The first time I heard about hand expression I thought, "You have got to be kidding me, right?" I had no idea how such a thing would even be possible. Squeezing milk out of my nipples with my bare hands?! I never would've guessed that nearly 8 years later I'd be ready to go pro. So, and at the risk of scaring all the new breastfeeding moms out there, I'm going to share things hand expression actually feels like.
If you're anything like me, at this point you're probably wondering, "Why would I ever hand express?" After all, you are a woman of the modern age and with all the conveniences of technology to help you actually have it all. Or, you know, at least a breastfed baby even when you're off doing modern-woman things like, well, working.
Well, dear reader, I totally thought that, too. Yet, here I am, a seasoned hand expression specialist. Moms end up hand expressing for all sorts of reasons including, but certainly not limited to: under supply, you want to make rice cereal but don't want to dive into your pumped stash, your office power goes out and you have no pump battery, or you have mastitis and your baby won't nurse. See? Aren't you glad I'm preparing you for all the ways hand expression will feel? Chances are, you'll end up doing it a time or two.
Like You're A Cow
Well, if a cow was capable of milking itself, since my hands are the farmer's hands in that scenario, too. So, um, moo?
Like Your Boob Is Stuck In An Elevator Door
Squeeze! Squish! Sqoosh! My boobs have been pancaked so flat with my hands I find it hard to believe a mammogram could be much different.
Like Something Pretty Amazing, When You Think About It
I mean, with all the discomfort and strange things you feel when you hand express, it's also super cool. Like, "Holy buckets, I'm milking myself, you guys! I'm squeezing my chesticles and milk is coming out of them!" kind of cool.
It's honestly worth taking the time to stop and think about how truly incredible the postpartum body is, then give yourself a pat on the back (rather than a squeeze on the boob).
Like A Whole Lot Of Pain
It hurts so bad at first, and especially if you're suffering from engorgement. You thought childbirth was tough? Try inflicting pain on your breasts, continuously and on purpose, for hours and days and weeks and even months on end.
Like You're Wringing Out A Washcloth
Then, like almost every other insanely incredible aspect of pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum life, it just becomes this normal, daily routine. You don't really think much of it, and it's just another item on your to-do list you cross off. You know, kind of like when you wring out a washcloth after you've finished with the dishes.
Like You're Popping Bubble Wrap
The bubble wrap isn't my nipples, though. (Side note: please don't squeeze your nipples while hand expressing. It won't help.) I'm talking about the snap, crackle, pop of my breast tissue under my fingers as I squeeze and slide them forward. Over and over and over again.
Like You're Draining Your Life Energy
When I am squeezing and massaging those milk sacks, and I see that boob juice coming out slowing but surely, it does kind of feel like that liquid is my life force. Drip, drip, drip. When you have undersupply, like I always have, this is really more of an accurate assessment of what is going on than any kind of metaphor.
Like Your Milk Is Bottomless
Yes, I've always struggled with undersupply. The funny thing, though, is that it never seems like my breasts completely empty. No matter how long I've been pumping, I can always express more and even though it's in tiny droplet form.
During my second child's nursing days I was told to rent a hospital grade breast pump to get more milk from the breasts. Yeah, that didn't really work. I was also told to try hand expression at the end of each pumping session to get "the last drops" out. Unless the last drops last forever, this didn't work either.
Like You're Bulldozing Your Own Skin
When you think about it, that's exactly what a breastfeeding person is doing when they're hand expressing. I, for one, was definitely bulldozing my flesh until all that milk shot out. What a pretty picture, huh?
Like You're A Badass
Not only did I create life with my own body, but I am sustaining life with my own body. I mean, that is some next-level badass stuff, my friends.