Breast Compressions

By Jill Wilson, IBCLC

Breast Compressions are a simple intervention that can be done to increase the flow of milk while a baby is breastfeeding. Breast compressions simulate a “let-down”, the moment when milk is released and made available to your baby.


When are breast compressions useful?

  • To encourage a baby who is suckingwithout drinking to transfer milk from the breast
  • To assist a premature baby, sleepy baby, or baby with slow weight gain to feed more actively at breast
  • To make feedings more efficient and effective, which can be helpful if mother is experiencing sore nipples
  • To help manage a clogged duct or mastitis
  • To maximize milk production when pumping

Breast compressions can be very useful in the early days of breastfeeding, when mother and baby are both learning. Once baby is feeding well and mom feels comfortable, compressions may not be needed. However, they can again be helpful at later stages of breastfeeding if a baby is fussy or distracted at the breast.

How are breast compressions done?

  • Mothers should apply firm, yet gentle pressure to their breast with their whole hand or fingertips; compress, release, compress, release
  • Compress the breast when baby is just sucking, but not swallowing (listen for swallows- “kuh, kuh”)
  • Once swallows are noted, release the compression
  • Compress the breast when baby has an extended pause during feedings

Pockets of milk are located throughout the breast. Compressing all areas of the breast can be useful, but may be hard for you to do. Ask your partner for a hand (literally!) if you need help performing breast compressions.

For more information, we also recommend this excellent video that demonstrates breast compressions.

If you need further breastfeeding support, call the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh at 412-246-4726.