How to Express Breast Milk

User Rating: 4.8 (2 votes)

In order to minimize discomfort, reduce engorgement and save breast milk for future use, many women hand express milk. Although each mother is different, some women prefer this method to breast pumps, primarily due to convenience. Hand expression is a simple process that requires no special equipment and can be done at virtually any place or time. In addition, some women’s breasts express more milk with direct skin contact, meaning that this method can produce more milk than a pump.

To hand express milk, just follow these simple steps.

  • It is always important to maintain proper hygiene with any procedure relating to infants and young children. Before you begin, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water.


  • Giving your breasts a short massage before beginning may can help prime the breasts and allow the milk flow easily. Gently massage your breasts either using your hands or a warm, clean towel.


  • Do not attempt to hand express milk while lying down, as gravity will make the process more difficult. Instead, sit up and lean forward slightly. You want to make sure that you are comfortable, as this process will take several minutes.


  • Place your fingers on the milk reservoirs on your breast located above and below the areola. Your hand should make a C shape around the nipple, with your thumb roughly 2.5 centimeters above and the first two fingers of your hand below, directly in line with the nipple. You may have to adjust slightly until you feel comfortable, depending on your breast size. Avoid cupping your breasts.


  • Very gently but firmly begin to apply pressure towards your chest wall. It is important not to squeeze the breast or stretch the skin over the areola, as this can make it harder to express milk. Instead, keep pressing your index finger and thumb against your breast tissue. Remember to roll your thumb and fingers forward in order to squeeze milk out of the milk sinuses located under the nipple. While doing this, be careful to keep your fingers together, since spreading them apart will make this more difficult. If you have large breasts, you may need to support them before you apply pressure.


  • Next, express milk by using a rolling motion with your thumb and fingers away from your body. You should compress your breast in the process. The key to this process is to always remember to press, compress and then relax. As you become more comfortable with the process, you will develop your own rhythm which will make it easier. No two mothers are the same and it is worthwhile to shift positions slightly or try massaging in between expressing in order to see what works best for you.


  • Sometimes, you may want to express milk simply to relieve discomfort. If this is the case, you can simply express the milk into a towel or over the sink and discard it. If you wish to save it for a later use, you can collect it in bags, a wide-mouthed container or directly in a bottle. If using a wide-mouthed container, be sure to transfer it to a sealable storage container afterwards.


  • When you have finished with one breast, repeat the process on the other side. Alternate breasts until you have expressed all of the milk.


Images provided by wikiHow. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

Visit us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>