Just because breastfeeding is considered "natural" doesn't mean it's not a lot of work. And for pumping moms, it can feel like double the work sometimes. Although pumps are a great modern convenience to help moms express their milk, they're not exactly a walk in the park. Anyone who has used one can attest to that. After all, you can't just hook up the machine, sit back, and relax. At some point, you'll probably consider incorporating lactation techniques to help get things flowing. Learning how to massage your breast while pumping to get the most milk out is a great place to start, especially if you think you're having supply issues.
Many mothers go through periods of low or diminished milk supply. Although it can be jarring, there's no need to panic. The reasons for a dip in supply vary, from supplementing with formula, to cutting the length of feedings or pumping sessions, to undiagnosed health issues in the mother,according to Kelly Mom. Before you go on a research rampage with Dr. Google and try every recommendation under the sun, try a breast massage.
It's the easiest thing to incorporate into your regular pumping routine and it can really up your liquid gold game. The greatest part about performing breast massages is that they can help anyone. Another perk is you don't have to go to a massage therapist for one, you can do it all on your own (or ask your partner to help).
The most touted breast massage technique among lactation consultants is the "Massage-Stroke-Shake" (M-S-S) technique. As explained by La Leche League International (LLLI), mothers are instructed to double pump for five to seven minutes, stop, then massage both breasts simultaneously in a circular motion. Simple stroke both breasts all the way around from the chest wall to the tip of the nipple in a straight line using only your fingertips. Then, when you're done, cup each breast with your hand, lean forward, and shake your breasts.
If you feel it's too complicated, you could use a more straightforward method. "Simply knead one breast at a time," Tori Sproat, author and international board certified lactation consultant with Tiny Tummy Lactation Services, tells Romper. "One hand does the massaging, and the other hand holds the flange. This has been clinically shown to also increase output." She says if you're looking for a great representation on how to best massage your breasts you can watch a video from Maya Bolman, who is considered the pioneer of breast massage in the lactation field.
The logic, just like with any other massage to any other part of your body, is simple: it gets things flowing again. Blood is flowing, milk is flowing, and you are getting into a flow.
A breast massage alone might not cure your supply issues or concerns, but it's a good place to start. If you're really worried that something else is going on, talk to a lactation consultant so they can examine you for any possible issues that can't be resolved with breast massages alone.