If your baby is just nibbling at the breast – sucking rapidly and not pausing, then they are generally not drinking. In the early weeks a baby who is not getting enough milk flow at the breast will become sleepy early in the feed or appear uninterested in feeding. An older baby may pull away from the breast in response to slow milk flow.
Breast Compressions are very helpful to increase milk flow, and will keep a baby actively feeding at the breast.
First, it is important to ensure baby is well latched to the breast. If the baby is poorly or shallowly latched to the breast they will generally only feed well when milk flow is rapid.
How do you do breast compressions?
· Wait until baby shows the nibbling at the breast and is no longer drinking.
· Use your free hand to squeeze the part of the breast that is closest to your chest wall.
· Squeeze and hold, baby will turn nibbles into drinking.
· When baby stops sucking or goes back to nibbling, release the breast.
· Make sure you keep your hand well back on the breast and not near the areola. If your hand is too close to the areola, it can lead to a baby becoming shallowly latched.
· Don’t compress so hard that it hurts or leaves a red mark on the breast.
· You don’t need to move your hand on the breast, keep it in the same spot, as you are aiming to increase the overall pressure in the breast.
· Use the whole length of your fingers to compress and not just the tip of the fingers, as this will spread the pressure.
· Wait for the baby to start sucking before doing compressions. You may need to help your baby wake up by blowing on their face, tickling under their chin, undressing them down to their nappy to feed.
Here is a youtube clip by Dr Jack Newman, a Canadian Paediatrician, discussing breast compression and showing how it improves sucking strength. Copy and paste it into your web browser.