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Being a mother for the first time can be a completely overwhelming experience. You will need to have a crash course in milk production, electric breast pumps, breast milk storage, and all sorts of things you have never had to deal with before. I want you to know that you are not alone in this. I’m here to help you. Today I’m going to be helping you learn more about hand expressing breast milk.

Hand expressing breast milk is a great method.Yes, you can use a breast pump but the hand expression method also is very useful. This specific technique is known as manual expression.

Let’s explore the hand expression method of pumping breast milk in more detail.

Firstly most mothers or mothers to be are probably wondering a few things.

For example, you could be wondering, what is the purpose of learning how to hand express breast milk?

After all, you could just use a breast pump?

RELATED: Spectra vs Medela: Which Breast Pump Is Better For You

This is a very valid point, however, there are actually some major benefits of choosing the hand expressing milk technique.

The real benefits of choosing this milk supply technique

  • Firstly you will get more milk out. Much more than you would with simply pumping.
  • No equipment or any special materials are needed.
  • It does not cost one cent, and you can do it anywhere.
  • It is a great method to use if your newborn won’t latch.
  • Hand expressing milk can help relieve engorged nipples.
  • This may help release any remaining milk.
  • It is a great method to use in order to save milk for later.
  • It is completely natural.
  • It does not make any noise.
  • It can actually assist you in noticing changes with your breasts.

Baby with blue eyes drinking milk from bottle

The disadvantages of using the hand expression method

The good news is that there are not many disadvantages at all.

In fact, there are many more advantages to expressing your breast milk with your hands.

As with everything else, there are a few cons, and it is important to be aware of these.

  • It is going to be quicker and also easier to make use of a breast pump.
  • You may not get the same results that you would from an electric pump.
  • It will take practice, and it may not come easily.
  • You will need to have lots of patience.
  • There is a possibility that this method won’t work for you.

woman massaging her breast

Things you need to know about hand expressing breast milk

The truth is that this may not be a walk in the park, especially the first few times.

This is one of those things that is going to require patience and practice.

It is quite normal for mothers to struggle with being able to express milk by hand the first few times.

The key factor to take into consideration is to never give up. Keep on trying as it will be worth it when you get it right.

Remember that this is something completely new for you.

Don’t expect yourself to do it right the first time. It is okay to struggle initially as this is actually completely normal.

Don’t stress too much about it and eventually, you will get it right. If the worst scenario happens, don’t feel let-down as there are many other options.

The next option could be to consult with a professional lactation consultant.

They do an excellent job, and they have vast experience with hand expressing breast milk.

Baby milk in a baby bottle

The good news about the hand expression of breast milk

The truth is that the hand expression technique becomes super easy.

After some practice, you will eventually get the hang of it.

If you are fortunate enough to have a midwife, you could ask her for a demonstration as she is a great person to assist you in the process.

If you are already using a breast pump, then this will be a great add on.

The ideal situation is to use both techniques and to be experienced with both.

Hand Expressing Milk Demonstration

Relaxation helps the milk flow

Many people do not know this. It may seem like something small, but it actually can end up making all the difference.

It is imperative for you as a mother to understand a few things. Breast milk has a tendency to flow easier when you are more relaxed.

There are even exercises you can do in order to become more relaxed.

Several useful breathing exercises can also help you.

Once again all of these things a professional could assist you with if you are having trouble on your own.

The right person will help you to feel comfortable, relaxed, and safe, and they will help you to get your milk flowing in no time.

woman in doctor's office holding baby

What you will need for this process:

  • A clean container to store breast milk.
  • Your breasts, of course.
  • Some privacy.
  • A comfortable area.
  • A distraction-free environment.
  • A calm and relaxed mood.
  • Around 30 minutes in terms of time.
  • A space that is clean and preferably germ-free.

expressed baby milk in containers

The steps for hand expressing breast milk

1.  Wash your hands very well with both warm water and soap.

This is the very first step in the process.

Each and every single time prior to starting, you need to make sure your hands are super clean.

Make sure to use soap and wash your hands for a few seconds. Rinse properly with water and dry off.

In addition, you can even wash your hands with hand sanitizer to ensure optimal levels of cleanliness.

woman washing hands

2. Get comfortable.

It is important than you get comfortable.

You need to be as comfortable and as stress-free as you possibly can be.

The more comfortable and relaxed you are, the higher the chances of success.

woman sitting and relaxing in a chair

3. Massage your breasts

It is very useful to massage your breasts very gently before you begin.

