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What Exactly Does It Mean To Hand Express Breast Milk?

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Of all the ways to remove breast milk from your breasts, manual hand expression is perhaps the most illusive. Everyone knows about using manual and electric breast pumps and nursing babies are the most effective way to get milk out. But what exactly does it mean to hand express breast milk?

As the name suggests, hand expression simply means using your own hands to manually remove breast milk. According to Baby Center, it can work as well as using a breast pump, if you have a technique that works for you. It can also do well in situations where you don't have a breast pump on hand, or are away from your baby. There are as many different techniques as there are breastfeeding mothers, so finding what works best for you may take some trial and error at first.

The key, according to Medela, is to not squeeze only the nipple, as you won't produce any milk that way, much like a deeper latch is needed for a baby to nurse effectively.

To start, massage your breasts gently then begin just above where your areola meets your breast. Then, according to Dr. Sears, push directly back into your chest wall, rolling your thumb and forefinger down towards your nipple. The goal, Baby Center noted, is to mimic the rhythmic sucking a baby would do, so use consistent, gentle movements.

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It works well to express directly into a bottle for your baby to use later, or into a freezer bag if you plan to store it. If you need to work on your "aim" expressing into a wider mouthed bowl can work too.

Although you probably won't need to exclusively hand express, it can be a helpful skill to master, especially when you're away from your baby or have a hard time responding to the mechanic pumps.