby swallowing -and listen out for that sound of swallowing. With a very small baby it can be very faint, but you can usually hear like a faint sigh almost, and it’s good to know what that sounds like, the sound of swallowing.
Every time your baby swallows, that means your breast is emptying a little bit and your body will then make more milk on that side with every bit of emptying. Now as the letdown disappears your baby swallows and swallows and eventually that volume is going to become much less. Babies then tend to do a bit of nibbling. This can seem like a pause, but after a while your baby will then actively be swallowing again as another letdown happens.
Studies show that on average you may have up to three to five let downs on one side as your baby works through these cycles of feeding.
Now some babies will not work hard to generate those extra letdowns. So at the end of one let down, if you are finding that your baby is falling asleep at the breast very very frequently at every feed, or bobbing off the breast because of lack of interest (because the flow has slowed) then the technique of breast compression can be very useful. Breast compression will in effect help you to cause a let down of milk and it will push milk out of the breast and keep your baby active when your baby otherwise wouldn’t have been active.
Please bear in mind that it is normal for babies to have a bit of a pause as they’re working through the feed – that is normal, but I am talking about babies who are literally hanging out at the breast and are not actively swallowing. It could be that your baby is very newborn and very sleepy.
You might also want to use breast compressions if you find that your baby is due cluster nursing in the evening, which is normal in biology – please look at information related to that. The breast compressions can be useful there and can also be useful if your baby is going through a growth spurt which happens quite frequently over the weeks and the months.
It might be that you’ve been experiencing blocked ducts or mastitis and breast compressions can be useful there to ensure that your breast is getting drained better than it had been.
So the technique itself- Imagine now that your baby is attached at the breast already and he’s already done the fast sucks initially, called the milk down, accessed that milk, but now after five minutes he is asleep at the breast, and you know that he hasn’t drained that breast well, and this is a regular feature.
So if that’s the case, if you’re sitting with your baby (reclined back if you can), allow your body to act as a mattress for your baby, with gravity keeping him close – the reason I’m saying this is because you will then have a spare hand to do the technique, and what you are going to do is – thumb on top of the breast, fingers underneath -this is the breast he is attached to. He may even just be doing a little movements with his jaw, but no active swallowing is being heard.
So you compress once – (one squeeze and keep it squeezed). That will manually squeeze a group of grape-like structures within the breast where the milk is made and stored, and there are hundreds of these right around the clock face of the breast.
When you compress you are in effect squeezing these, and pushing milk out – milk will come out via a network of ducts, come out of the nipple and hit the back of your baby’s throat. When your baby feels milk hitting the back of the throat. He’s going to start swallowing. So keep your hand compressed on the breast. You’re not releasing yet. You will then hear your baby swallowing. It might be that he only does three extra swallows or four or five – however many that is, but that is extra milk that he’s swallowing that he wouldn’t have got, had you not done the compression. When there’s no more swallowing release your hand.
You can then rotate to another area of the breast if you are finding that your baby is still not actively swallowing, compress again and you are in effect pushing more milk out. You can KEEP ROTATING right around the clock face- how you rotate right around is really up to you.
But when you are in reclined positions particularly for feeding you will have that spare hand- then you can swap over. Swap your hand over so one of your hands is supporting your baby while the other one does compressions.
This technique will help to make more milk and your baby will also get more milk during the time that he is not actively swallowing.
If you do use the breast compression technique just make sure that it doesn’t cause you any pain. There certainly shouldn’t be any of that in the mix. And know that you won’t always have to use breast compressions. It certainly can come into its own a bit later on as your baby gets into the third or fourth month with lots of distractability, but only use it where you need to.
Review dates, references & further resources
V1 published June 2017. Next review date: April 2020
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