Hand expression is one of the many methods used to remove milk from a mother's breasts, and it's also one of the least talked about. When practiced correctly, however, hand expressing can be an extremely effective way to remove milk quickly. It can be a bit tricky to know how to get started with hand expressing, especially if you're used to using an electric pump. Luckily, having a few hacks for hand expression up your sleeves will make the process smooth and simple, so that the next time you need to alleviate the pain from engorgement or express an extra bottle for a night away, all you'll need are your two hands to get the job done.
According to Breastfeeding USA, moms who use their hands to express milk remove 48 percent more milk than moms using an electric pump. Although the technique can be tricky to master, once you find a rhythm and method that works well for you, it might be just the expression method that works best for you.
Armed with these hacks, you'll reap all of the benefits of emptying your breasts regularly — increased supply, decreased engorgement, and a growing stockpile if you choose to save your expressed milk — and all you need are your hands.
1. Massage, Massage, Massage
According to the Dr. Sears website, massaging your breasts before expressing is an effective way to stimulate your letdown reflex. You can massage before expressing or as you go, but either way it's a great way to help with the amount of milk you express.
2. Get Some Help With Letdown
Although the skin-to-skin contact during hand expressing is thought to be more beneficial for letdown than when using an electric breast pump, you still might need a bit of help. According to Breastmilk Counts, focusing on your baby (or even a photo or video of your baby) while you're pumping or hand expressing releases oxytocin, the hormone responsible for your letdown reflex.
3. Use A "C" Shape
Making a "C" shape with your thumb and forefinger is an effective way to hold your breast when you hand express, according to Medela. Similarly, instead of sliding your fingers on your breasts or pinching, the article stated to push your fingers straight back into your chest wall and then "roll" your fingers forward to drain milk.
4. Express Into A Bowl
Aiming can be tricky when you're hand expressing, so instead of trying to express into a bottle or storage bag, express into something with a wide mouth, like a bowl or a coffee mug and then pour it into the bottle or storage bag once you're finished.
5. Use A Warm Compress Before Expressing
Along with massage, using a warm compress can help stimulate your letdown reflex. Expressing Mama noted that the warmth from the compress stimulates the blood vessels in your breasts to open up, making it easier for the milk to leave the ducts.