The month of October is special for a number of things. From spooky holidays like Halloween, international days like World Habitat Day (2nd Oct), World Mental Health Day (10th Oct), International Day of the Girl Child (11th Oct), etc.
Among all these holidays and other special events, the 1 thing that this month is perhaps best known for is breast cancer awareness. During this month, governments, foundations, and hospitals all over the world work to increase the public’s awareness of this cancer.
A self breast massage is one of the easiest ways that one can detect if there’s something wrong with their breast or not. However, a breast massage is not just for cancer awareness, there are multiple reasons and benefits why you should be massaging your breasts regularly.
Read on to find out more about breast massage benefits for pain, breastfeeding mothers, help with saggy breasts and much more.
What Is A Breast Massage?
Also sometimes referred to as a chest massage, it is the intentional self-touch on the chest or breast tissues. This touch often involves kneading, rubbing, holding, or stroking – or a combination of all in a rhythmic motion. Self breast massages can simply be for pleasure or other factors/uses like cancer detection, pain relief, etc.
Is It Good To Massage My Breasts?
Yes, it is. Regardless of age, gender or any other demographic, all women are highly encouraged to take 15 minutes at least once a week, to just massage their breast tissue. Some benefits of a breast massage include
Body awareness and ownership
Thanks to social media and popular pop culture celebrities, we now seem to be in the age of butts. The bigger, rounder the bum, the better and more attractive it looks and the more it’s appreciated.
However, a lot of millennials grew up in the age where breasts were highly sexualized. For some, this attention may have created some kind of shame or dysphoria around this body part.
Whether you have large or small breasts, a breast massage is a good way to learn and love your body – away from society’s gaze. Aside from hyper sexualization, this massage can also help mothers who might have started feeling disconnected from their breasts due to breastfeeding.
Early cancer detection
As mentioned above, October is the breast cancer awareness month where the concept of self breast exams or massages is insisted upon. A study published in 2011 in the Journal of Women’s Health showed that early detection of breast cancer happened during self examinations. In the study, about 25 percent of the women who survived the disease said that it was caught early due to self-examination (8).
Sore muscle relief
Have you ever felt some tension in the chest area after doing some upper body exercises/activities? This could very likely be because of delayed onset muscle soreness in the pectorals – triangle shaped muscles located under the breasts. A breast/chest massage is a good way to bring some relief to these muscles and release the tension
Improved Lymphatic Drainage
When you do a cancer detection self exam, you are advised to massage all the way to your armpit because the breast tissue extends all the way to this area. The armpit area also contains lymph nodes – small, round or bean-shaped clusters of cells that filter germs and foreign substances in the body and destroy them (5).
Sometimes, these lymph nodes can swell or enlarge which leads to them not working as well as they should. Massaging the breast tissue all the way to the underarm can help unblock the node which in turn stimulates your lymphatic drainage system to work again.
Research has also shown that breast cancer survivors are highly likely to develop lymphedema – swelling due to build-up of lymph fluid in the body – and that bandaging and massaging the breasts can help offer relief and treat this issue (9, 6).
Swollen breasts are quite common in women during their periods, as well as in lactating mothers due to milk build up in the ducts. According to Women’s Health Magazine, doing an Ayurvedic breast massage during this time could help reduce the soreness and achiness and even bring the swelling down.
Unlike other kinds of breast massages, the Ayurvedic massage is usually done with an oil with popular opinions being almond, lavender, coconut and even olive oil. Proponents of using a breast massage oil during this procedure claim that the oil will help improve breast appearance, moisturize the skin, and even facilitate the release of toxins.
Some even claim that this practice can help firm up and even enlarge the breast. However, despite all these claims, there currently isn’t any scientific evidence to support them. Our advice is that massaging the breast may help with swelling and using an oil will certainly help moisturize and smoothen the skin. But for results like firming or enlarging, you will probably need more than that.
Stress free breastfeeding
A breast massage for breast feeding is one thing that can go a long way in helping lactating mothers have an easier time for the following reasons
Reduced pain and better newborn suckling
In a study published in the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, researchers found that women who were given two 30-minute breast massages in the 10 days after giving birth experienced less breast pain, had less breast milk sodium and their newborns suckled better and more times, than the women who did not receive the massages (1).
