The magic and benefits of breast massage. With Dr Katie Willy

The magic and benefits of breast massage. With Dr Katie Willy

Breastfeeding can take a big toll on your breasts, mama. But some of the most common breastfeeding challenges you might encounter (from engorgement to blocked ducts to low supply) can all be addressed with one thing: breast massage. 

And nobody knows the benefits of breast massage better than Dr Katie Willy, Principal Osteopath at Boroondara Osteopathy, Founder of Melbourne Mastitis Clinic and Co-Creator of Your Two Jugs (an educational platform empowering breastfeeding women through practical, self-paced masterclasses). 

We chatted with Katie about what breast massage is, how it can support breastfeeding mamas and discovered her top tips for getting the maximum benefit from breast massage. 

Breast massage

What is breast massage?

As the name would suggest, breast massage is a simple technique to provide relief during breastfeeding. Katie explains that breast massage improves blood flow, which is essential for supporting tissue health across our entire body (not just our breasts). 

Through our hands and the use of massage balls (like our very own Lactamo), breast massage uses gentle movement and compression of the breast tissue, designed to encourage our body’s natural fluid dynamics and boost circulation. 

How can breast massage support breastfeeding mamas?

One of the biggest benefits of breast massage is its ability to provide relief from common breastfeeding challenges. 

When performed correctly, gentle breast massage can provide relief for breastfeeding mamas navigating challenges such as mastitis as well as engorgement and low supply. 

Breast massage can also help if you encounter blocked ducts, but Katie is quick to remind mamas that it’s essential to massage towards the nipple when feeding or expressing to help move the blockage. 

No matter what challenge you’re facing, the key with breast massage is to be super gentle (as your breast tissue is soft, sensitive and delicate) and only use about 5-10% pressure in a supportive environment (such as during a warm shower). 

Some of the other key benefits of breast massage include:

  • It can improve circulation and enhance blood flow: gentle pressure and movement on the breasts is a helpful way to stimulate blood flow (which helps our body to release the hormone oxytocin, known as the ‘feel good’ hormone that can reduce stress).

  • It may help with lymphatic drainage: as our breasts are part of the lymphatic system, massage can be a helpful way to alleviate congestion and blockages, particularly during breastfeeding.

  • It can offer relief from swelling: breastfeeding can take a toll on our breasts, which is why massage can help some mamas find relief from sore, achy boobs. 

Katie’s top tips for getting the best breast massage experience 

It can be tricky to figure out what is the right amount of pressure to use when you first get started with breast massage. 

A few signs that can indicate you’re massaging your breasts too hard include bad pain while massaging, signs of bruising or dark discolouration on the breast as well as having tears in your eyes. 

Instead, here’s what Katie recommends mamas focus on to get breast massage right:

  • Be super gentle when massaging your breasts: Katie points out that our breast tissue shouldn’t be treated like a regular muscle. Because our breasts are so delicate, she advises mamas to imagine they are massaging through tissue paper or cotton wool or even massaging a baby. The aim is to massage without ripping this imaginary tissue paper to ensure you’ve got the right amount of pressure.

  • Find what temperature feels good for you: some women find relief with cold breast massage, while others prefer to massage using a heated Lactamo or during a warm shower. Find what works best for you and feel relaxed, and make sure the heat you’re using isn’t too hot (as it can damage your skin in the process).

  • Be consistent and persistent: it can take a few days (even up to a week) for some common breast challenges to resolve themselves. Katie reminds mamas that breast massage should be done multiple times per day (roughly two to four times) to see the best results. 

When it comes to breast massage, practice makes perfect! If you’re looking for extra support on your breast massage journey, our Lactamo ball can help you navigate common breastfeeding problems (such as block ducts and engorgement) and is heatable, coolable and reusable. Find out more about our Lactamo massage ball. 

If in doubt, please always consult your healthcare professional.