Hand Expression of Breast Milk
Hand expression is an important and helpful skill to learn. It
makes breastfeeding easier and will work better than a pump once
it is learned. It will also become more convenient than a pump as
there are only your hands to wash.
If you need a pump, using hand expression as well, can help increase
your milk supply.
When to hand express
- if your baby is born premature, near term or has been separated
from you for medical reasons,
- if your breasts feel too firm before a feed and it is difficult
for the baby to latch.
- if you are away from baby at feeding time,
- anytime your breasts feel too full,
- to restart a milk supply
- if baby has not been nursing or has weaned.
Instructions for Hand Expression of Breast Milk*
Make sure your hands are very clean.
For a minute or so massage, towards the nipple.
With index finger and thumb lined up with nipple,
press inward slightly toward chest wall. Avoid
cupping the breast.
Rotate your thumb and fingers to milk other
reservoirs, using both hands on each breast.
Firmly but gently compress thumb to finger. Compress, release
Compress and roll your thumb
pad against your finger pad
like you are rolling out a marble.
This will push out the milk
behind the nipple.
Expressing should not hurt. Be gentle.
Collecting your milk:
Many moms practice hand expression in the tub or shower. Some
mothers can hold their baby in the clutch position to nurse with
one hand, and at the same time, express into a bowl on the other
side. It is easier to catch the spray of milk if you use a wide
Who to ask if you need help:
- a friend who has hand expressed
- Public Health Nurse
- La Leche League leader
- Lactation Consultant.
You may decide to use a breast pump. Hand pumps or battery pumps
are good for pumping once in a while. If you will be doing a lot
of pumping, consider getting a quality electric double pump that
will be more effective. For more information, see Resources.
* adapted with permission from Chele Marmett for Saskatoon Breastfeeding