It’s important to express yourself, and I’m not talking about expressing emotions right now. 😉 Hand expressing breastmilk is a vital breastfeeding skill for breastfeeding health and success. This post will cover the what, why, how, and benefits of breast milk hand expression.
What is hand expression?
Hand expression is using your hands to remove milk from the breasts. It is an alternative way to remove milk from the breasts other than breastfeeding or using a pump. Many mamas find hand expression more comfortable than pump use.
Why use hand expression to remove milk?
Using your hands to remove breastmilk can be very useful in many situations.
Hand expression can relieve engorgement or plugged ducts, which are incredibly uncomfortable or even painful. Furthermore, hand expression allows you to express breastmilk when a pump is unavailable.
Sometimes, you need to hand express for the sake of baby. Hand expression can entice baby to the breast. It’s also highly effective in removing colostrum from the breast when baby won’t latch. Finally, in combination with breastfeeding and/or pumping, hand expression can increase breastmilk supply.
What are the benefits of hand expression?
Hand expression is incredible because it’s always available, free, and no equipment is needed! Hand expression can get you out of a major bind and should be seen as a necessary “tool” when taking care of baby.
Hand expression also allows you the ability to remove more milk than you would have by pumping or breastfeeding alone. Hand expressing after a feeding can even boost your supply!
As most breastfeeding mamas know, having a clogged duct is a massive bummer. Hand expression can help with plugged ducts. This is especially effective in the shower!
Finally, once you feel comfortable with hand expressing, you’ll feel empowered through the freedom it provides you. You will find that you don’t have to feel tied to a breast pump.
How do you hand express breast milk?
Now that we know why what hand expression is and why you should do it, let’s walk through exactly how to hand express milk:
- Wash hands and make sure your containers are clean (you can express into a cup, bottle, Haakaa pump, breast pump flange connected to a bottle, or even onto a spoon).
- Hold your breast in a “C” shape with your thumb and fingers in line with the nipple. Find your “sweet spot,” whether it is right behind the nipple or an inch away from the nipple.
- Press your fingers and thumb towards your chest.
- Compress your breast between your fingers and thumb (you may also gently move your fingers toward the nipple).
- Gently release the compression while keeping your hand on your breast
- Repeat! Move the location of your hand to different positions on the breast to help remove milk from more areas.
Things to consider & final thoughts
Be patient with yourself. It takes practice to figure out and become efficient with hand expression. Hand expression should not hurt–be gentle. You don’t want to be causing pain and inflammation in the breast.
If you have further questions on hand expression, reach out!