Breast Milk Expression

Breast milk expression may be done by hand, with a manual pump, or with an electric breast pump.

Hand Breast Milk Expression

  • Position your hand on your breast with the thumb above and fingers underneath, about an inch to an inch-and-a-half behind the nipple. If your breast were a clock, your thumb would be at 12 o’clock and your fingers at 6 o’clock. Don’t cup your breast in your hand. Instead, your thumb and fingers should be directly across the nipple from each other.
  • Press your thumb and fingers directly back into the breast tissue, toward the wall of your chest. Don’t move them further apart. Just press straight back into the breast.
  • Roll your fingers and thumb forward to squeeze milk out of the milk ducts. Don’t slide the thumb or fingers along the skin as this will quickly make you sore.
  • Repeat this sequence—position, press and roll— until the milk flow ceases. Then move your hand so that the thumb and fingers are positioned at 11 and 5 o’clock and do it again. Use both hands to work your way around one breast, then switch to the other side until you have emptied all of the milk.
  • The trick to hand expression is discovering where to position your fingers. Experiment until you find the right spot. Having someone show you how is very helpful too. Our lactation consultants are great for that.
  • Combining hand-expression with breast massage can be a very effective way to stimulate the milk-ejection reflex. Massage first, then express. Massage again, and repeat the hand-expressing routine.

Pumping for Breast Milk Expression

  • The best time to pump is when you miss a feeding. You also can pump a little bit of milk after every nursing until you have enough for a full bottle. By doing it this way, you will not miss a feeding.
  • After your milk supply is well established, use a manual or single electric pump for 15 minutes on each breast if you miss a feeding.
  • Double electric pumps will pump both your breasts at the same time. Pump a total of 15 minutes.
  • If you want to store milk for later use, the early morning feedings are often the easiest to pump since your milk supply is at its highest. Consider having the baby nurse at one breast while you pump the other breast.
  • To add to previously frozen milk, cool the milk in the refrigerator before you add to the frozen milk. Make sure the newly added milk is of a lesser quantity than the previously frozen milk. This “layering” of milk is not recommended when storing milk for a sick or premature baby.

Breastfeeding & Lactation Consultants

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