Photo by Timothy Meinberg / Unsplash

Hand Expressing Milk Easily

Pumping Sep 30, 2022

Want to know how to express breast milk manually?

Hand expression refers to when a woman manually expresses breast milk. 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

  • If your breasts are too full, expressing will soften the breasts and make it easier for your baby to latch on.
  • To tempt your baby onto the breast, some milk can be hand expressed and placed on your nipple or your baby's lips.
  • Hand expression is more comfortable for some mothers compared to pumping.
  • Some mothers cannot afford a breast pump.
  • It allows a mother to be away from the 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 lift them and then press inward. Roll your thumb and finger 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, and move your fingers in circular motions around the breast until you reach the areola.
  • Shaking your breasts while leaning forward can also stimulate the milk ejection reflex.
  • A warm bath will help release the milk easier; you can use a warm wet facecloth for the same purpose.

Read more about breast massage here.

For the best hand expression results, mothers will need to improve their ejection reflex as explained above, then use the expression technique and repeat the process. This whole process should take about 30 minutes to complete. Expressing at least eight times daily is recommended to keep a good supply if 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 breast tissue.
  • Looking at your baby or a picture of them will help with milk letdown.
  • Massaging your breasts beforehand will stimulate a letdown reflex.
  • Hand expressing breast milk more frequently, rather than more extended periods at a time, will be easier initially.

An Extra Tip

Use a Haakaa Pump on the breast you are not expressing to collect all the letdown, which would otherwise be lost into a breast pad.

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Tracy Behr

Mom of two, breastfeeding helper, and lover of all things natural! Studying a breastfeeding counselor course via Childbirth int. & plant-based nutrition via the Nutrition Inst.

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