Hand Expression

Hand Expression

Hand expression is a useful and helpful technique that can assist you during your feeding journey whether breastfeeding or pumping. It encourages the milk ejection reflex (MER) or ‘let-down reflex’ and helps keep breast milk flowing during nursing and pumping. Studies have shown that hand expression can significantly increase the amount of milk expressed each breastfeeding or pumping session.

How to perform hand expression?

1. Wash your hands

2. Gently massage both breasts with your finger tips

3. Form a C shape with your thumb and index finger

4. Place the index finger under the breast and the thumb on the top of the breast, maintaining the C shape

— when breastfeeding

-Make sure to place your hand far enough behind the nipple and areola so you don’t get in the way of your baby’s latch

-Maintain the gentle massage while baby is sucking at the breast

-Repeat the breast compression when baby is sleepy and until there is no active swallowing.

-Once baby stops actively sucking on the first breast even with compression, offer the other breast and repeat steps

— when pumping

-Gentle massage before starting your pump

-While pumping continue performing hand expression as described above

-Using a hands free pumping bra can be so helpful and gives you both hands to express

-You may need to hold the flange in place while hand expressing with the other hand to prevent the flange from coming off

-Once you have finished pumping hand express one more time both breasts and target any areas if they feel full

Hand expression is such a great technique to know about even prior to having your little one. The first few days your “first” milk, colostrum, is thick and sticky. Performing hand expression can help facilitate milk removal and express drops of colostrum for your infant.

Hand expression is a key and important component to milk removal and your feeding journey.

By Danielle Donovan RN, BSN, IBCLC


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