How to Hand Express Your Breast Milk: The Ultimate Guide

twin mom about to hand express breast milk

Want to learn how to hand express your breast milk? Read on to learn what you need to do when you need to hand express your breast milk and what steps to take to ensure you’re doing it properly.

As a new mom, you are probably eager to start breastfeeding. But what do you do if you don’t have access to a breast pump? Or what if your baby is premature and can’t nurse yet? In those cases, hand expressing your breast milk can be a lifesaver! There are also numerous benefits to hand expressing breast milk, whatever the reason. In fact, the CDC recommends that all lactating women learn how to hand express breast milk. This guide will teach you how to hand express your breast milk safely and effectively.

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When to Hand Express Your Breast Milk

There are a few different situations when you might need or want to hand express your breastmilk:

1. If your baby is premature and can’t nurse yet

Sometimes, premature babies are not yet able to latch onto the breast and nurse. In that case, you can hand express your breast milk and feed it to them with a syringe or small cup.

2. If you have an ill or injured baby who can’t nurse

If your baby is sick or injured and can’t nurse, you can hand express your breast milk and feed it to them with a syringe or small cup.

reasons to hand express breast milk

3. If you are away from your baby and can’t pump

If you are away from your baby and can’t pump, you may need to hand express your breast milk to relieve engorgement or prevent mastitis.

4. If you want to boost your milk supply

If you are struggling with low milk production, hand expressing your breastmilk after nursing or pumping can help to stimulate more milk production.

5. If you want to collect your breastmilk for donation

If you are interested in donating your breast milk, you will need to hand express it into collection bags or bottles.

How to Hand Express Your Breast Milk: The Ultimate Guide

How to Hand Express Your Breast Milk

Now that you know when you might need to hand express your breast milk, let’s talk about how to do it step by step.

Wash your hands before hand expressing your milk

The first step is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. You don’t want to introduce any bacteria into your milk. Always wash your hands before handling your breasts or expressing milk.

There are a few different positions that you can try when hand expressing breast milk. You may need to experiment to find the position that is most comfortable for you.

Find a comfortable position to hand express

woman getting ready to hand express breast milk
  • Sitting up in a chair with your back supported
  • Lying down on your side
  • Standing up
  • Sitting on a bed or comfortable surface

Before you start expressing, take a few deep breaths and try to relax. Breastfeeding should not be painful. If you are feeling pain, stop and try a different position. Also, make sure that your clothing is not too tight or restrictive. You want to be comfortable and have easy access to your breasts.

Prepare your breasts for hand expression

Once you are comfortable, it’s time to prepare your breasts for expression. Gently massage your breasts in a circular motion. You can also try using a breast pump or your hands to stimulate let-down. Some moms find that using a warm compress on their breasts also helps with let-downs. The reason is that the warmth can help stimulate the release of oxytocin, the hormone that controls milk let-down. However, you should not use a heating pad on your breasts as it can cause burns.

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Begin to hand express your breast milk

Now it’s time to start expressing your breast milk. There are a few different ways to do this:

Use your thumb and first two fingers to make a “C” shape around your breast. Gently squeeze your fingers together while rolling them back towards your chest. This should express milk from the ducts closest to your nipple.

Use your thumb and first finger to make a “pinch” shape around your breast. Gently squeeze your fingers together while rolling them back towards your chest. This should express milk from the ducts further away from your nipple.

Use both hands to cup your breasts. Gently massage your breasts in a circular motion while squeezing them together. This can help to express milk from all of the ducts in your breasts.

woman cupping breasts before hand expressing breast milk

Experiment with different techniques and speeds to see what works best for you. Some moms find that they need to use a fast, rhythmic motion, while others prefer a slow, steady motion. You may also need to experiment with different amounts of pressure.

You should start to see the milk flowing into the bottle or collection bag. If you do not see any breast milk, gently massage your breast and try a different position. It’s also possible that your let-down reflex is not working properly. If this is the case, you may need to pump your breasts beforehand expressing.

Hand express until your breasts feel empty

Once the milk flow slows down, you can move to a different position and continue expressing until your breasts are empty. It’s important to make sure that you empty both breasts completely. If one breast is significantly fuller than the other, you may need to express from that breast first. This will help to prevent engorgement and mastitis.

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Clean up after you finish expressing your breast milk

When you are finished expressing, it’s time to clean up. If you are using a breast pump, clean all the parts that come into contact with milk. If you are hand expressing, wash your hands and breasts with soap and water. You should also sterilize any bottles or collection bags that you will be using.

What to avoid when you hand express your breast milk

There are a few things you should avoid when you hand express your breast milk:

  • Don’t use too much pressure. You should not feel pain when hand expressing breast milk. If you do, stop and try a different position or technique.
  • Don’t pull on your nipple. This can damage the delicate tissue in your breasts and cause pain.
  • Don’t squeeze your breast too hard. This can also damage the tissue in your breasts and make it difficult to express milk.
  • Don’t use a heating pad on your breasts. This can cause burns.
successfully hand expressing breast milk

Congratulations, you’ve successfully hand expressed breast milk

Hand expressing your breast milk is a great way to provide milk for your baby, even if you are away from home. It’s important to ensure you use the correct technique so you don’t damage your breasts. With a little practice, you’ll be a pro in no time!

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