If you’re trying to get more breast milk when you pump, you should be doing breast compressions! Here’s how hands-on pumping can be useful, how to do compressions, and what to watch out for.
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Why Hands On Pumping? How do Breast Compressions While Pumping Help?
There are a couple of reasons why you might want to do breast compressions while you’re pumping.
1. Make Pumping Sessions Faster/More Efficient
Some women have to pump for 30 minutes or longer until they feel that they’ve been able to more or less empty their breasts. When your baby is a newborn and you’re pumping 7-8 times per day, pumping for 30 minutes at a time is a LOT of pumping. (At 7-8 sessions per day, 15-20 minutes would be ideal.)
Breast compressions can help speed the process up by pushing breast milk out of the milk ducts more quickly.
2. To Get More Breast Milk
You might have noticed when you’re pumping that sometimes the milk stops flowing for a few minutes, and you get just drops of milk coming out of your breasts.
Later, milk will start spraying again, which is called a letdown. Breast compressions may help stimulate additional letdowns, which helps you get more breast milk when you pump.
3. To Help Clear a Clogged Duct or Resolve Mastitis
Your goal when you have a clogged milk duct is to work it out as quickly as possible, and breast compressions in the affected area may be able to help you dislodge the clog.
How to do Breast Compressions While Pumping
Early on in my pumping career, I tried watching YouTube videos to figure out exactly what I was supposed to be doing, and it seemed like there was a “technique” (that I personally was not coordinated enough to figure out).
In reality, it’s not that complicated. All that you need to do is move your hands around while you’re pumping and squeeze your breast gently but firmly. Try to move your hands all over, so that you can get to most or all of your milk ducts.
In addition to squeezing everything, you can try to massage the milk toward your nipple by moving your hand from the top part of your breast toward the nipple. This can be especially helpful if you’re doing breast compressions to work out a clogged duct.
(Note: Sometimes pumping and doing breast compressions with a blocked duct can be painful. Consider taking an over the counter pain reliever that is compatible with breastfeeding – like Motrin – to help.)
Breast compressions are much easier to do when you have a hands-free pumping bra, since you’re not trying to hold your breast shields in place and do massage at the same time.
There are three different kinds of hands-free bras – corset-style (goes around your body and zips up in the front), the kind that integrates with your nursing bra, and a band that goes around your neck and has loops that hold up your flanges.
Some styles of hands-free pumping bras are easier for breast compressions than others. For example, the corset-style bra has to be tight around your chest to work, which means your breasts are sort of smushed into your body. This can make doing compressions a little more challenging, but not impossible by any means.
Not all pumps are compatible with doing breast compressions. Pumps where the entire collection mechanism goes into your bra – like the Freemie or Willow – don’t allow you do to do them while pumping because squeezing your breast would “unlatch” you from the device.
Things to look out for when doing breast compressions
Breast compressions are pretty straightforward, low-risk, and anyone can do them. There are just two things that I would watch out for.
First, don’t hurt yourself! You would have to do very hard compressions to injure your breast tissue, but it is possible. Stick with firm compressions that aren’t painful.
Second, try to do compressions equally on both sides. For some reason, I favored my left side, and I was lopsided for my entire exclusive pumping career. I usually got twice as much from my left side as my right.
The only exception to the “do compressions equally” rule is when you’re trying to fix your “slacker boob” problem! For example, if I’d wanted to try to get both sides evened out as much as possible, I could have focused my breast compressions on my right side to try to increase output and get closer to what I was producing on the left side.
Have you used hands on pumping? Share your breast compression tips below in the comments!References
- Newman, Jack, MD. “Breast Compressions.” https://ibconline.ca/information-sheets/breast-compression/
- Motherlove. “Ten ways to encourage letdown while pumping.” https://www.motherlove.com/blog/view/ten-ways-to-encourage-let-down-while-pumping