MotherWork Series

Learn it. Love it. Live it. The benefits of Hand Expression

by Lauren Magee, Breastfeeding Peer Counselor ©2013


As the door closes behind me a check list goes off in my head. Stove off? Check. Alarm on? Check. Diaper bag? Check. Got the kids? Ok lock up and ready to go. At work, break time rolls around and crap! I forgot my pump! Venturing into the blissful world of breastfeeding can be a bitter sweet experience, and for those of us on the go it can throw an extra curve ball. Once a set routine is established life can be as simple as you once knew it.

“Hand expression helps you produce and express more milk than the average pump.”

But what about those times your brain decides to take a break without your permission? Sometimes making the most simplest of task to severe. What do you do when you forget your pump? Or leave a piece at home, or in my misfortune the pump just simply breaks all together in the middle of a session? Thus the art of hand expression is born. Some of us are intimidated about this task, while others just feel it is simply a waste of energy and time. Well I’m here to tell you it can be quick, easy and pain free. Learning the art of HAND EXPRESSION is an amazing tool to have when: there is no electricity to use a pump or if your breasts are too sore and engorged to use one.


Hand expression affords a more comfortable approach to help release milk by helping to ease the pain and discomfort due to those particular situations. It also helps you produce and express more milk than the average pump. The key is to choose which technique works best for you. Stay in your comfort zone. You may view and try one version and over time with more practice find a different technique is more suitable and comfortable for you. Once you get your own rhythm it can be as simple as A-B-C, 1-2-3.

So let’s begin. To help stimulate the breast and bring the milk down you must first gently massage the breast either with your knuckles or both hands in a circular motion similar to that of a self-breast exam. After stimulating for a few minutes then you may choose the method that is most suitable for you and start the process of expression. The most common and traditional method is the PRESS, COMPRESS AND RELEASE. Do not pull skin tightly just gently press inward toward the chest cavity, press down on the rim of your areola then gently press releasing the milk. This technique can be seen viewing the VIDEO LINK below created by the “STANFORD SCHOOL OF MEDICINE”

Hand Expression – Newborn Nursery at LPCH – Stanford University School of Medicine

I myself like to use the roll and press method. I do this by cuffing the bottom of the breast with four fingers and massaging the top of the breast in a circular motion with the thumb. Then I gently roll my thumb down toward the areola and press around the rim. DO NOT tug or pull as this can lead to pain or clogged ducts at that time or in the future. To view the various styles of this method please refer to the attached link from “BREAST FEEDING MEDICINE OF NORTHEAST OHIO”.

Breastfeeding Medicine of Northeast Ohio: What to Expect During a Visit

Notice how some mothers pinch too close to the nipple or too far back from the areola were most of the glands filled with milk are. DO NOT pinch. There is no milk in the actual nipple. The milk that is formed and ready for release sits in the ducts found behind the areola. This is why I believe you can express more milk by hand than pump because the pump can’t completely compress down on the areola as well as you can with hand expression, thus still leaving milk behind. I normally suggest to mothers if crunched for time, use the pump to get out the bulk of your milk, and then hand express soon after pumping to get the maximum amount of milk. Unless otherwise instructed by your doctor or IBCLC.

“The key is to choose which technique works best for you. Stay in your comfort zone.”

Remember to be patient, as with any new lesson it takes time to learn. The world of breast feeding is an amazing journey for both mom and baby. Mother-to-Mother support groups are one of the best methods to keep you motivated. I hope sharing my experience can enhance another’s. Just know you are not alone. There are support resources at the click of a button and from advocates in your community. Stay strong, relax and have fun. Always enjoy the bond between you and your little one.



One thought on “MotherWork Series

  1. Couple added comments here:
    1. Using hand expression techniques during pumping with an electric pump was the only way for me to get any milk out at all with the pump. I had to do one breast at a time due to having very large boobs, and my “sweet spots” are well beyond the flanges.

    2. Knowing where the “sweet spots” are allowed me to nurse two difficult babies with suck issues while they still had suck issues. I used massage and compression with both my younger children to keep their intake up, despite #2’s neurological/chromosome issues and #3’s bad tongue tie.

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