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What is hand expression and how can I go about it?

Hand expression is a way of removing milk from a mother’s breast without needing any devices like a manual or electric pump. It is an acquired skill and one gets better with consistent practice.

  • Hand expression is a useful skill even when you are using a manual and electric pump – typically post pumping hand expression also yields some amount of milk (depends on mother to mother).
  • It is easy on the pocket without any additional investment to buy expensive pumps.
  • You don’t need to worry about sterilizing pump parts, getting the right flange side
  • Hand expression also comes handy when mother’s are engorged and hand expression till engorgement subsides helps relieve the mother and avoids fast letdown affecting babies to gag, cough or spit up
Image Credit: https://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/

Steps to Hand express
a. Stress can affect letdown but not supply. Relax and take deep breaths as this enables the mother to have a letdown. Watching your baby’s videos/ photos/ doing other tasks that relax you can help with letdown and thereby a higher yield.

2. It is always a good practice to massage your breasts prior to hand expressing.
a. Massage from the armpit to the areola
b. Stroke the breasts around all ducts
c. Hold the entire breast and shake it
d. All of the above should be done gently

3. The above steps are useful to stimulate the breasts to have a higher yield of milk.

4. Sit upright with back support in a position that you are comfortable in.

5. Keep a wide mouthed container you want to collect milk in, below the nipple.

6. Hold your breast with your fingers and thumb cupped around your breast in a C shape or U Shape.

7. Press your fingers and thumb back, towards your chest.

8. Gently squeeze to compress your breast between your fingers and thumb while sliding your fingers towards your nipple without lifting the fingers off the breast.

9. Release the compression without moving your hand from the breast. Repeat the squeeze and compression until no milk flows.

10. Change the angle of the U/ C hold and cover all angles similar to the hands of the clock by moving your hand to different parts of the breasts.

11. Try to apply and release pressure rhythmically just like a baby would nurse.

12. You can stop once you are getting no milk from all angles.

13. Over time, some mothers find that they can collect more milk by compressing specific milk ducts.