Holistic medicine

Spread out breasts - avoid milk jams and pain

Spread out breasts - avoid milk jams and pain

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Breastfeeding can easily occur during breastfeeding and, at worst, breast inflammation. To prevent this, nursing mothers can stroke their breasts themselves. With the right technique, the excess breast milk runs off and the body is relieved. Emptying the breast by hand is also useful on other occasions. For example, breast milk can be obtained in this way, which the baby receives at a later time.

Spread breasts: if the supply and demand of breast milk do not match

The female breast very quickly begins to produce breast milk after birth. First, it forms only a few drops of a rich pre-milk (also called colostrum), after a few days the regular milk production starts and the milk injection begins. From this point on, the child's “demand” determines the amount of breast milk and there is usually a balance between the child's needs and the mother's milk production. If this is not the case, stroking the breasts can sometimes help.

When should breastfeeding women stroke their breasts?

Emptying the breasts by hand can be important and useful for various reasons:

  • Too much breast milk in the breasts and chest pain.
  • Milk jam preventionto avoid complications such as breast infection with dangerous consequences.
  • Milk reserve win in order to feed the baby with it later (also possible with a breast pump, which however stimulates milk production; spread out the gentler variant).
  • The Facilitate breastfeedingif the breast is too bulky and the babies have difficulty grasping the nipple properly.
  • Strong milk donor reflex in which the milk is released into the child's mouth at high pressure. In the first place, they get the “front milk”, which contains a lot of lactose but less fat and is therefore less saturated. They also swallow a lot of air when drinking, which can cause bloating, and they often drink less because the high pressure is uncomfortable.

There are always phases in which too much milk remains in the breast. This is very often the case in the baby's first days and weeks of life. At this point, the balance has not yet been reached. The breastfeeding technique of mother and child is often not yet fully developed. Milking can be very violent and it takes a few days for the amount of milk to be adjusted to the needs. But a milk surplus can also develop later, for example if the child changes his eating behavior (for example, in the event of illness or with increasing age). Often in such situations, stroking the breasts is a real help.

Milk jam: symptoms, causes and possible consequences

A milk jam can occur at any time during the entire breastfeeding period. However, it is particularly common in the first few weeks when the relationship between mother and child still has to settle. If one or more milk ducts are not emptied sufficiently, the milk builds up in the breast. This is uncomfortable and can lead to further problems. A milk jam is often announced by the following symptoms:

  • The chest is warm and often slightly red.
  • There is a pressure sensitive area.
  • The chest is swollen, feels hard and hurts.

The causes of a milk jam are variable:

  • A milk jam can occur with the changes already mentioned in the breastfeeding rhythm; for example, because the baby suddenly sleeps through or is sick.
  • Problems with breastfeeding can also lead to the milk being drunk unevenly.
  • Some women produce too much milk for no apparent reason. This can also lead to a milk jam.
  • Stress and overload play an important role in the development of a milk jam: stress hormones inhibit the milk dispensing reflex, so that the milk flows more poorly. The exhaustion of the mother through the birth and the new baby life can therefore aggravate the problems.
  • Prolonged pressure on the chest can also lead to a milk jam. Bras that are too tight, bag straps, a poorly fitted baby carrier or sleeping on your stomach can cause this pressure.
  • Weaning too quickly can also lead to a milk jam. The body then still produces milk, which is no longer used and therefore accumulates in the breast.

A milk jam can quickly turn into a breast infection. Therefore breastfeeding women with the corresponding symptoms should seek advice from a midwife after a day or two at the latest. The milk jam can usually be removed with simple measures. Brushing the breasts is one of these measures. Quiet is also very important in the case of a milk jam. Ideally, the mother retires to bed with the baby and takes a break until the symptoms have improved. Certain breastfeeding techniques can also clear the milk jam. Through different breastfeeding positions, the baby specifically drinks certain areas of the breast.

Breast inflammation: symptoms, causes and possible consequences

Inflammation of the breast (mastitis) can also have other causes, but very often it results from a milk jam. Pathogens can multiply in the pent-up milk and then trigger the inflammation. The milk itself can also cause inflammation if it seeps into the tissue outside the milk duct due to the increased pressure. In addition, pathogens can easily get into the inside of the breast through sore or injured nipples. The transitions between a milk jam and mastitis are fluid. Breast inflammation initially shows the same symptoms as a milk jam. But more can be added in the course:

  • The patient feels a clear feeling of sickness with weariness, exhaustion and body aches.
  • Fever and / or chills often develop.
  • The armpits may have swollen lymph nodes.
  • The chest is very red.

Breast inflammation should be treated quickly. First of all, the mother suffers from the inflammation and cannot take full care of her baby. In addition, there are now more pathogens in the milk and ultimately breast cancer can easily develop into an abscess or even more extensive inflammation.
Severe breast inflammation often needs to be treated with antibiotics. Strict bed rest is also important. In most cases, breastfeeding is still possible and useful.

Emptying your breast: by hand or with the pump?

To remove excess breast milk from the breast, you can use a pump or simply your hand. A breast pump is particularly suitable if you want to obtain large amounts of milk in order to feed the baby with the bottle at a later time. In this case, many women can handle the pump better.

The big disadvantage, however, is that most breast pumps are designed to mimic the child's sucking. This stimulates milk production. This is important if you want to pump out whole milk meals regularly, for example during work or other separation times between mother and child. If a woman produces too much milk anyway, it is counterproductive. In the short term, the milk in the breast is reduced, but the body then produces all the more.

