Sally is a stay at home mom to her newborn infant. She planned on exclusively breastfeeding her baby; however, one day Jacob decided to skip a feeding. When Sally was pregnant, she never researched breast pumps or what to do in case she ended up with engorged breasts. She wasn’t prepared when her breasts became engorged and they began hurting.
If you find yourself in Sally’s position, don’t worry you can effectively hand express enough breast milk to relieve the pain or you can use this technique on a daily basis to express breast milk. However, expressing breast milk by hand is very time consuming. Hand expressing breast milk is awkward at first and it takes practice to become effective at expressing the milk. Using the wrong technique can lead to tissue damage, sore nipples, burned skin, and potential breast infections.
Using the Proper Technique to Hand Express Breast Milk
Follow these steps to properly hand express breast milk.
1. Cup your breast using a C position. Place your thumb just above your nipple in the 12 o clock position and place your pointer finger and middle finger below the nipple in the 6 o clock position. Gently slide your hand back on the breast and slowly work your way towards the nipple, looking for the change in breast tissue. You want to place your fingers just above the milk reservoirs and you should be able to find them from feeling your breasts. Generally the milk reservoirs are just above the outer edge of the areola but not always.
2. Once you have located the milk reservoirs, slide your hand back towards your chest.
3. Roll your fingers down towards your nipple, stopping at the base of the nipple. You will roll your thumb and fingers simultaneously.
4. Repeat the motion until you have released all the the milk from the reservoirs.
5. Rotate your hand to find the milk reservoirs at 11 and 5 o clock, 1 and 7 o clock, and 3 and 9 o clock, until you have emptied the milk from your breasts.
Avoid Using these Motions While Hand Expressing Breast Milk
- Don’t squeeze the breast. Instead hold the breasts gently while using the downward motion used to express breast milk. This will avoid bruising on your breasts.
- Don’t pull on the breast or nipple. Doing so many cause unseen damage to your breast tissue.
- Avoid sliding your hand on your breasts, this can cause your skin to burn similar to a rug burn.
Tips for Expressing Breast Milk
- Find a comfortable chair.
- Allow yourself at least 20-30 minutes.
- Hold a picture of your baby to help trigger milk let down.
Catching Expressed Breast Milk
If you planning on using the breast milk that you are expressing, you should use a sterile bowl or container. The best container for this method is a wide mouthed container. Once you have finished expressing the breast milk, transfer the milk into a sealed bottle or storage bags designed to store breast milk.
When Should I Hand Express?
Hand expression is great for mother’s who exclusively breastfeed and don’t need to express breast milk on a regular basis. If you have to pump multiple times a day or for an extended amount of time, you might want to invest in a breast pump. Hand expression is great for:
- Relieving occasional engorgement
- Drawing out flat or inverted nipples
- To unclog a milk duct
- Relieve symptoms of mastitis