Hand expression is an essential skill all breastfeeding moms should have in their arsenal—and it's easier than you might think. In fact, some mothers find that hand expressing milk is even more effective and clears the breasts better than using a pump! And the convenience of travelling with the machine is a bonus 😉.
In the first few days of breastfeeding, hand expression is often the easiest way for moms to express colostrum. Hand expression can also help in cases of engorgement and plugged ducts or mastitis. Combining hand expression with pumping has even been shown to increase the volume of milk during a pump!
How to get started?
‘Wake up’ your breasts with a massage
There is a pool of breastmilk throughout your breasts and it’s always good to start with a massage to get it flowing. After ensuring your hands are clean, warm up your hands (by rubbing it together), then massage your breasts starting from the armpits and work your way to the nipple. You can gently squeeze, knead, sweep your fingers in a circular motion or walk your knuckles along your breasts.
Place your fingers in a “C” shape around the nipple
With the thumb on top and forefinger/middle finger below, place the fingers about an inch or so from the base of the nipple. The exact location of finger placement varies for each individual, so experiment to find where your ‘sweet spot’ is!
Once your fingers are in place, it’s time to express. Gently push your fingers toward your chest wall and roll your top and bottom fingers toward each other, you should see a drop or two of milk – you’re doing it right. Be patient though! It might take a minute or two to get it flowing.
Don’t’ forget to hold a storage cup to collect the milk with your other free hand!
Watch it flow
Once you see milk coming out, keep going and you’ll start to get into a rhythm. Sometimes, it just takes practice to get a good flow going! If the flow stops, change the placement of your fingers to make sure you’re hitting and clearing all the milk ducts. Try to work around all areas of your breast before you change sides.
Do this until you feel like you’ve emptied as much as you can, or when you’ve collected enough milk.
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