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How To Express Milk When Your Pump Isn't Working

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Whether you're an occasional pumper, an every day pumper, or somewhere in between, there's nothing worse than when your pump mysteriously stops doing its job. In times of crisis, like when your beloved breast pump decides to take a vacation, it's important to know how to express milk when your pump isn't working.

Aside from the practical purpose of pumping milk to use right away or storing it to use in the future, knowing how to hand-express your milk can relieve engorgement, even when you're away from your baby. Although the terms "hand-expression" or "manual expression" conjures up the mental image of machinery or learning how to drive a car, it's actually so much simpler than that. And all you need are your hands.

One pro tip before you get started: according to Baby Center, starting out with a warm shower or hot compress can help "get things flowing". Literally.

After that, Medelas suggested you start out by positioning your thumb directly above your nipple and your pointer finger below it, forming the letter "C" with your hand. Medela cautioned against actually cupping your breast though, as this could be more painful than just using your fingers.

Next, without spreading your fingers too far apart, push straight back into your chest wall. If your breasts are large, you may have to lift them up before pushing back.

Now roll your fingers forward down towards your nipple, without squeezing, which can cause bruising. Medela called this method the "position, push, roll" method, and it's gentle and effective.

If you're planning to keep the milk, Dr. Sears suggested expressing into something like a coffee mug or bowl, as aiming directly into a bottle or breast milk storage bag can be tricky. You can even use a funnel to help it flow down into a bottle to save for later, since  having to "express and expedite" (the non-official alternative to "pump and dump" is a bummer.