Everything You Need to Know About How to Hand Express Breast Milk

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
February 17, 2023
newborn baby sucks breast of the mother

Knowing how to hand express breast milk can be helpful for being in tune with your body. This is just as important as making sure your baby is fed properly. When you are a new mom, there is so much to learn about your baby's wants and needs.

There is nothing more you love than being a mom. Providing love and attention to your baby has brought such joy to your life. But, I think it is safe to say that it can be pretty hard at times.

Mastering the art of hand expressing can provide relief, help stimulate milk production, and even encourage your baby to latch when necessary.

What Is Hand Expressing?

Many moms have felt engorged at some point in time when your baby may not be hungry, or you may be without a breast pump. This is where hand expressing comes in.

Hand expressing your breast milk allows you to manually relieve your engorgement without needing a pump. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Not only can hand expressing help you relieve that engorgement, but it can also help stimulate your milk production.

Hand expressing can also be a great technique to learn before your baby even gets here. Some women have found hand expressing helpful in order to save colostrum that is produced during their pregnancy.

How to Hand Express Breast Milk

Knowing how to hand express breast milk properly is critical. While easy to learn, it does take practice. Over time, you will find what motions work best for you.

What you need

Haakaa Silicone Breastfeeding Manual Breast Pump Milk

Before you start, you are going to need a few things handy. The obvious thing you will need is something to put the milk you hand express into. Any container or a small silicone breast pump would be helpful.

Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags

If your baby isn't going to be consuming this milk right away, you will also need something to store your breastmilk in. This can be something as easy as a breast milk storage bag.

Now that we have all of the necessary containers, we are ready to get started.

A quick how-to

Hand expressing should be comfortable. If something hurts or feels uncomfortable, use the same basic technique but make adjustments until you find what works best for you.

Let's start with the basic technique to hand express. It's as easy as following three simple motions to press, compress, and release.

To begin, you are going to hold your nipple in the shape of a "C," using your fingers and thumb. Just be sure not to get too close to your areola.

Next, you are going to want to press your fingers and thumbs together, pushing inward toward your chest.

Move your fingers and thumb toward your nipple, compressing your breast. Be careful not to remove your fingers or thumb from your chest during this motion.

Without removing your hand from your breast, release. You will continue this technique on both breasts until you are done.

While you are hand expressing, there is one thing that will let you know you are doing it correctly. When you get a spray of breast milk from your nipple instead of just a dribble, you have found the correct method.

If you are still having trouble visualizing the process, take a look at this helpful how-to video:

Hand Expressing vs. Pumping: Is One Better?

Breast Feeding 2
Image source: freepik

Both hand expressing and traditional pumping have their advantages and disadvantages. But is one better than the other?

Simply put, one is not necessarily better than the other. They both get the job done and can come in handy in many different circumstances.

Some studies have shown that using a mixture of both hand expressing and traditional pumping can help to increase a mother's milk supply by almost 50 percent. That is incredible!

Advantages of hand expressing

The most significant advantage of knowing how to hand express breast milk is that hand expressing is free. All you need to purchase and have on hand are storage bags. Another huge advantage is you don't have the hassle of taking apart a pump to wash and sanitize all of the pump parts.

Another considerable advantage of hand expressing is that you don't have to carry around a large breast pump. Because you are just using your hands, you never have to worry about being unable to pump.

Knowing how to hand express breast milk is also a great solution if you are in a pinch and need some quick relief.

Disadvantages of hand expressing

However, hand expressing comes with a few small disadvantages. For example, it does take a little bit longer to hand express than use a traditional pump. Once you get the hang of how to hand express breast milk, it can become quite tiring to both your hands and wrists.

Disadvantages of traditional pumpingAdvantages of traditional pumping

Owning a conventional pump takes less time and is less tiresome on your hand and wrists. Because pumping in this manor is hands-free, you can multitask and get other things done at the same time.

Disadvantages of traditional pumping

Just because a conventional breast pump allows you to pump in less time, you will have to take the machine apart to clean and sanitize the parts. As a busy mom, this can be cumbersome.

All in a Day's Pump

Knowing how to hand express breast milk is going to be a game-changer for you. Because this technique only requires your hands, it is excellent for the on the go busy mom that you are.

Not only is this technique great for times when you are out and about and feel engorged, but it also allows you to be more in touch with your body and may help increase your milk supply.

Let us know in the comments below how you see hand expressing being helpful in your life!

Featured image source: freepik

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