Hand Expression of Breast Milk

hand expression, breastfeeding

Want to know how to express breast milk manually?

Hand expression refers to when a woman manually milks the breast by hand. Some mothers find hand expression more natural and more efficient than pumping. Others find it a little bit more challenging.

When expressing milk by hand, remember practice makes perfect.

Reasons Why Mom Might Need to Hand Express

  • To express breast milk a little, if your breasts are too full.
  • To tempt your baby onto the breast. Some milk can be hand expressed and placed on your nipple or on your baby's lips. 
  • Hand expression is more comfortable for some mothers, compared to pumping. 
  • Some mothers cannot afford a breast pump.
  • Being away from your baby for a few hours. 
  • To relieve engorged breasts, blocked milk ducts or other breastfeeding problems.
  • If the mother’s nipples are sore and she wants to take a few hours break from breastfeeding.
  • To stimulate milk production.

Positioning when Expressing Breast Milk by Hand

Put your thumb above your nipple and two fingers below the nipple, your hand should form a C. 

How to Express Breast Milk with the Marmet Technique 

Push your fingers into your chest, if you have large breasts, you should first lift them and then press inward. Roll your thumb and finger forward towards the nipple to drain the milk reservoirs. Repeat this process a few times. Use both hands on each breast so that alternative reservoirs are emptied.

Do not squeeze your breast and do not pull your nipple too hard, this can cause damage. It should not hurt. 

Improving Milk Ejection Reflex when Hand Expressing Milk

  • Massage your breasts, move your fingers in circular motions around the breast until you reach the areola.
  • Shaking your breasts while leaning forward can also get the milk ejection reflex going.
  • Taking a warm bath will help release the milk easier, you can use a warm wet facecloth for the same purpose too.

Read more about breast massage here.

For the best hand expression results, mothers will need to improve ejection reflex as explained above, then use the expression technique and then repeat the process again. This whole process should take about 30 minutes to complete.  It is recommended to express at least eight times daily to keep a good supply while expressing exclusively.

When Manually Expressing Breast Milk

  • Always use a sterilized container for the expressed milk.
  • Wash your hands before expressing.
  • Express while you are relaxed and have plenty of time.
  • Follow safe milk storage guidelines.
  • Never press your breast tissue or nipple too hard, as this will damage the tissue.
  • Looking at your baby or a picture of him/her will help with milk letdown.
  • Massaging your breasts before-hand will stimulate a letdown reflex.
  • Hand expressing breast milk more frequently, rather than more extended periods at a time will be easier in the beginning. 

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