Breast CompressionHow to do it
- Hold the baby with one arm.
- Hold the breast with the other, thumb on one side of the breast, your other fingers on the other, fairly far back from the nipple.
- Watch for the baby's drinking, though there is no need to be obsessive about catching every suck. The baby gets substantial amounts of milk when he is drinking with an openpauseclose type of suck. (openpauseclose is one suck, the pause is not a pause between sucks).
- When the baby is nibbling or no longer drinking with the openpauseclose type of suck, compress the breast. Not so hard that it hurts and try not to change the shape of the areola (the part of the breast near the baby's mouth). With the compression, the baby should start drinking again with the openpauseclose type of suck.
- Keep the pressure up until the baby no longer drinks even with the compression, then release the pressure. Often the baby will stop sucking altogether when the pressure is released, but will start again shortly as milk starts to flow again. If the baby does not stop sucking with the release of pressure, wait a short time before compressing again.
- The reason to release the pressure is to allow your hand to rest, and to allow milk to start flowing to the baby again. The baby, if he stops sucking when you release the pressure, will start again when he starts to taste milk.
- When the baby starts sucking again, he may drink (openpauseclose). If not compress again as above.
- Continue on the first side until the baby does not drink even with the compression. You should allow the baby to stay on the side for a short time longer, as you may occasionally get another letdown reflex and the baby will start drinking again, on his own. If the baby no longer drinks, however, allow him to come off or take him off the breast.
- If the baby wants more, offer the other side and repeat the process.
- You may wish, unless you have sore nipples, to switch sides back and forth in this way several times.
- Work on improving the baby's latch.
The above works best, in our experience in the clinic, but if you find a way which works better at keeping the baby sucking with an openpauseclose type of suck, use whatever works best for you and your baby. As long as it does not hurt your breast to compress, and as long as the baby is "drinking" (openpauseclose type of suck), breast compression is working.
You will not always need to do this. As breastfeeding improves, you will able to let things happen naturally.
Revised January 2000
Written by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC
Used with permission.