You've likely been told that if you want to express your breast milk, an electric breast pump is a must. But what did moms do before pumps existed? And what in the world do you do if you don't have access to a breast pump? If you've ever questioned whether or not the pump is the best way to get your milk flowing, you may have asked, is hand expressing better than pumping?
According to Baby Center, hand expression is the act of using your hand to compress your breast so that milk will come out. And, as Dr. Sears' website mentioned, hand expression can be helpful to nursing moms to prevent engorgement when they don't have access to a breast pump.
The hand expression technique is particularly effective when infants have trouble latching on to their mother's breast shortly after birth. A study conducted by the University of California, San Diego of mothers with babies who had problems establishing a good latch, found that new moms who express breast milk by hand tend to nurse longer than moms who use an electric pump. The mothers who used hand expression tended to feel more comfortable nursing in front of others, which helped contribute to the increased time spent nursing.
Although hand expression isn't for everyone, there are benefits to using this technique. Hand expression is free and doesn't require special equipment, as La Leche League Canada mentioned. The natural feeling of skin-to-skin contact can also be an easier way for nursing mothers to trigger milk ejection. On the downside, it may take longer to express both breasts by hand versus using an electric pump.
Whether hand expression is better than pumping is often a personal choice. But if you plan to give hand expression a try, it can help to know the best technique to get your milk flowing. As Baby Center mentioned, you should start by massaging your breasts gently. Next, you should place your hands on your areola with your thumb on top and your index finger directly underneath. With your hand in place, squeeze gently until your milk begins to spray.