A method to increase breastmilk intake by the baby
There are many steps we go through when we see a mother and baby at our clinic – one of them is to show mothers how to use, what I call, breast compressions.
I learnt about breast compressions when I was working in Africa. I watched mothers compress or squeeze their breasts. They did this almost automatically, but I never really understood why or probably did not even think about what they were doing. Early on, when the clinic was still in its early days, a woman from Chile came for advice. She was doing breast compressions. And so, I asked her why she was doing this. She said “Because my mother said I should”. I responded that this was a good thing, but why? And she looked at me as if she was wondering why she came to me for help, and said “Because the baby gets more milk…”. I truly felt that she left unsaid, “…stupid!” And truly the penny did drop and I thought back and finally realized what all those African mothers were doing. And we have used it successfully at the clinic ever since. It is not the only method that we use to increase the intake of milk by the baby, but it is a simple one and one that is very easy to use.
Compression of the breast is an easy and effective method of getting more breastmilk to the baby when the baby is latched on to the breast. A baby may be on the breast, but not necessarily drinking milk. A baby latched on, and making sucking movements, does not mean the baby is getting milk. Watch this video of a mother of a two day old baby doing breast compressions.
Video 1. This baby was not receiving milk well from the breast. To increase the amount of milk he receives, the mother was shown how to latch the baby on with an asymmetric latch. An improved latch and breast compressions resulted in the baby receiving significant amounts of milk.
Video 2. This baby was apparently below birth weight at 2 weeks of age, though it is not a good idea to compare weights on two different scales (the weight in hospital and then the weight at the referring doctor’s scale). We taught the mother the “asymmetric latch“. We showed her how to know a baby is getting milk from the breast (see video 3, below). We taught her breast compression in order to increase the baby’s intake of breastmilk. And we recommended taking the baby off the first breast and offering the other breast when the baby was no longer drinking milk well from the first breast, but before the baby started falling asleep at the breast. And to repeat the process on the second breast. The baby started to gain weight well within a couple of days and after a week had gained over 250 grams (half a pound). No galactogogues were used; no supplementation was used.
Video 3. This baby is drinking a lot of breastmilk, as can be seen by the pause in his chin as he opens to the maximum (open-pause-close)
If you need help with breastfeeding, make an appointment at our clinic.
Copyright: Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC, 2017