Updated: Sep 7
Hand expression is refined art that is learned through prenatal education. Hand expression is a technique in which breastfeeding mothers or care providers use one or two hands to apply gentle pressure to the breast to express.
To receive the optimal efficiency at milk removal we first have to stimulate the letdown reflex. A “let down” is the reflex initiated when the nipple is stimulated, suckling of baby, hand expression, or pumping will send a signal up to the brain to release the hormone oxytocin, which then travels through the bloodstream until it reaches the mammary gland. There oxytocin binds to small muscles surrounding the milk-producing cells leading to milk secretion through the milk ducts towards the nipple.
Reasons why you would hand express
Sometimes babies may not be able to latch on right away at the hospital, hospital may be concerned with weight gain and may want to supplement or your baby may not drain your breasts well enough. Hand expression is a great way to keep your baby fed and protect your milk supply.
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Hand expressed milk can also serve as a supplement of your milk
If baby is not latching properly or right away hand expression can be used to supplement your milk you have expressed instead of formula. We suggest spoon or cup feeding. This way baby doesn’t have nipple preference when baby does begin to latch.
Hand expression is to help entice your baby
Expressing a tiny bit of milk from the nipple to give to your baby to taste while they attempt the latch along with continuous breast compressions can calm a fussy baby with a steady flow of milk to encourage your baby to keep suckling.
Hand expression after nursing or pumping
I coach moms during prenatal education to get in the habit of hand expressing to completely drain the breast. Babies only drain about 70-75 percent of the milk in your breasts. Mother's must keep the signal going to the brain to make more milk by completely draining the breast.
Hand expression is a quick remedy for engorgement. Sometimes the breast can be too full and swollen for baby to latch on to your nipple. We have to move that fluid away from the areola and nipple through reverse pressure softening and expressing a small amount of milk to soften the breast for baby to latch.
How to Hand Express
Before you start, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
Some mothers find gently massaging their breasts before expressing helps their milk to let down.
Cup your breast with one hand then, with your other hand, form a "C" shape with your forefinger and thumb.
With your index finger and thumb, press back on your breast and squeeze out forward to release milk.
Release the pressure, then repeat, building up a rhythm. Try not to slide your fingers over the skin. Drops should start to appear, and then your milk usually starts to flow. If no drops appear, try moving your finger and thumb slightly, but still avoid the darker area.
When the flow slows down, move your fingers round to a different section of your breast, and repeat.
When the flow from one breast has slowed, swap to the other breast.
Keep changing breasts until your milk drips very slowly or stops altogether.
Hand expression takes an extreme amount of confidence and knowing your body. Unfortunately, some women, have dealt with sexual trauma, may have difficulty with hand expression. If you have experienced sexual trauma or violence please seek counseling. Mothers NEED to understand how your body works and that human touch is what activates the most powerful hormone,oxytocin, in order for you to breast-feed and or chest feed.
Early education is key so sign up for a class today!