lactation started without the benefit of a
recent pregnancy is difficult, in that it
requires your actively stimulating and
“expressing” your breasts for ten to fifteen
minutes each, at least every 3-4 hours,
throughout the 24-hour day. If your work
schedule keeps you from finding the time to
express your breasts during the day, your
breasts will be slower in responding and it will
require a longer time to lactate.
that shows some promise is the use of a TENS
Unit, which stands for Transcutaneous Electrical
Nerve Stimulation (which basically means the
unit stimulates your breast and nipple nerves
through the skin of your breasts). It is a
medical device that produces a very low
electrical current that flows from one electrode
of each channel to the other electrode of the
same channel. Some TENS Units have only two
electrodes (single channel) while others may
have four electrodes (two pairs – two channels).
The latter would be a better choice because it
could be applied to both breasts and used
simultaneously. These electrodes are placed a
small distance apart on your breast. The TENS
unit relies on the surface of your skin as the
conductor of that electrical current, to
complete the circuit. You often cannot feel that
electrical current… you can only feel your
nerves reacting to it.
purpose of using the TENS Unit is to stimulate
the nerves in your body to “hide” pain such as
lower back pain, etc. In this case, it is used
to stimulate the nerves of your breast... mostly
nerves in your nipple area, which promote the
release of Prolactin by your Pituitary Gland (in
your brain). That induces lactation.
should be concerned about the effects that any
electrical device has on their heart. If you are
wearing a pacemaker, you should not use a TENS
Unit without discussing it with your doctor
first. The following is what DrJim says about
the safe use of a TENS Unit on your breasts:
The amperage of the current is what is critical
in triggering heart arrhythmias. TENS units have
an extremely small micro amperage current and it
would be very unlikely for one to trigger an
arrhythmia. Some of them can run for a week on a
watch battery. TENS units generate a high
frequency alternating waveform. It tends to be
very non-penetrating, running superficially in
the skin and it disperses in the tissues
rapidly. It is quite effective in triggering
nerve endings. Depolarizing the heart would not
be very likely with this high frequency.
Defibrillators use either a direct current or a
low frequency alternating sine wave current.
They are of course, very effective at
depolarizing the heart. If you have an implanted
pacemaker or defibrillator do not use a TENS
unit in this fashion. Each channel of a TENS
unit connects to two pads. The current travels
between these pads. It would be best to use 2
pads (one channel) on each breast rather than
having one pad on each breast with the current
traveling through the chest between the breasts.
Using two channels should be very safe. “
idea is for the pads to be attached to your
breasts before you get dressed. They can be used
inside your bra (if you wear one) or simply worn
under your outer clothing. The control unit can
slip into your bra between your breasts, hang
from a cord around your neck, clip to your belt
or slip into your pocket. It makes no vibrations
or noise, and can be running while you are
working at your desk or having lunch with your
friends. You merely turn it on when you want it
to function and turn it off when you are
finished with it.
The intent of using this unit is not to replace
your partner’s oral expression or your manual
expression of your breasts, but to substitute in
their place when you are not able to take time
away from work to suckle or express.
Purchasing a TENS Unit can be done over the
internet, without a prescription, or you can go
through your health care provider to get a unit.
You will be concerned about the unit’s size, as
you will be hiding it on your body while you are
at work or shopping. Some units come with a tiny
watch battery in them that will last for weeks,
and they are more easily hidden on your body.
Larger units contain a nine-volt battery that
lasts longer and is more easily replaced. You
can buy either single or dual channel units. If
you have two breasts, obviously the dual channel
unit might be a better choice.
place the electrodes on your breasts, use the
two wires from one channel on each breast. The
electrodes will be marked in some way,
indicating that one electrode is a "+" electrode
and the other is a "-" electrode. Do not
intermix the channel wires… be certain that each
channel goes to a single breast.
If you are
using individual pads on the ends of each wire,
they should be placed about 2 ” to 2½” apart,
one on each side of each nipple. Looking in the
mirror, the four pads and your two nipples
should all be lined up in a single row: + Pad __
nipple __- Pad __ Cleavage __ - Pad __ nipple
__+ Pad. This image show what this is like:
unit may have several settings that you can
adjust Some typical adjustments and suggestions
Wave Form: I think that I would
chose "Symmetrical Bi-phasic rectangular"
simply because breast stimulation is best
when it is done symmetrically.
Amplitude: This basically means the
volume or the current. I would adjust this
to give you a pleasant "tingling" in your
nipples or areolae. Don't make it
uncomfortable, but it needs to be effective.
Hopefully with time and others' experiences
we will eventually find what Amplitude
settings will be best.
Pulse Width: This basically means
how long each pulse lasts. Considering the
'pulse' of a baby's suction is possibly half
a second, I think I would try the longest
pulse, or 250 to 500 micro-seconds.
Frequency: This should be the same
as a baby that is sucking. I would say that
setting it at about 70 per minute would be
Turn on the
TENS Unit for about fifteen minutes for each
scheduled breast expression time that you cannot
perform because you are at work or out to
dinner. Excessive or constant stimulation will
not be effective because your body “ignores”
excessive stimuli. Your nerves need to 'rest'
before your next expression session for your
breasts to be effectively stimulated.
You do need
to continue the oral or manual expressing of
your breasts whenever you can. Use the TENS unit
only when you are not able to suckle, manually
express, or pump. Once you start producing milk,
a TENS unit has no means of capturing your milk,
and if your milk is not removed from your
breasts, your body assumes that you do not need
the milk and your breasts start to become
“weaned”… you will actually work backwards and
lose what you have built up if you have lapses
in your scheduled sessions of breast expression
(whether it be by mouth, by hand, by pump, or by
After a few
days or weeks (or months) you may begin to see
your breasts and nipples swelling; they may feel
larger and feel sore and under pressure. These
are all normal indications that new acini
(milk-producing glandular) tissues are
developing inside your breasts. That is
necessary before you will be able to produce
I hope that
this helps you to make a decision on what you
want to try. If you do use a TENS Unit, please
consider keeping me informed on your progress.
Your experience will be very helpful for others
that are waiting to hear your results.
hesitate to contact me if you have any
Ken L. Smith
Breast Health Facilitator for the American