Hand expressing your breast milk is especially useful in the early days of breastfeeding. New moms are encouraged to begin hand expressing their colostrum so baby can quickly gain all its nutritious and protective benefits. This is essential when mom and baby are separated. Other reasons to hand express:
- It helps stimulate your breast milk production which increases your supply
- It’s an easy, immediate way to relieve engorged breasts
- It’s convenient and free
Prepare for Hand Expression
- Wash your hands.
- Ready a clean container to collect your milk; colostrum can be expressed into a small (5ml) container or even onto a teaspoon if you want to feed it to your baby immediately.
- Relax and get comfortable (privacy will help too). Take some deep breaths and drop your shoulders, relax and visualize flowing milk. It can be easier to get your milk flowing if your baby is nearby. – if he is not try thinking about him, or looking at a photo or recording of him.
How to Hand Press Breast Milk
- Gently massage your breasts with your hands and fingertips to stimulate your milk ejection reflex – this is the key to effective hand expressing.
- Hold your breast with your fingers and thumb cupped around your breast in a C shape, near but not touching your areola.
- Press your fingers and thumb back towards your chest.
- Compress your breast between your fingers and thumb, moving them slightly towards your nipple without lifting them from your breast.
- Release without moving your hand from your breast.
- Repeat, moving your hand to a different place around your breast after every few compressions or whenever milk flow stops, so that you compress all of your milk ducts. Releasing and repeating rhythmically helps to mimic the action of a baby breastfeeding.
- Bend forward with your breasts suspended allows gravity to help your milk flow.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Frequent short sessions are usually more effective than infrequent, longer expressing sessions. The whole process may take 20 or 30 minutes, but you can stop and start again later if you need to.
For most moms it’s a process of trial and error. When you get a spray of milk from at least one nipple pore (instead of drops or a dribble), you’ve found what works for you.
The signal to your breasts to make milk happens right after delivery. By hand expressing in these first hours, you’re ensuring a good supply of your future milk. A good supply is key to successful long-term breastfeeding and all the benefits you and your baby will enjoy.
Still unsure? Check out this how-to video from Dr. Jane Morton, pediatrician and director of the Breastfeeding Medicine Program at Stanford Medicine.
Want to Know More?
- La Leche League International: The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding