Breast compression is a way the parent can help the baby get more milk from the breast once the flow of milk has slowed down and the baby has stopped drinking.
Babies may stop drinking because they are tired or jaundiced.
They may also be having difficulty getting milk due to a decrease in milk supply or an inability to latch well and not always because they are full.
Breast compression works very well in the first few days to help your baby get more colostrum.
Babies do not need much colostrum, but they need some. A good latch and compression will help.
Breast compression may be used for the following no matter the age of the baby:
- Poor weight gain in your baby
- Colic in the breastfed baby
- Frequent feeding and/or long feedings
- Sore nipples in the mother
- Recurrent blocked ducts and/or mastitis
- Encouraging the baby who falls asleep quickly to continue breastfeeding
- Increasing swallowing
How to do breast compression:
- Hold your baby with one arm
- Hold the breast with the other hand. Put your thumb on the upper side of the breast
- Put you fingers under the breast, fairly far back from the nipple
- Watch for the baby’s drinking. Your baby will get a lot of milk when drinking with a strong, slow, regular suck with a wide open mouth
- When you baby is nibbling at the breast (small, short sucks) and no longer drinking, compress the breast, the baby should start drinking again
- Keep compressing until your baby is no longer drinking. (Has switched to the small, short, fast type of sucks or has stopped sucking completely)
- Release the pressure then, to allow your hand to rest and to allow milk to start flowing to your baby again
- If your baby does not start drinking again, try compressions to encourage baby to continue
- Continue on the first side until your baby does not drink even with compressing. Allow your baby to stay on this side for a short time longer, as you may get another letdown reflex and he/she will start drinking again on their own. Allow your baby to come off the breast or take him/her off the breast if they no longer drink.
- If your baby wants more, offer the other breast and repeat the process
- Continue to switch sides back and forth until the baby is no longer swallowing
Dr. Jack Newman’s written handout re: breast compression
Breast Compressions graphic showing compressions to keep baby swallowing
Breast Compression and swallowing by Dr. Jack Newman
Breast Compressions for Low Milk Supply and Sleepy Babies by Rebecca Baxter (shows different hand positions)