Many mothers underestimate the power of hand expression when it comes to breastfeeding and pumping. In order to stimulate milk production, you have to have early, frequent colostrum removal. And one of the best ways to move along that colostrum removal is with breast massage. So, at some point, you may find yourself wondering how to squeeze your boobs to get more milk and create ease of production while you breastfeed or pump.
"Hand expression is one of the single most impactful ways for moms to make more milk early after delivery and beyond," registered nurse and IBCLC Lori Atkins tells Romper. "If moms can move the early drops of colostrum right after delivery, it is a powerful signal to the brain to replace them, and make more." This gives mothers the ability to remove colostrum frequently, which signals the body to continuing providing milk.
According to Breastfeeding Problems, massaging your breasts will help clear milk ducts, which also prevents engorgement and helps milk flow better. If you're helping empty your breasts using hand expression and clearing ducts, that signals your body to produce more milk. This is why massaging your breasts is correlated with higher milk production in breastfeeding and pumping moms.
As another bonus, massaging your breasts is important for general breast health and potential fluid build up. If you find yourself wondering if you're doing it right or how exactly you can massage your breasts to stimulate milk release, The Breast Health Project created a great video to walk you through step by step.
Beyond using hand expression as a way to stimulate milk production and maintain breast health, many lactation consultants stress the importance of using breast massage within the first hour of birth. Dr. Jane Morton of Stanford Medicine is one of the major advocates for hand expression of breastmilk. She wrote on the site that, "even those who have lots of experience with breastfeeding may be surprised to see how much colostrum can be expressed within the first postpartum hour. Morton added that often babies need help learning how to breastfeed effectively and has created a video sharing some ideas for hand expression, and even spoon feeding hand-expressed breastmilk, early on.
For those mothers who are separated from their babies at birth, Morton said it's key to begin using hand expression and pumping within hours of birth to get milk flowing and continue to increase production without the help of your baby. Although the average size of a good breastfeeding is only a teaspoon during the first few days following birth, releasing the colostrum and breastmilk is still vital to sending the right signals to your body and keeping milk production moving forward.
Pumping mothers may also be surprised to learn that moms can actually sometimes express more milk, quicker using their hands to stimulate breastmilk instead of a pump. Morton shared a video with Stanford Medicine on how to maximize milk production with hands-on pumping. Within the video, she showed a side-by-side comparison of a mom who used a breast pump versus the same mom who later expressed milk with her hands. And surprisingly, a significantly larger amount of milk was expressed with hands-on pumping.
Overall, hand expression or massage can be extremely helpful to breastfeeding or pumping mothers. Not only does it help increase milk production and create ease of milk flow, but it also contributes to general breast health in women. Using your hands to express milk isn't too difficult, especially with some video tutorials if you're unsure, reaching out to a lactation consultant for assistance, or just giving yourself time to learn. You can also begin to experiment with hands-on pumping to see how effective it becomes with producing more milk in the long run.