Expressing Breast Milk By Hand: Advantages, Techniques & Tips

How To Express Breastmilk By Hand

Medically Reviewed By
Shruti Kanchan (Lactation Specialist)
View more Lactation Specialist Our Panel of Experts

Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for your newborn baby. The first six months post childbirth, breast milk is the exclusively recommended source of nutrition for your baby. Though breastfeeding is advocated, hand expressed milk is fed to the baby in situations where the mother is unable to feed the baby directly from the breast.

What Is Hand-Expressing Breast Milk?

When breast milk is expressed from the breast with the use of hands, it is known as hand expression of breast milk. Milk is expressed by hand to save it for later feeds, to help relieve breast engorgement, or to prevent mastitis. Many women find hand expression easier and more convenient than expressing milk with the help of breast pumps. It does not require any tool or device. Also, more milk can be expressed with the hand as compared to breast pumps.

Advantages of Expressing Milk by Hand Over Breast Pumps

There are many benefits of hand expressing breast milk, such as:

  1. It is convenient and requires minimal effort.
  2. It is inexpensive as compared to breast pump expression.
  3. It does not require any electricity for expression of milk.
  4. Hand expression of breast milk generates more milk because of skin-to-skin stimulation.
  5. It does not cause any discomfort when compared to electric pumps.
  6. You may express milk anytime and anywhere.
  7. It saves you the effort of sterilizing the breast pump.

When Should You Express Breast Milk by Hand?

You may express breast milk by hand in the following cases:

  • You find breast pumps difficult or cumbersome to use.
  • Your breast feels too full, and you could ease out the discomfort by expressing some milk from the breasts.
  • You may express some milk to lure your baby to latch.
  • You find breast pumps to be expensive.
  • To provide relief from engorgement or blocked ducts.
  • To get rid of sore nipples.

Step-Wise Procedure of Stimulating the Milk Ejection Reflex

Mothers often face challenges with milk expression, but with the right kind of technique and massage, you can achieve good results. The technique of MER, or milk ejection reflex, can be performed in the following way:

  • You may begin by massaging the milk-producing cells and ducts at the top of the breast. Press firmly against the chest wall, and move your fingers in a circular motion.
  • Stroke the breast from the top to the nipple in a rhythmic manner.
  • While leaning forward, shake your breast for the milk to flow.

How to Manually Express Breast Milk – The Marmet Technique

The Marmet technique of breast milk expression is a very famous technique.

Clean your hands, and procure a clean bowl. Now, begin by placing your thumb and the first two fingers around the areola and an inch away from the nipple, in a C position. You should push into your chest wall, and then roll the fingers downwards to empty the breast. Refrain from pulling or squeezing your breast hard. Repeat the procedure a couple of times, and try changing the position of your fingers slightly to express more milk. Repeat the procedure on the other breast as well.

More Tips for Expressing Milk by Hand

It is recommended that before you begin to express milk, you locate the milk ducts and know the correct technique. You may use a warm washcloth to relax your breast. It is also advised to express milk while leaning forward in a sitting down position. You can collect the milk directly in the bottle or a clean container.

What If Hand Expression Will Not Work for You?

Many women find hand expression challenging, but mastering the right technique, and a little patience, can help you express milk from your breast. It may take you some time to get the hang of the technique, but if you still find hand expression challenging, then you can use manual or electric breast pumps.


How to Store Hand-Expressed Breast Milk

In hand expression versus breast pump techniques, hand expression yields better results. The self-expressing breast milk technique helps extract more milk from the breast, and it can be stored in the following ways:

  • At room temperature (25 degrees or below) for up to 6 hours
  • In the refrigerator for up to 7 days (keep away from door)
  • In the freezer for up to 2 months (keep away from door)
  • Up to 6 months if stored at minus 18 degrees or lower in a deep freezer

Breast milk is ideal for your baby, and expressed milk can be given to your little one in your absence, or when he is unable to feed on the breast (premature baby). Breast milk expression is not only good for the mother (in case of working mothers or mothers having medical problems like mastitis or breast engorgement) but for the baby as well (premature birth or where the mother is unavailable to feed). Choose the right technique for yourself for hand expression, and remember to always to do a smell and taste check of the hand-expressed milk before giving it to your baby.

Also Read:

Advantages Of Breastfeeding for Babies & Mothers
Guide to Breastfeeding with Flat or Inverted Nipples

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