In order to help assist the lactation process along, the breasts require deep and consistent stimulation. The best form of this stimulation is produced by a properly suckling mouth, but if your partner is unavailable to come to the breast for a nursing session, manual stimulation, also known as hand expression, is a wonderful alternative. Many women prefer to use a breast pump in their partner’s absence, and while this is a perfectly acceptable choice to aid in the lactation process, a pump really doesn’t provide the depth of stimulation required to help with milk production and flow in the beginning of the lactation process. Even before you are producing breast milk, you need to express your breasts as if you are lactating to let them know that there is a need for that beautiful milk.
Areola stimulation is a terrific way to get those milk ducts contracting, and this inducing technique can be done alone, or with your partner prior to nursing.
Nestled within the areolae in a circular pattern is a network of nerve and tiny muscles that, when stimulated, send signals to your breasts–and brain–that encourage your body to begin the process of milk production. During breast massage, be sure to focus on the entire breast, particularly the areola.
To manually express your breasts (even if you aren’t yet producing breast milk) using this method of stimulation, simply cover your areola with the flat of your hand, fingers pointing down, and center your nipple against your palm. Press inward firmly, pulling your breast against the wall of the chest, and begin to massage the areola in a smooth, circular counter-clockwise motion. Be sure to move your breast rather than your hand while performing this stimulation technique. Your grip should provide smooth, firm pressure, but never any pain.
You can apply this technique to both breasts simultaneously, or stimulate each breast individually. When using areola stimulation, be sure to massage each breast for a full 10-15 minutes every 3-4 hours.
This is a technique that I used quite often during the first days of my own journey into re-lactation, and it worked beautifully! I am now a well into full lactation, and Mr. S and I could not be happier!
Remember: it is perfectly fine to incorporate a variety of inducing techniques into your daily routine! As a matter of fact, I recommend it. There’s no better way to get that breast milk flowing! 🙂 No matter what techniques you use, be sure to nurse as frequently as you can, even if it is just once per day, and definitely during your set nursing times!