Massage Therapy for Breastfeeding Success
In acknowledgement of August 1-7 as World Breastfeeding Awareness Week, we offer information and support with massage therapy for breast health in nursing mothers.
Breastfeeding is by far the best, most natural and most nutritious way to feed your baby. But getting started with breastfeeding can be a little intimidating and even painful at first. Knowing how to prepare the breasts both prior to delivery and in the early days of nursing will prevent or reduce painful cracked nipples and breast engorgement.
Benefits of Breast Massage
Breast health for nursing mothers ideally should begin during pregnancy. Preparing the nipples helps prevent tenderness and cracking after the new mother begins nursing her infant, making the experience more successful and comfortable for both mother and baby.
Massaging the breasts enhances blood circulation and helps prepare abundant milk production for the newborn. Clear milk ducts allow the milk to flow more freely, generates more milk production and reduces the risk of engorgement (clogged milk ducts) and is especially useful for the prevention of mastitis (painful breast inflammation).
Breast tissue contains a complex network of lymph and blood vessels. Unlike other areas of the body, the breasts lack sources of external compression, such as muscles or a strong overlying frontal structure, to promote the flow of blood and lymph. As a result, these fluids can stagnate, causing blocked milk ducts, engorgement, mastitis and low milk production.
Gentle massage techniques can be used to aid fluid circulation. Massage therapy is an effective, non-invasive treatment for breasts, as they need good circulation and tissue mobilization for optimum health. Breast massage just before feeding increases the fat content, making the milk more nutritious for the baby. It also stimulates letdown and eases expression of milk, allowing easier nursing for the baby and more comfort for the mother.
Breast massage tones the underlying muscles and ligaments that support the breast, to minimize sagging, stretch marks and scarring.
Simple Breast Self-Massage Routine
1. Thoroughly wash hands before each massage.
2. Use a natural lubricant for massage, without any petroleum products or chemical additives such as fragrance and color. There are several lotions specifically formulated to safe breast massage. Coconut or olive oil is also a natural and safe choice.
3. Apply oil or lotion into one hand and then rub hands together to distribute the oil on both hands.
4. Gently pump (squeeze) each armpit to stimulate the lymph glands and assist efficient blood flow into the breasts. Heavy pressure could damage the sensitive glandular tissue, so use a gentle but firm touch. It should be comfortable, not painful.
5. Gently massage each breast with your fingertips or palms, alternating hands using a combined squeezing and stroking motion, from the outer perimeter towards the nipple.
6. Gently squeeze and stroke each nipple with the fingertips for 2-5 minutes.
7. Cleanse the nipples after each breast massage, before nursing the baby.
In the newborn phase, while beginning with breastfeeding, massage should be done prior to each feeding. Once mother and baby are accustomed to nursing, frequency can be reduced to once a day. A good time for daily breast massage is while bathing.
In addition to breast massage, general body massage by a Licensed Massage Therapist is also recommended during and after pregnancy, for an easier delivery and to help speed recovery from childbirth. It also alleviates fatigue and sleep deprivation. Studies have shown that a one-hour full-body massage gives the physiological equivalent of 3 hours sleep for the body and brain.
Body massage relieves backaches and leg cramps caused by pregnancy and delivery. It also helps relieve the shoulder, upper back and arm pain that occurs while the mother’s body adjusts to new positions and postures of carrying and nursing a baby. Massage can help alleviate the anxiety and stress of adapting to the huge lifestyle changes of having a new baby, as well as help prevent postpartum depression. And finally, Infant Massage helps parents bond with their baby, ease the discomforts of colic and promote healthy sleep.
At Pacific Massage Services, we offer treatments and teaching of breast massage and Infant Massage. Our Gift Certificates make a perfect baby shower or new baby gift! It is our honor and privilege to help make breastfeeding the most successful and comfortable it can be for both mother and baby! We invite you to call us for more info or to schedule a session: 808.885.4459.