Breast compression

 We use a number of ways to help mothers and babies breastfeed better when they come to our clinic. One group of babies we see frequently are babies who cry or fuss, are not satisfied after breastfeeding, who need to start drinking more milk or who are already being supplemented.

There are many steps we go through when we see a mother and baby at our clinic – one of them is to show the mother how to adjust the baby’s latch so that the baby is able to stimulate the release of milk and increase the milk flow to the baby. Another is to show mothers how to use, what I call, breast compressions.

nursing compression

Mother compressing her breast with her left hand to increase milk flow to the baby


Help with breastfeeding

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.

Several years ago, 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 answered, “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 for me 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 is not getting milk from the simply because the baby is latched on and making sucking motions. 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 galactagogues 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, Andrea Polokova, 2017, 2018, 2021