T.E.N.S Unit

We are told that any woman who wants to induce lactation when she has NOT just delivered a baby must do so by stimulating her breasts and specifically her nipples frequently by using one of 3 common methods.

  1. Pumping with a hospital grade breast pump
  2. Massaging the breasts using the Marmet technique
  3. Having your husband/partner suckle

Let’s add a 4th way:  Using a  TENS unit.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit generates a very small, high frequency current that stimulates nerve endings.  These are mostly used to block pain signals in conditions such as low back pain.

The amperage of the current is what is critical in triggering heart arrhythmia.  The TENS units have an extremely small micro amperage current and it would be very unlikely for one to trigger an arrhythmia.  The 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

With all that said, so can it really promote lactation?  All the nerves in the breast, when stimulated, promote the release of Prolactin by the Pituitary.  These include the sensory nerves of the nipple and areola; and the nerves to the ducts under the areola that sense the compression and suckling actions.  The nerves throughout the breast, in the alveoli and skin will promote Prolactin release but not as intensely as the nipple and areola.  This means that virtually any type of playing with the breast whether it be fondling, squeezing, rubbing, suckling etc. is stimulating to the breast.  Almost all literature that you find reports that a variety of sensory stimulation to the breast can bring on spontaneous lactation.  The general point is that stimulating the sensory nerves in the nipple by a TENS unit will most likely cause Prolactin release and induce lactation.

So why would you find this an attractive way to promote lactation?  Many women who want to induce, work in public and find schedules impossible to have suckling, do pumping or marmet technique several times a day.  The advantage of a TENS is that it can be worn at work all day by a cord around your neck or on the waist with the electrodes left in place and turned on and off at will.  You can still work and no one will know what you are doing as it is totally discrete, no movement, sound or devices are apparent.

TENSI recently purchased this unit.  You can find it on Ebay for about $20.  I found it comfortable to wear under my clothing.  The unit has 4 buttons:  Off, On, Mode, and S/P (which adjusts the speed and power).   It also comes with a small tube of water soluble gel.  I found that if I am using it every 2 hours as recommended, I used the gel rather quickly.  Simple water soluble personal lubricant is working just as well.

There are many different models of TENS units.  Dr.Jim from Land of Milk and Honey suggests the following unit as a small unit for discretion, but it is a bit more expensive and uses square pads instead of the cone shape of the previous unit.  This currently lists for about $60 and you can get the cone shaped pads for breasts for an additional $40.  Is one unit better than the other?  I think that is a personal choice.  For me? Mine is working rather well!FlexiTens

BreastMassager

You really want to use it to begin the stimulation of the breasts to induce lactation.  Once you start getting milk in your breasts you must add pumping to remove it because if you leave the milk in your breast you will essentially be turning off the urge to produce milk.  You can continue to use it to supplement stimulation with pumping later when you only want to pump 2 or 3 times a day.  You can also use it to stimulate during the night while sleeping to accelerate the changes.

So what is happening in your breast with the TENS stimulation?  Prolactin is released from the pituitary gland in about 4 or 5 discrete pulses over 15 to 20 minutes with suckling.  After this, more release does not occur for a while so stimulating the breast for more than 15 to 20 minutes does not cause more Prolactin release.  For maximum benefit it is best to stimulate the nipples 15 minutes every 2 hours.  The Prolactin turns the alveoli in the breasts on to produce milk for about 3 hours.  What if your breasts are not ready yet?  The Prolactin stimulates development of the changes necessary to do this.

After a few days or weeks (or months) you may begin to see your breasts and nipples swelling.  They will feel larger and feel sore and under pressure.  These are all normal indications that new acini (the milk-producing glandular tissues) are developing inside your breasts.  That is necessary before you will be able to produce milk.

For more information, use a search engine to look up “TENS unit to stimulate lactation”.

I spent a great deal of time reading about this before making the leap.  Also, I will admit, even after receiving my unit…it took me 3 days before I had the courage to try it out.  I haven’t stopped since!!!!!!

Happy nursing everyone!

17 thoughts on “T.E.N.S Unit

  1. ff38dd( o )( o ) ....Kathy says:

    Thank you for this very informative information.
    Have a Beautiful Day !!!

  2. Keri says:

    What is the unit that you pictured called? I cannot locate one like that when I do a search. Please let us know the brand. Thank you! Just what I have been looking for.

  3. Keri says:

    Thank you so much! I needed something that I could use while at work or at the house when I couldn’t use the pump. I am trying hard to start lactation again and it is hard when you have a job and older kids in the house.

  4. I found that the only thing I had to do was be careful how I put the unit in my bra, so as not to turn it off. I also found that KY-Jelly or personal lubricant works just as well, if not better, than the gel they send with the unit.

