The hand expression of breast milk, also called manual expression, is a technique where you use your hands instead of your baby or a breast pump to get the breast milk out of your breasts. This skill is pretty easy to learn and is a good technique to know and practice when you begin breastfeeding so that you’ll be ready if and when you need it.

When Hand Expression Is Helpful

You may wonder why anyone would want to express their breast milk by hand when they could use a breast pump. While many people who breastfeed use a breast pump, especially if they need to pump very often, hand expression is still a valuable skill to learn. This technique comes in handy when:

  • A source of electricity is not available, your pump stops working, or it needs new batteries.
  • Your breasts are engorged and hard right before breastfeeding, so you may express a little bit of breast milk to soften them and make it easier for your baby to latch on.
  • Your breasts become full and uncomfortable while you’re away from your baby, and you don’t have your breast pump with you.
  • You’re collecting colostrum for your preemie or newborn and since there’s only a small amount, you want to get as much as you can without losing any in the pump parts or tubing.

How to Hand Express Breast milk.

  • Place your thumb on the breast above the areola (dark area around the nipple). Place your first finger below the nipple and areola.
  • Support your breast with the rest of the fingers.
  • Gently press toward your chest wall with your thumb and finger together, continue to squeeze the breast while moving your hand away from the chest wall. This should not hurt, if it does then one is not doing it the right way.
  • Press the same way all around the areola in order to empty all parts of the breast. Do not squeeze the nipple.
  • Express one breast for 3-5 minutes until the flow slows down and then switch to the other breast. Then do each breast again.

When you’re in the hospital after the birth of your baby, ask your nurse or the hospital’s lactation specialist to teach you how to hand express your breast milk. If you want to learn the technique, or you have any questions after you leave the hospital, you can ask the nurse during your well baby clinic visit.

Tips Courtesy Of M.P. Shah Well Baby Clinic


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