When they aren't breastfeeding, most moms rely on their handy breast pumps to remove milk from their breasts. But before breast pumps were invented, nursing women had no choice but to manually hand express their milk if they needed to alleviate engorgement or wanted to feed their babies out of a bottle. Not to mention there are moms today who have a lot of success manually expressing their milk. This has to lead one to wonder, is it better to hand express or use a pump to remove breast milk?
Ultimately, it's simply a matter of preference.
Hand expression requires some practice. But according to Baby Center, when a mom becomes proficient at it, she may be able to express more milk in less time than when using a pump. Dr. Sears suggested on his site that this may be because some breasts are more responsive to the skin-to-skin feeling of hand expression than to the feeling of a machine. Have you ever noticed that your baby is satisfied after breastfeeding, but when you pump for the same amount of time, you may only remove a small amount of milk? This doesn't mean that your kid necessarily has a small appetite. According to Kelly Mom, the amount of milk that you pump is not always a measure of your actual milk supply. Because milk is created on a supply and demand basis, if your breasts aren't responding to the pump, your milk supply may be in danger. In this case, hand expression may be a better option for you than using a pump.
For other mothers, however, using a breast pump does the job quickly and easily. Their bodies associate the breast pump with milk production, and that helps stimulate the let-down reflex. If you are one of the lucky moms who has easily collected a freezer full of pumped milk, you may not need or want to try hand expressing, and that is totally OK.
If you happen to fall somewhere in between, a study published in the Journal of Perinatology by adjunct clinical professor of pediatrics Dr. Jane Morton, found that you may get more milk by combining hand techniques with pumping. By using a hands-free pumping bra, a mother can massage the firmer parts of her breasts while pumping, therefore more thoroughly emptying them. Morton proposed that increased milk production may result from more effective breast emptying.