Using Hand Expression to Support Breastfeeding

Did you know that you don't need a breast pump to express milk? "Hand expression" refers to the act of manually pumping milk from the breast using your hands. Knowing how to effectively use hand expression can help relieve engorgement, encourage milk supply, and even pump enough milk to store and feed baby at a later time. For the best results, follow these steps for hand expression:


1. Wash your hands.

2. Massage your breast.

3. Position your hand in a "C" shape on the outside of your areola (or 1-1.5 inches from your nipple) using your thumb and two forefingers.

4. Press back toward your chest.

5. Roll your fingers forward toward your nipple, compressing your breast.

6. Release & repeat. Be sure to change positions of your "C" throughout your session so as to use all of your milk ducts. If your breast was a clock, move your "C" so your thumb hits 12, 3, 6 & 9 o'clock.


When collecting milk during hand expression, use a cup, bowl or any container with a wide mouth opening. And, keep a towel under your breast to help absorb any runaway drips.

Hand expression can also be used while feeding your baby and while pumping to encourage flow. For more information, including an excellent video demonstration, check out these resources:

1. Hand expression basic instructions PDF - La Leche League

2. Hand expression video - Stanford School of Medicine (best video I've seen, by far)

3. More tips for hand expression - Dr. Sears  

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