This can help the milk flow, and it will make the process easier.

You can also make use of a warm towel which will help to soften your breasts before you begin.

You can soak the towel in warm water and then place it on your breasts for a few minutes.

You can also try stroking your breasts very lightly with your fingers.

You should begin from the top part of your breast right down to your areola and your nipple.

woman massaging her right breast

4. Move your hands to the C shape.

You will need to hold your breasts with both your thumbs and finger.

Basically, creating the C-hold entails cupping both your thumb and finger around your breast in the shape of a C.

Please note that you should not be touching your areola at all.

This is an important part of hand expressing.

5. Make use of the other hand.

While you are expressing milk it is important to make use of your other hand. Later on, you can change your hands around.

The other hand can be used in order to hold the container. It is imperative to ensure that the container or bottle is placed directly under your nipple.

6. Press your thumb and finger down.

It is now time to press down both your fingers and thumb.

This needs to be done extremely gently. Remember you need to go easy on your breast tissue. Everything needs to be done slowly and carefully.

You should not be in a rush at all.

7. Compress

The time has come for you to compress your breast, between both the thumb and finger.

Move both your thumb and finger a tiny bit in the direction of your nipple. It is important to not lift your fingers from the breast.

Again this needs to be done both slowly and carefully. The goal is to encourage sufficient milk flow.

8. Releasing is the next step

You will need to slowly release, but do not move your hands away from your breast.

9. Repeat comes next

In order to successfully express milk, you will need to repeat the movement. Move your hand slowly towards a different area each time that compression stops.

By moving to a new area you are compressing all of the milk ducts.

10. Release and repeat

It is imperative that you release and repeat. It may also be useful to copy the action of a baby breastfeeding.

You are now ready to switch breasts. Once the milk stops coming out of one breast, you can switch. Switch hands and start again with the other breast.

Things to avoid when using the hand expression technique

baby drinking milk

By being aware of what to avoid, everything will become easier.

It is best to know from the start exactly what should be avoided.

Do not force anything at any time. You may get frustrated and want the milk to come out. No matter how frustrated you get, do not try and force the milk to come out.

This will end up causing more harm than good.

Remember that both your breasts and nipples are extremely sensitive.

Do not try anything creative. Do not try any other techniques.

Rather wait it out, and speak to a professional. It is not worth it to try something on your own. Do not pull or push anything.

Just a tiny movement in the wrong way can end up causing harm.

Under no circumstances should you squeeze the breasts. This is very important information to be aware of.

If you squeeze your breasts, this could result in all sorts of bruising. It may also end up causing pain.

Don’t pull the nipple at all. Never ever pull the nipple.

This will not help the milk flow at all. In fact, this may end up causing damage to the breast tissue.

The last thing which you want is tissue damage so remember to never pull the nipple.

Even though it may be tempting to pull the nipple. we promise you that it won’t help at all. This will only cause more damage and additional frustration.

Don’t slide your hands. When you are expressing, it is important to never slide your hands. If you slide your hands over the breast that can cause skin burns.

Skin burns that take place on your breasts can cause extreme pain.

This is actually more common than people think. It can be simply avoided by not sliding your hands over your breasts.

If the hand expressing method doesn’t work

There is the possibility that the hand expression method won’t work for you.

It may appear this way at first, but there are a few things that you can do.

Firstly it is important that you do not panic. From a statistical point of view, most women are unable to breastfeed well at the beginning.

Your mood or technique may be a part of the problem. Both of these things could be affecting your milk flow, even if you are not aware of it.

Try to work on relaxing and improving your anxiety levels. This could make a huge difference.

Massaging your breasts is very important. If you are able to gently massage your breasts, this could help to get the milk flowing.

The option of making use of a warm towel may also be very beneficial in this regard.

In addition, you could try to change positions. Try rearranging your fingers so they are closer to the nipple.

This may make a fundamental difference. Alternatively, try positioning your fingers so they are further away from the nipple.

Either method may help you to hand express your milk better.

The other option is to chat with a midwife, your doctor, a counselor or even a lactose specialist.

There are many health care professionals who are available to help you.

They have both the expertise and the training to ensure your success.

Doctor Meeting With Female Patient M

In Conclusion

In conclusion, it is important to never feel alone.

There are millions of mothers all over the world going through exactly what you are.

They are also feeling the same fears and anxieties.

Hand expressing milk does take some time and effort. Try not to become discouraged and keep trying.

Eventually, you may get it right, and it will all be worth it.

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