How To Hand Express Breast Milk And Why You Should

In some cases, hand expressing breast milk may be necessary for comfort levels.

Expressing milk means removing breast milk from your breast. In most cases, it is so that you can store it for use at a later date.
Women have different motivations for doing this. Many women exclusively express and cup or bottle feed their baby breast milk while others build up a supply in the freezer for when they will be away from their baby.
Many women use a breast pump and there are varying results depending on the brand, breast size and individual’s supply. Some women prefer to hand express as the method of removing milk from their breasts.
In some cases, hand expressing breast milk may be necessary for comfort levels. For example, a woman’s breasts may feel uncomfortably full or engorged and she may need to take the edge of that discomfort by removing a small amount of milk from her breasts.
This can be especially true in the early days when your milk “comes in” and your breasts fill with milk quite quickly.
Of course, it is encouraged to feed on demand and for the baby to empty the breasts at their natural rate of hunger and feeding as this is what regulates your supply and “places the order” for future feeds. Breast milk is a case of supply and demand.

Hand expressing means that you do not require a pump which saves you having to buy or borrow one. For someone who does not plan to express regularly, it can be quite helpful. Hand expressing can also relieve discomfort or pain if a milk duct becomes blocked.
If you need to hand express milk, these tips should help you do it in an effective way:
  • Ensure that you have a sterilized feeding bottle or container to “catch” the milk as it flows.
  • Wash your hands with warm soapy water.
  • It may help to gently massage your breast tissue before expressing as it may help your “let down”. This is the part of the process where milk flows. Some women notice that their let down is a lot slower (or almost impossible) when they hand expressing or using a pump whereas they have no issues when their baby feeds directly from the breast. It is as though their breasts know that this is not a baby trying to remove the milk.
  • Cup your breast with one hand while the other makes a “C” shape around the areola area with your thumb and forefinger.
  • Squeeze gently around the areola area (the dark ring around your nipple) and do not squeeze the actual nipple itself.
  • Find a rhythm as you release the pressure and repeat these steps as the milk begins to flow. You may notice small drops initially before the “let down” and flow occurs.
  • If you notice the flow has reduced you can reposition your thumb and forefinger to a different part of the breast.
  • Repeat the above steps on the other breast until only small drops of milk begin to flow (or it ceases completely).

Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at

Tracey Quinn

Proud mum of two who got married on Don't Tell The Bride and had an accidental home-birth (loves a good story). She's passionate about breastfeeding, positive thinking & all things cosy.

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