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Learning how to hand express breast milk may take some practice, but lots of parents find that it's worth it in the long run. It means you can express milk without the need for a pump and can help you increase your milk supply and promote a good latch for your baby.
If you're a new parent who wants to learn the art of hand expressing breast milk without a pump, you've come to the right place. We're here to cover the essential steps and give you some helpful tips so that you have all the information you need to express with ease.
Hand expression can be useful if you don't have a breast pump or want some quick relief from engorgement. It involves gently squeezing your breast to get breast milk out and then collecting it in a sterile container, ready to go into storage or to feed to your baby.
Some parents are only able to collect a small amount at first, but getting started with hand expressing during pregnancy is great practice for when your breast milk fully comes in. You can start expressing colostrum by hand before your baby arrives from around the 36th or 37th week of your pregnancy.
Let's go over the process of expressing breast milk, step by step.
Before expressing and handling breast milk, wash your hands with soap and warm water, and dry them with a clean towel. Then, make sure you have a sterilized cup, bowl, or bottle to collect the milk.
To prepare for expressing breast milk, sit in a comfortable seat with a drink and something relaxing, like a podcast or TV show.
This can stimulate the release of oxytocin, an important hormone for lactation. Oxytocin not only helps to release breast milk, but it can also promote feelings of relaxation and calmness for moms.
Place your finger and thumb opposite one another on your breast, with your thumb at 12 o'clock, and finger at 6 o'clock. This position is known as the C-hold and is perfect for expressing breast milk by hand.
You might find that there's a bit of a delay before your breast milk or colostrum begins to trickle out. Take your time and establish a comfortable rhythm that works for you.
After your breast milk or colostrum starts to flow, you can try expressing it from different areas of your breast by adjusting your hand placement.
When you've expressed all the milk you can from one breast, repeat the process on the opposite one, then go back to the first breast. You can repeat this process as many times as feels comfortable for you.
Once you're done, you can either feed your baby the expressed milk straight away using a bottle or safely store it in the fridge or freezer to be used at a later date.
Hand expression can take five minutes per breast if you just want to express to provide some light relief, but it may take between 10 and 30 minutes per breast if you want to express a full feed.
The truth is, the amount of time it takes to hand express milk depends entirely on the person who's expressing - no experience is the same!
You can reduce the chance of getting messy while hand expressing by having a muslin cloth positioned under your breast to catch any drips. You can also have a warm, wet cloth close by to clean up after.
To help establish breast milk production if you're not breastfeeding a newborn, you should aim to hand express between eight and 12 times a day, including at least once during the night.
Choosing a Breast Pump
If you're thinking of using a breast pump as part of your feeding routine, we're here to help find the perfect one for you.
What is Colostrum and How to Collect it
When you're pregnant, you can collect colostrum by hand expressing, then use it to feed your newborn baby.