Breastfeeding is a pleasant experience. But it can become overwhelming, especially for those experiencing lactation woes, such as breast pain and low milk flow. While most of these nursing issues resolve on their own, a few may require extra care and alternative treatment techniques, such as a lactation massage.
Lactation massage involves different breast massage techniques that relax breast tissues, alleviating breastfeeding problems. It could also be an easy and drug-free way of managing breastfeeding-related discomfort.
This post shares some vital benefits of lactation massage for nursing mothers and useful tips to correctly massage the breasts.
Benefits Of Lactation Massage
- Breast pain: A nursing mother could develop breast pain due to breast engorgement or breast infection (mastitis). Different types of breast massage could effectively help ease breast pain, preventing adverse outcomes, such as reduced breastfeeding or early cessation of nursing (3).
- Low milk flow: Breast massage in association with breast pumping could increase breast milk volume (4) (5). A study demonstrated that administering certain types of breast massage may even improve breast milk quality by increasing the milk’s lipids, casein, and total energy (6).
- Blocked milk ducts: Breasts contain narrow milk ducts that pass milk from milk glands to the nipple. A baby suckles on the breast to activate the let-down reflex, causing the milk to flow out. However, in some cases, when the milk doesn’t drain from these ducts properly, it stagnates to form a tender, painful lump. In such instances, gently massaging the lump towards the nipple could help relieve the bulge, causing the milk to flow easily (7) (8).
- Poor latching: Reverse pressure softening is a breast massage technique wherein the area around the areola (the dark part around the nipple) is softly pressed inwards for one to five minutes. This pressing could reduce the swelling around the nipple, making the area soft and more compressible, suitable for a baby to latch (9).
- Stretch marks: Experts believe that gently massaging the breast for 30 seconds or more could increase blood flow and collagen production. It may cause the stretch marks to fade away eventually.
Besides these, breast massage could help in lymphatic drainage, which may help remove toxins and other harmful waste from the breast.
Steps To Do Breast Massage For Lactation
There are different ways to perform a lactation massage. The type of massage suitable to you will depend on the massage’s intent. Thus, consulting a lactation consultant is advisable. Nonetheless, here are some simple steps that you may follow to resolve general breastfeeding problems, such as engorgement and plugged ducts (10).
- Sit comfortably, such as in a reclining position. Ensure that you are calm and the room’s ambiance is pleasant.
- Warm your hands by rubbing them against each other, or you could use a warm towel to do it.
- Take some oil or massage cream and rub it in your palms as a lubricant. You could consult your healthcare provider regarding the suitable oil or cream, depending on your massage’s intent.
- Begin massaging the entire breast in a rhythmic circular motion moving towards the axilla (armpit) using your fingertips, gently tapping and kneading the breasts with your fingers. Be gentle and avoid using excessive force.
- Pause in between the massage to hand-express some milk. It will boost the let-down reflex. If hand-expressing the milk seems difficult, you may also use a breast pump.
- Once the milk starts flowing smoothly, reduce the numbers of massage strokes and express more milk until you feel relief.
- You may massage each breast for 30 to 45 minutes before feeding or while bathing. If you intend to massage while feeding, let the baby feed from a breast while you massage the other one.
Are There Any Risks Of Breast Massage During Lactation?
There are no apparent risks of breast massage during lactation provided you do it right. Still, you should consult a lactation consultant or doctor before you massage your breast, especially while having a breast infection (mastitis). Massaging your breasts during infection may help relieve pain, but medication to treat the condition would be necessary in most cases. If you are unsure about how to massage correctly, consult a licensed massage therapist. They may guide you on the right way to massage and even ascertain if the massage benefits you.
Breast massage during lactation could relieve several breastfeeding problems. You may massage your breasts almost anytime you feel comfortable. However, massaging before or during feeding and during a bath is most suitable. If your breasts feel full or heavy even after feeding, you may even consider massaging them after feeding.
2. Postpartum Massage; American Pregnancy Association
3. Loretta Anderson et al.; Effectiveness of breast massage for the treatment of women with breastfeeding problems: a systematic review; NCBI
4. Methods of milk expression for lactating women; NCBI
5. Hand Expression of Breastmilk; La Leche League GB
6. Foda, Mervat I. et al.; Composition of Milk Obtained From Unmassaged Versus Massaged Breasts of Lactating Mothers; Journal Of Pediatric Garsteneterology And Nutrition
7. Breast pain and breastfeeding; NHS
8. Ann M Witt et al.; Therapeutic Breast Massage in Lactation for the Management of Engorgement, Plugged Ducts, and Mastitis; NCBI
9. My Breasts are Swollen and Engorged; The Institute for the Advancement of Breastfeeding and Lactation Education
10. New Strategies For Relieving Engorgement: Tips and Tools From Maya Bolman, BA, BSN, IBCLC; International Lactation Consultant Association