    When you get that unit, I found there are 3 ‘modes’. You click the ‘on’ button, then the mode button will give you the ‘three’ modes. They are different ‘hands’. I found the second one was my favorite. Then if you click the S/P button, you will switch between the speed and the power. Make sure you have a good layer of gel on the black pad that touches your skin. At night wash that off and let it dry for the next day’s use.

    Always start on the lowest power and the lowest speed. If you try the power too strong right away, you may find it a bit much. I found if I started for a minute or two on the lowest power, I could then increase to the second level.

    Play with settings and see what works for you.

    Good luck and keep me posted!

    • Keri says:

      I just ordered it and it should be here in a week or so…how long have you had yours and have you begun to lactate yet? Have you actually worn it at work and around other people? I figured that since I am wearing several layers right now it won’t be noticable and I can always use the excuse of my pinched nerve as the reason I have a tens unit…:-)

  5. I have had mine for a couple of months. I have clear liquid, not fully lactating. I have worn it at work and I just pop in the restroom every couple of hours and turn it on. My office is huge on drinking lots of water, so this is nothing unusual to running in there all the time.

    I did find that sports bras work amazingly well with this unit. You want a bra to keep it in place. Also the directions are not ‘clear’, so if you have any questions when you get it, you can email me directly at newbie.nurser@gmail.com

  6. Gary says:

    My wife and I are looking for something like this to re lactate for an ANR. Have you had any success with a TENS unit?

  7. Brenda says:

    I really would like the name of the pink tens that you have in the article I was not able to find it on ebay – is it quiet? Can it be worn at work around others?
    Thanks !
    Brenda

    • Brenda, go back to ebay and in the search box, type “electronic breast massager” without the quotes. You don’t need to pick a category, just that should bring up several of them. It is VERY quiet….I wore mine at work. The only thing is that the control unit is about as big as the palm of your hand, so you would need to be able to wear something loose fitting on top or if you can tuck it in-between your breasts that would work also. Remember, only 15 minutes about every 2 to 3 hours. You won’t get a lot of lubricant with the unit, so you can get some regular KY Jelly and that will work well also. If you wear it all day, make sure you use plenty of lube to cover the black portion that goes next to your skin. You don’t need to take it off in between uses. However, when you do take it off at night (if you do) give it a good wash with soap and water, and let it dry really good over night.

      • Brenda says:

        Thank you I found it and have ordered it – this will be easier if I can just wear it rather than trying to sneak away to a quiet place and try to pump with no interruptions.
        I truly appreciate teh instructions!
        Brenda

      • You will like it a great deal. There aren’t a lot of instructions in the packaging, so if you aren’t sure about what to do…experiment. Just keep a mindful eye on the screen as you play with the buttons. I found that a sports bra works really well to keep it in place all day, but my normal bra does just as well. Always start with the lowest settings and move up. You would be surprised at just how intense it can be. I usually have two ‘bars’ on the right side of the screen, while I crank up the speed to almost maxed. For me, I found that the fast speed was more productive for me than intensity. Good luck and Enjoy!!!!

  8. Gary says:

    Can you post instructions for this unit? We got ours today and cant get past the flashing icons.

    • BKW says:

      The on button is also the power button – you must turn on the unit then pick a mode – hit the on button again and you begin to feel the types of stimulation – you should only have to increase once or twice to begin feeling the unit work – then you can check the different modes and increase or decrease the intensity- once you are good with the intensity you can hit the s/p button – and then the power putton and it will increase the speed – be careful as this little machine can get very intense!

    • Sorry I didn’t get back to you quicker. But yes see BKW’s comments. Once you see the setting you want to try, tap the on button again to start. I will repeat BKW’s comment…be careful and only increase a step at a time. Now the button on the bottom ‘s/p’ is speed/power. When you first turn it on it is on power. Tap that button to then change the speed of your setting. I can only handle two bars on the power side, but can get up to the max on speed. Make sure you cover all of the black portion with lubricant….it will hurt if you let that touch bare skin

  9. Lia says:

    Hey, thank you for all the information you provide us. :) I’m starting to induce lactation now, but it’s a little bit difficult since I am a flight attendant (from Italy) and my hubby is not there all the time to “help” me. I have a 18 years old daughter and I breastfed her so I hope my breasts will remember to do it soon. So far (I started a week ago) I only have a light liquid (tea color, I guess) coming from my nipples. I hope this is normal, though I’m not expecting it to come in a white color straight. I have already ordered this unit and hope it will help me more, since I’ve only been using the breast massaging. Thank you again and I wish you all the best! :)

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