5 Incredible Benefits of Breast Massage while Breastfeeding

Page Updated: 14/02/2019

Breast massage can be used to improve your overall breastfeeding experience, here is how. 

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breast massage, breast massage breastfeeding

The Quality of Breast Milk is Improved

In a study breast milk was found to have increased levels of solids, lipids, casein, and gross energy when the breasts are massaged. Massage, therefore, increased the quality of milk greatly. The only property of breast milk that didn't change was the lactose content. 

'Breast massage improves the quality of human milk by significantly increasing total solids, lipids, and casein concentration and gross energy. The milk of mothers treated by Oketani breast massage may improve the growth and development of infants.' (1)

Breast Massage can be Used to Solve Breastfeeding Issues

baby breastfeeding

'In Russia, there is a long tradition of hands-on techniques that continues in the present day and includes mothers turning to providers trained in hand expression and breast massage techniques to resolve breastfeeding complications including engorgement, plugged ducts, and mastitis.' (2)

In the study (Effects of Breast Massage on Breast Pain, Breast-milk Sodium, and Newborn Suckling in Early Postpartum Mothers) breastfeeding mothers were given two 30-minute massage sessions during the first 10 days postpartum. These mothers experienced less breast pain, their babies breastfed more and their milk contained less sodium when compared to their counterparts who did not receive the massages.

'Breast massage may have effects on relieving breast pain, decreasing breast-milk sodium, and improving newborn suckling. Breast massage can be used to solve breast problems.' (3)

When breast massage is used during engorgement, it softens the breast tissue and loosens the milk; it is then easier for the baby to drain the breast more efficiently.

Clogged ducts are more easily loosened when a combination of increased breastfeeding and massage are used. 

Massage improves lymphatic drainage. Lymph is usually moved around by the movement of muscles, but the breast does not move as much as, for example, your arm or leg would, therefore, fluid build-up in the breast area is common and this can cause swelling and water retention. Massage can prevent this extra fluid build-up. 

'This case study describes an occurrence of gross edema in the breast and areolar tissue of a mother in the first 2 days postpartum that interfered with the early initiation of breastfeeding. The mother developed severe generalized fluid retention during labor and early postpartum. Her breasts were naturally large. The edema in her breasts made the areola and nipple tissue firm and nonpliable. The mother successfully latched her newborn onto her breast after being shown areolar compression (AC), a technique developed and named by the authors. AC reduces nipple and areola edema by using gentle positive pressure on the areola. The baby continued to successfully latch onto the breast after AC was used and taught to the mother.'(5)

Baby can Latch More Easily

Sometimes it can be difficult for a baby to latch onto a taut, hard breast. Massage can soften the breast and make it much easier for your baby to latch. 

Reverse pressure softening, as seen in the video, is a great way to soften a swollen breast before a breastfeeding session. 

Increase Milk Production

breastfeeding and milk production

Massage can increase milk production by promoting the production of lactation hormones, such as the production of Oxytocin (the love hormone). 

Oxytocin is the hormone that relaxes the muscles of the milk ducts, allowing improved milk flow.

Massaging your breasts will clear the milk ducts and cause the milk to flow more freely, which will help empty the breasts and therefore trigger higher milk production.

Preventing Saggy Breasts

Pregnancy, breastfeeding and the fact that we all get older can take a toll on the appearance of our breasts. Many believe that with breast massage you can improve blood flow to breast tissue and, therefore, boost buoyancy ;-). 

In one study it was found that massaging skin with oil may help to prevent stretch marks. 

'It was found that a 15‐minute massage applied with almond oil during pregnancy reduced the development of striae gravidarum (stretch marks)'(4)

Other Benefits of Breast Massage may Include the Following

  • You can decrease the symptoms of menstrual cramps.
  • Help with pain from surgery.
  • Breast massage during pregnancy can reduce discomfort.
  • Improve your breast's skin tone.
  • You can massage your breasts for relaxation.
  • Breast cancer prevention. Breast self-examinations improve awareness of any breast lumps or bumps.
  • Natural breast enlargement and enhancement: Some women massage to stimulate breast growth, resulting in a larger cup size.

How to Perform Breast Massage for Lactation
& Breastfeeding Massage Tips

  • Massage can be combined with hand expression or it can be done on its own. There is no correct or incorrect way to massage your breasts. 
  • Warm your hands with a heated wash towel. First, start pumping the lymph glands in your armpits. This lymphatic massage will get the blood flowing.
  • Use a lotion while massaging: a natural lotion if you are breastfeeding. Coconut or olive oil are natural and safe to use.
  • Gentle rubbing and squeezing are enough to get the blood flowing. Do not press too hard, or you could damage your glandular tissue. The rule of thumb is that it should not be painful. 
  • You can gently knead your breast in a circular motion. You can use your fist, flat hand or fingertips to massage all areas of the breast and especially around the areola. 
  • Rhythmic, circular motions work well in combination with hand expression or pumping. 
  • Light strokes are done to lessen inflammation and edema (fluid retention) in the breast and promote increased circulation. 
  • When you feel your breasts warming up, it’s a good sign; this indicates that the blood flow in your breasts has increased.
  • The massage should be done daily. You can massage your breasts every time you have a bath; you can use soap as a lubricant. This way you won't forget, and you will be more relaxed during a massage.

Breast massage is not spoken about often enough, and may be perceived as being strange, but if you are having problems such as engorgement, clogged ducts or mastitis, lactation massage could prove to be extremely helpful. 

Please get advice from a licensed massage therapist before massaging any areas that have had recent radiation or surgery. If you think you may have mastitis, please talk to a breastfeeding-friendly doctor about it before attempting any massage. 

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