Better milk quality for newborns
In a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, researchers found that milk samples obtained from massaged breasts was of higher quality than that obtained from unmassaged breasts.
The exclusively lactating women in the study received Japanese Oketani massages and researchers saw that the massages improved the quality of milk they produced by significantly increasing total solids, lipids, and casein concentration and gross energy (3).
This goes to show that massaging the breast could help in the growth and development of your infant.
Increased milk production
Nothing stresses a new mother more than their child not eating/suckling well. An older study from 1994 showed that breast massages can increase plasma oxytocin levels which in turn encourages the production of milk – equating to more food for your baby (7).
Unclogging clogged ducts
Clogged milk ducts not only mean less milk for your baby, but also discomfort, pain and even infection for the mother. Doing a breast massage for breast pain could help reduce the pain and even unclog the blocked duct.
One study published in the International Breastfeeding Journal showed that breast massages will help reduce pain and unclog the milk ducts. It should be noted, however, that the study found that integrated breast massages – done by someone else not the patient – produced faster results with far lesser pain and led to a huge reduction in swelling size than traditional massages -i.e. those done by the patient themselves (4).
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Can A Breast Massage Increase Breast Size?
No, it does not.
Despite the myth circulating in almost all age groups – from teens to adults-, there is no scientific evidence that massaging the breasts; either by yourself or having someone else do it for you, will help make them bigger.
How To Massage Breast For Tightening
Just like in the case above, massaging your breasts will not tighten them. Massaging the breast has many benefits, but regardless of what multiple sources claim, tightening saggy breasts isn’t one of them. Massaging breasts with oil will also not tighten or lift saggy boobs.
The only thing that this might do is to help with the appearance of stretch marks. One study done on pregnant women from February 1st, 2010 and April 15th, 2011 found that a 15-minute breast massage with oil (bitter almond oil in this case) helped reduce the chances for the formation of stretch marks (10).
How Do You Massage Saggy Boobs?
If you are looking for ways to massage saggy boobs in order to fix or lift them, sorry to say that there is no scientifically proven way to do this. However, if you are looking for saggy breast massage tips for better lactation, cancer detection, or lymph node drainage, here is how to do it:
Breast Massage For Lumps
As previously stated, self massages are essential for early breast cancer detection. Here’s how to massage to check for any lumps:
- Start by standing up or lying down flat. Pick the option that is most comfortable for you
- Lift one hand and place one hand behind the head, so that the elbow points out to the side.
- Bring the other hand to the breast of the lifted hand and massage it using the first three fingers
- Apply gentle pressure and massage in small circles all over the breast tissue.
- Make sure to massage the entire breast — from the collarbone to the top of the abdomen and even in the armpit.
- Find a mirror and look at the breast. Look for any changes in the color, shape, size, or texture of the breast.
- Squeeze each nipple to look for any discharge or pain.
- Repeat on the other breast
- If you feel no lumps, the nipples have no discharge or pain and the color, shape, size and texture of the breast look as normal,then you are fine. However, if something about any of this is off or there’s nipple pain or discharge, please make an appointment with your doctor.
Breast Massage For Lymphatic Drainage
- Place one hand on top of the breast on the opposite side of the body, so that the fingertips go into the armpit and the palm rests on the chest.
- Squeeze the hand over the breast in a pumping motion.
- Using the same pumping motion, slowly move the hand down toward the nipple.
- Massage around the outside, bottom, and inner areas of the breast.
- Repeat on the other breast.
For Better Lactation
There are many ways to do this but here is a simple one
- Using both hands, place four fingers on the top and bottom of the right breast.
- Apply gentle pressure and massage the top and bottom of the breast in slow circular motions.
- Move the fingers from the top and bottom and place them on each side of the same breast.Continue to massage in a circular pattern.
- Do this for the desired amount of time then move to the left breast and repeat.
How Do You Massage A Hard Breast?
Breast tissue is ordinarily soft so if you feel something unusual or hard, it is best to visit a doctor instead of massaging the area and hoping it will go away.
Remember that hard lumps in breasts can be caused by a number of issues from cysts, benign or cancerous tumors, calcium deposits especially after surgery, or even infection and abscesses (2). It is best to err on the side of caution and seek medical help.
