Written by guest author Fatima Gonzalez, IBCLC
- A first-time mom planning to breastfeed?
- Preparing for another and had previous negative experiences breastfeeding your baby?
- Exclusively pumping?
- A NICU mom struggling with milk output?
Whatever your situation may be, massaging your breasts is a BIG deal for all moms and babies.
Yay, baby is here (or babies)! First, let’s explore the importance of massage immediately after delivery.
What’s hand expression and how to do it
Despite what you may have heard, you do not need to use your breast pump immediately after delivering your baby. Instead, use your hands! Have you heard of or tried hand expressing? This is a very crucial technique that involves using your hands to remove milk from your breasts.
Every mom should be taught how to hand express after having her baby. If you have not attended a prenatal breastfeeding class to demonstrate this with a breast model, ask your lactation consultant to show you how.
The stimulation from hand expression is important to set you up for breastfeeding success. You can start by gently massaging your breasts prior to hand expressing to get things going. You may massage the breasts in circular motions and use your fingers to massage towards your nipple. Massaging and hand expressing colostrum at least 5 times a day, the first 3 days postpartum, has shown to have a significant impact on milk volume and the duration of your breastfeeding journey.
This initial breast stimulation from massage and hand expression is important to continue once you’re home, especially around days 3-5 postpartum. Why? During this time, volume increases due to stimulation and frequent removal of colostrum by breastfeeding, breast massage and hand expressing. This time is commonly referred to as “your milk coming in”. Rest assured, colostrum is milk! But volume will increase, and the colostrum will transition to abundant milk.
As your abundant milk arrives, massaging your breasts before and during breast milk removal will help with discomfort from any engorgement you may experience during this time. This will also assist in alleviating any pain and is a good way to prevent clogged ducts and mastitis.
Sometimes we have unexpected circumstances such as a NICU stay. These techniques discussed will not only help you get started, but also help to establish lactation until your baby is ready for direct breastfeeding.
In addition to hand expression, it will be important to get set up with a multi-user pump at the hospital and a good pump at home. It is normal for a baby to nurse anywhere from 8-12 times every day, so until the baby is able to do this themselves, establishing and maintaining lactation by pumping approximately 8 times a day will be important.
What do we hope you will take away from this blog? Massaging your breasts during lactation is incredibly beneficial! Whether you are getting started, exclusively pumping or simply want to prevent breast issues… massaging your breasts will benefit you and your baby!