With October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to discuss breast health. Being passionate lactation consultants we get excited about all things breastfeeding. Among our favorite things to share are some of the health benefits of breastfeeding. Of course, the benefits are numerous and many people know how good breastmilk is for baby’s overall health and development.
But what about the benefits to mom?
Beyond the extensive mental/emotional benefits, there are also multiple, life-long health benefits to mom. Most of which are dose dependent, meaning, the longer one breastfeeds over the course of their life, the greater the benefits. They include: Lower risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, less endometriosis, osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The reduction in breast-cancer risk, according to research, becomes significant after just 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. It’s better with each additional month. The obvious question is, why? The MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas has the leading experts on breast cancer, who say this: “During lactation women experience changes to their hormones, which reduce their life-long exposure to Estrogen, a hormone that can promote breast cancer cell growth. Additionally, during breastfeeding and pregnancy women shed breast tissues, as well as gain glandular tissue this has the potential to turn over cells with potential DNA damage.” Most women will also naturally eliminate alcohol and reduce nicotine intake while increasing healthy foods and water intake. This is simply good for overall health and prevention of many illnesses.
At Advanced Breastfeeding Support of Las Vegas, we have a far reaching and wonderful network of other providers within many different modalities and scopes of practice that we refer to depending on the case. For example, if a breastfeeding or pumping mom has issues with congestion in the breast causing plugged ducts, mastitis or breast pain, we may suggest they have a visit with Jennifer Denman LMT for a therapeutic breast massage. Bonus, it’s great self care as well! Learn more in our Q & A session with Jennifer.
Q: What can be expected from a breast massage? What does it look like?
A: The expected outcome depends upon the issue we are addressing. The top two reasons lactating moms come to see me is because of mastitis and clogged ducts. Usually within a one hour treatment the client sees huge relief from pain, swelling, and engorgement. And a bonus outcome: sinus relief!
Clients are usually worked on from the hips to the top of the head. First, we stimulate the Lymphatic System. I do circular motions in all 4 quadrants, armpits and neck. Then normally I work the healthier breast first so I can have a targeted outcome to go by. Both breasts are worked by hand and then also a cupping machine which can work on the entire breast at one time. Specific types of massage movements and myofascial release depending on what is found with the breast tissue. If you are ok, I will usually use essential oils that also help to stimulate the lymphatic system. I usually end with a neck, shoulder, and head massage.
Q: What are the main reasons that women seek out your expertise in regard to breast health and breastfeeding?
A: I see women for a range of breast health issues. Breast Cancer from diagnosis through treatment and reconstruction, Post-surgical (augmentation or explant), lactation issues, and maintaining healthy breast tissue. In a perfect world everyone, including men would get a breast/chest massage monthly to improve and maintain breast health. For pregnant women, we can keep an eye on changes in the breast tissue. If there’s been surgery or trauma, we can find and soften scar tissue. Other issues we can help address are growing pains, sinus issues, and chest neck and head tension and pain through a breast massage session. I work to addresses post-partum depression, stress, and fatigue in addition to physical relief.
Q: In your opinion, what are some things that lactating women should know?
A: Don’t wait until the baby is born to have a breast massage. I recommend during the 2nd or 3rd trimester so we have time to address any scarring that may be present or any breast soreness or pain. Don’t wait too long to reach out for help. Either an appointment with your lactation consultant, massage therapist that specializes in breast massage, or your OB/GYN. You’re not alone! So many women suffer in silence when it is unneeded. Just because your mom, sister, or friends haven’t had any issues doesn’t mean that it isn’t a normal occurrence. Stress can make things worse; so ask for help. I always recommend not sleeping in restrictive sports bras or other tight clothing — it can restrict the flow of lymphatic fluid. Listen to your gut. Your mom spidey senses are real and don’t steer you wrong.
Q: What other services do you offer that do you offer that might benefit women?
A: BodyMind Coaching is another great service I provide. Which is an array of different services depending on what your body, mind and soul need. It may be a coaching session to figure out how your role is changing into motherhood or if you are feeling lost from all the changes in your life and you just need a cheerleader in your corner. It may be a full body massage, cupping session, energy and body work, sound healing or a guided meditation, or a combination of a few. I also can help you learn about essential oils and more natural ways of healing yourself and your family.
If you are unsure of what service might be best for you, we can do a Free Discovery Call to find out what service, immersion weekend, or package suits you best. I can also do most of the BodyMind Coaching services virtually, so if traveling is an issue no worries, I can still help you. One of the most important reasons you might choose me is that your baby is welcome to come with you. No extra stress about leaving your baby with someone — unless mom is comfortable and is ready for a little rejuvenation all by herself.
Click HERE to check out my website and a full list of services available.
By Autumn Wake, RN, BSN, IBCLC & Laura Cooper, BA, IBCLCOF