Breast milk stimulation is when the mother herself stimulates her breasts to produce more milk. It is call breast milk stimulation because it is common for no milk, or just a few drops, to come during the first few sessions. This is fully normal and if you continue to stimulate your breast, milk production will start faster, and your milk supply will increase.
Advantages of early breast milk stimulation
Levels of the breastfeeding hormones oxytocin and prolactin are extra high the hours after delivery. If baby does not suck, you can promote quicker, greater milk production later by using techniques such as hand expression or breast milk stimulation as early as possible after birth when hormone levels are at their peak.
When baby does not suck
If baby does not suck and is frustrated because he or she is not getting enough milk, continue to hand express at least eight times per day. The number of times per day is more important than the length of each session, so better several short sessions now and then, than a few long sessions. If you supplement after nursing, you can hand express after nursing or supplemental feeding to stimulate more milk supply later. To begin with, you will notice a few drops of colostrum, which is perfectly normal.
How to increase your milk supply
Being close to your baby can increase the release of oxytocin, the hormone that affects the let-down reflex and causes milk to flow out of the breast. For this reason, it’s a good idea to be very close to your newborn, ideally skin-to-skin. The let-down reflex is also stimulated by baby’s scent and sounds/crying. Increase your milk supply by smelling something that your baby has been wearing, or listening to a recording of your baby crying. It is also important to rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat and alleviate any pain if you are in pain.
How to stimulate breast milk/hand express
- Good hand hygiene both before and after breast milk stimulation/hand expression is important. Wash your hands with soap and water.
- Before you hand express, stroke lightly over the breast, moving from the chest toward the nipple for a few minutes.
- Hold your breast with your fingers and thumb cupped around your breast in a C shape just beyond your areola. Press lightly back towards your chest, then press your fingers towards each other and move them toward your nipple.
- Move your fingers around the areola so that you stimulate the entire breast.
Stimulate the breast a few minutes per breast and repeat several times. Switch breasts when no more milk comes out.
It might take several minutes/sessions before the milk comes, which may seem like a long time. Be patient and continue to stimulate. If no milk comes in, or if you want to increase your milk supply, continue a few more minutes. You may not get a single drop the first time. This is normal. Imagine that you are ordering milk for later.