acupressure to help lactation and breastfeeding
Did you know that you can give yourself acupressure to help lactation and breastfeeding? As an acupuncturist specializing in women’s health, difficulty with breastfeeding is one of the most common issues I see in new moms. I always advise my patients to consult with a lactation consultant, and once you’re incorporating their guidance into your routine, adding acupuncture as well as some at-home acupressure can significantly help a variety of issues. Acupressure is simple- it’s the application of firm pressure to a specific point on the body. Below are a few acupressure points you, a loved one or support person can stimulate to help with breastmilk let-down, after-pains and stress relief.
Gallbladder 21: Milk Let-Down
If you used acupressure during your labor, this is a point you probably already know! It’s a point which helps to strongly circulate blood, energy and all fluids, and also releases tension or “stuck-ness”. For a lactating parent, this is a great point for milk let-down. I recommend having someone apply pressure to this point for about 3 minutes before starting a feeding, and if it feels good and seems to be effective, continue during the feeding. This point is also wonderful for releasing upper back and neck tension. The person assisting you can stimulate it using their thumb, knuckles, elbow or forearms. You get to tell them how much pressure feels good to you!
Spleen 6: After-Pains
This is another point you may already know from your childbirth class or as a pain relief point during labor. Spleen 6 is also helpful for after pains (also called involution which is the uterus shrinking back to its pre-pregnancy size). Breastfeeding stimulates involution and can range from mild discomfort to significant pain. Spleen 6 is a point on the lower leg which is easy to stimulate. Apply firm pressure in 3-5 minute increments for pain relief, and adjust the pressure to what you feel helps the most.
Pericardium 6: Relaxing The Chest and Anxiety or Insomnia
This point on the inner wrist has many functions- I often use it in my practice for anxiety, insomnia or nausea. It’s located on the pericardium meridian, which starts in the chest and flows down the inner part of the arm. Acupressure on this point for 2-5 minutes before or after breastfeeding is wonderful for opening and relaxing the chest. You can think of it as helping to physically relax the muscles of the chest, which then creates more space for blood and fluids to travel. It also helps you to relax emotionally- decreasing any anxiety or tension.
There is no “one size fits all” way to do acupressure- if it feels good and seems to help, then you’re doing it right. On some days you may like lighter pressure, and on other days very heavy pressure may help more. You can even play around slightly with the location of the point- sometimes moving just ½ inch in either direction can make a big difference. The most common way to stimulate each point is using the thumb or knuckles, but if your hand or wrist starts to fatigue, you can switch to something like the end of a wooden spoon handle.
The most important thing is to tune in to how using these acupressure points feels to you. Know that using acupressure to help lactation and breastfeeding is safe, effective and simple.
Susan Wallmeyer is a Licensed Acupuncturist and founder of NY Chi Acupuncture, a practice in midtown Manhattan focused on women’s health and wellness.