Brushing the breasts by hand is therefore more appropriate when it comes to getting rid of excess milk. It can also be used for occasional emptying of the breast for bottle feeding. The big advantage: You don't need any equipment to empty it by hand. At most, a clean container to catch the milk is necessary. Many women also find it easier to smear by hand compared to a breast pump.

Spread breasts - preparation

Because pathogens can easily enter the body through the nipples, hygiene is very important. The hands must therefore be washed thoroughly with soap before painting. If you want to catch milk for a very young baby, you should also wash your breast under running water. This is no longer necessary for slightly older babies.

No matter whether by hand or with the breast pump: in order to empty the breasts, the milk donor reflex must first be triggered. It is difficult in different ways. In some women the milk flows very easily. Others have great difficulty getting the milk to flow. These tips can help:

  • A calm, relaxed atmosphere makes it much easier to empty your chest. It is therefore important to eliminate as many stress factors as possible. Above all, there should be no time pressure.
  • Music or relaxation exercises can help reduce further stress. A comfortable sitting position is also helpful. It is best to prepare a warm or cold drink beforehand, depending on your preference.
  • It helps many women to think of their baby, to smell a baby's worn clothing, or to look at photos of their child. Then the milk flows more easily.
  • When the breast is warm, spreading is also easier. If you don't want to use the milk, you can simply stand under the hot shower and start spreading there. But a warm washcloth or a cherry stone pillow also serve this purpose.

A breast massage can also make stroking easier. How to do it:

  • Grasp the chest at the top and bottom with both hands and gently move the hands in the opposite direction.
  • Then place your hands on the left and right of your chest and also gently stroke in the opposite direction.
  • Finally support the chest with one hand. The other hand massages the chest with small, circular movements. Gradually walk around the entire chest.
  • Shake out the breast gently.
  • Finally, massage the breast towards the nipple.

Stroking breasts by hand: how it works!

If the milk is not to be used, the breast can be emptied under a warm shower or in the bath. However, this is less practical if the milk is to be used. This requires a clean container - ideally made of glass or hard plastic (polypropylene) without plasticizers. A large bowl is more suitable than a narrow one, so that "aiming" works well.

The spreading itself works like this:

  • You form a C with your thumb and fingers and thus encompass the chest. The fingers are at the bottom and slightly raise the chest. The nipple lies on an imaginary line between the thumb and forefinger. The distance to the nipple is about two to three centimeters on both sides.
  • From this starting position, the thumb and index finger are pressed together rhythmically several times. The chest must not hurt or be crushed. The first drops of milk should now be visible.
  • In between, the handle should be loosened again and again so that the milk can flow.
  • Important: The hand does not slide over the skin during the whole movement, so that there are no irritations or abrasions.
  • When the milk flow becomes less, the position of the hand is changed so that the entire breast is gradually emptied.
  • It is possible to switch from one breast to another several times. In this way, larger quantities of milk can be obtained. The entire emptying process then takes about 20 to 30 minutes.

If in doubt, midwives and breastfeeding consultants can show this technique precisely. With a little practice, spreading out can be done very relaxed. Pain should never cause the chest to empty. Patience is important when learning the technique. It may not work so well on the first try, but with a little practice it will always get better. By the way: If the pressure of the breast is high due to too much milk, it can be enough to simply rub gently in the direction of the nipples under the hot shower. In many cases, this alone causes the milk to flow.

Keep breast milk

Breast milk is a valuable food for the baby, but must be kept under perfectly hygienic conditions. Specifically, this means:

  • Use only clean containers!
  • The milk from different empties should not be mixed because the quality of the milk changes throughout the day.
  • Freshly pumped milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. The refrigerator should be clean and the milk container tightly closed. The optimal place is at the back of the refrigerator wall. It is cooler and less germy here than near the door.
  • Breast milk has a longer shelf life if it is frozen. For this, the temperature should be between -18 ° and -22 ° Celsius.
  • Frozen breast milk can be thawed under running water or in the fridge overnight. Thawing in a water bath is not recommended, since germs cannot easily be transferred with the warm water.
  • Breast milk should be warmed to body temperature before feeding. You can check the temperature by dripping a drop of milk on the inside of your wrist. It shouldn't feel warm or cold at this point, then the temperature is right.
  • Once warmed up, milk can no longer be stored or frozen again. Any leftovers must be disposed of.


Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Kaingade, Pankaj et al .: "Cellular Components, Including Stem-Like Cells, of Preterm Mother's Mature Milk as Compared with Those in Her Colostrum: A Pilot Study", in: Breastfeeding Medicine, Volume 12, 7/2017, NCBI
  • Städtische Kliniken Neuss: "Spreading the breast in case of milk jam" (access: June 26, 2019), lukasneuss.de
  • Baby-friendly hospital: "Practical instructions for emptying the breast by hand" (access: June 26, 2019), Obergöltzsch Rodewisch Clinic
  • Kulmbach Clinic: "Puerperium, aftercare and infancy: The parenting guide of the Kulmbach Clinic Volume 2" (access: June 26, 2019), Kulmbach Clinic
  • Jochum, Frank: "Pediatric nutritional medicine: infusion therapy and dietetics", Springer-Verlag, 2012

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