Read more: Key 7 Types of Massage for a Healthy Body
Does Massaging Breasts Help Lift Them?
As previously mentioned, there is no scientific evidence that supports the claim that breast massages can give you a breast lift.
What Are The Best Tools For A Breast Massage?
The best tools for this are simply your hands and nothing else. However, if you want to make a little self care session out of this, some things you can use include
- Oils – They help greatly with moisturizing which not only softens and smoothens the skin, but could also prevent stretch marks
- Natural soaps for massage – Also known as massage soap bars, these are specially curated soaps for massage therapy. These soaps are often made with natural and essential oils, as well as various herbs, natural colorants and fragrances for aromatherapy.
- Yoga massage balls – If you are looking to relieve stress or tension in the chest area, then these balls could be what you need. These small balls are often used in yoga as a means to relieve pain, improve posture and enhance athletic performance.
How To Lift Breasts Naturally
Workouts to lift breasts are a great alternative for people who would love to fix their saggy boobs without having to undergo surgery. Chest exercises are a great way to target your pectoral muscles which when developed can make your chest fuller and perkier.
Some of these exercises include:
- The pushup and its many variations
- Chest press
- Chest flys
- Chest pullovers
- Cable crossovers
- Tricep dips
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How Do You Massage Your Breast Ducts?
To open the milk ducts
- Before breastfeeding or pumping – Take a warm bath or shower. You can also take a warm cloth and use it to gently press all around the breast
- While feeding or pumping – Take one hand and gently massage the hardened breast area toward the nipple focusing more on the hardened area than the entire breast.
You can also use your thumb to apply pressure behind the clogged duct and gently massage toward the nipple.
- Try gravity – Some have found that bending over and gently massaging the clogged/hardened area towards the nipple can help unclog the duct
How Can I Open My Breast Ducts?
All the steps mentioned above can help open any clogged milk ducts. However, if you’ve tried them and they don’t work, you could also:
- Soak your breasts in warm Epsom salt baths for 10 to 20 minutes.
- Breastfeed on all fours with the baby right under the breasts. Your child’s suckling plus gravity could help unclog the duct.
If nothing works please see a doctor. Leaving a clogged milk duct for too long will not only cause pain and discomfort, but could also lead to mastitis.
How Do You Start A Breast Massage
The first step is simply deciding to do it. Once that decision is made, everything else is easy. If you are massaging for cancer detection, lactation or lymphatic drainage, all steps have been outlined above.
What Is Breast Gymnastics?
According to Spectra Baby USA, this is a massage technique that helps relieve pain and increase milk flow in mothers struggling with engorgement, clogged ducts, and other common breastfeeding complications.
To do this you should
- Cup both hands under one breast
- Simply lift the breast up and down a few times
- Move the breast gently from side to side
- Move your breast gently all the way around in a circular motion – clockwise and then counterclockwise
- Repeat on the other breast
The Bottom Line
A breast massage is something that we should all be doing more at least once a week – and not just during the month of October. As seen above, this practice has more benefits than the commonly known cancer prevention/detection.
If you are a mother looking for ways to breastfeed better or find relief for pain or even if you are a person looking to feel better connected to their chests, try a self breast massage today and see what happens.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- [Effects of breast massage on breast pain, breast-milk sodium, and newborn suckling in early postpartum mothers] (2011, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Breast Lumps (2023, my.clevelandclinic.org)
- Composition of Milk Obtained From Unmassaged Versus Massaged Breasts of Lactating Mothers (2004, journals.lww.com)
- Integrated breast massage versus traditional breast massage for treatment of plugged milk duct in lactating women: a randomized controlled trial (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Lymph Nodes and Cancer (2023, cancer.org)
- Manual lymphatic drainage for lymphedema following breast cancer treatment (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Releases of oxytocin and prolactin during breast massage and suckling in puerperal women (1994, sciencedirect.com)
- Self-Detection Remains a Key Method of Breast Cancer Detection for U.S. Women (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Addition of Manual Lymph Drainage to Compression Therapy For Breast Cancer Related Lymphedema: a Randomized Controlled Trial (2004, link.springer.com)
- The effect of bitter almond oil and massaging on striae gravidarum in primiparaous women (2012, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)