To hand express breast milk

There are many benefits of hand expressing breast milk.

Ingela Ågren

Read time: 2 m

Verified by Ingela Ågren

Certified Midwife

To hand express breast milkPhoto: Preggers

Benefits include:

  • You are going away from the baby and still want to be able to provide breast milk
  • Stimulating the breasts will increase breast milk production
  • It hurts to breastfeed, and your nipples are sore
  • The breasts are too heavy and tight at the beginning of the feed, making it difficult for the baby to latch on to the breast
  • You want someone else to be able to feed the baby
  • The breasts feel overly full and you want to release pressure

Some women prefer to hand express the breasts while others favor breast pump expression. There are both manual and electric breast pumps. Hand expressing is free and always available, which is an advantage. Breast pumps can be purchased at pharmacies, in baby stores, and even in second-hand stores. Many maternity wards rent out electric breast pumps.

It may take longer for the let-down reflex to occur when you are hand expressing or using a breast pump, compared to when you breastfeed the baby. Some women have problems with let-down when using breast pumps, which does not mean they don’t have any breast milk. To combat slow milk let-down it may be helpful to create some peace and quiet around, to have eaten and had something to drink beforehand, to sit comfortably, and to warm the breasts. Many women experiment with hand expressing some milk in the shower the first few times.

Expressing breast milk by hand:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly before you start.
  2. Have a clean container ready to collect the breast milk. Learn more about how to store breast milk here.
  3. Stimulate the let-down reflex by carefully stroking the breast and touching the nipple.
  4. Place your thumb and index finger around the breast, roughly at the edge of the areola.
  5. Carefully press the fingers carefully into your breast, then squeeze them together and out toward the areola.
  6. Repeat the squeezing and releasing again and again and move your fingers to different sections around the areola. Make sure to squeeze all ducts to empty the whole breast.
  7. Keep in mind it may take several minutes before the let-down reflex occurs to make it easier to extract the milk. Don’t squeeze too hard on the breasts. It shouldn’t be painful to hand express breast milk.
Ingela Ågren

Verified by Ingela Ågren

Certified Midwife


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