One of the first things I learned about Francie was her catchphrase, "Go milk yourself." I had absolutely no idea what that meant. In time I learned that she was also a working mom of two, a birth doula, and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant-in-training. I also learned that "go milk yourself" referred to hand expression: a method by which a lactating parent can express and collect milk using only their hands and a container. Francie is passionate about it, and so I wanted to ask her how to hand express when you're breastfeeding, because while I knew you could sorta squeeze milk out of a lactating breast in a pinch (no pun intended), I didn't know it was a thing.
Now, when I say she's passionate about hand expression, I'm not exaggerating. She describes teaching other parents about this method as "her life's work," and she's not kidding. Her business, TheMilkinMama (and website of the same name) is designed to be a comprehensive hand expression resource for breastfeeding and chestfeeding parents. It has online workshops, videos, and links to other resources. Her team of teachers lead workshops for parents, birth professionals, and anyone else who supports parents who feed their babies with their bodies. Her book on the topic Go Milk Yourself: You Have Power. Express It! is coming out on October 10.
Yeah: she literally wrote the book on this, you guys.
I was curious. How does hand expression work? Could you really forgo a pump and just, well, milk yourself? A lot of my curiosity about hand expression was rooted in my deep-seated (and well-documented) hatred of pumping. I loathed pumping, largely because it was rare that I could never pump enough to provide sufficient milk for my infant when I was at work. Though I haven't nursed a baby in over a year now, listening to Francie teach others about hand expression and laud it as a viable option for breast-and-chestfeeding parents made me wonder if I'd missed out on an opportunity just because I'd never really considered it as an option.
So then I thought, "Hey! Maybe more people should consider it as an option. Even if it's not something that's going to work for everyone, people should probably know about it, right?"
Turns out, Francie is all about options, and graciously agreed to tell me all about hand expression so that I could pass it on to you.