I have made a demonstration video on expressing milk by hand. Rather than creating a ‘How To’ guide to read, I thought it was most effective to show the techniques via a video.
The video can be found further down this blog.
I will however, reiterate the main points overleaf and why hand expression is a useful skill to know.
The Baby Friendly Initiative require that all mothers are shown how to hand express, however, I am aware that in reality this is not always the case, as I know plenty of new mothers that haven’t been taught this skill. I would always demonstrate it to mums in my care throughout my midwifery practice but we’re all different and not everyone practices the same.
So for those of you who aren’t aware, this video will teach you everything you need to know.
So what’s the point in expressing milk by hand?
- To provide a source of colostrum to reluctant feeders.
- To encourage a baby to feed that is somewhat reluctant or unsure of what to do at the breast. (I often encourage mothers to do this, as hand expressing a little colostrum onto the end of the nipple, will remind babies of what the breast is there for as they innately recognise the smell).
- If baby is in the neonatal unit, it stimulates milk production and provides valuable colostrum for sick/premature babies, which is so vital for their health and development.
- It’s really useful to help mothers soften engorged breasts by removing a little milk if they become too full. Sometimes it’s difficult for a baby to latch on to a breast that is engorged, so softening the tissue by expressing is a great technique to help. It is best to do this by hand because using a hand or electric pump will take too much milk from the breast, which consequently means your breasts will produce more.
* On a side note, a great tip to help soothe engorged breasts is warm flannels and also dark green, cabbage leaves (which sounds odd but is evidence based!) For more info on this, view this article:
- It helps mothers to self-manage blocked ducts and can prevent and reduce symptoms of mastitis.
– The size of the breast does not impact on the ability to produce milk.
– Breasts are never empty.
– You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby.
How to hand express:
- Begin with gentle massage to stimulate oxytocin release. Cup the breast with the thumb and forefinger in a ‘C’ shape about 2-3 cm back from the base of the nipple. Gently squeeze, bringing the finger and thumb together in a rhythmic action (it may take a while for colostrum/milk to appear). If no milk appears after a few minutes simply move the fingers a fraction forward or back to find the right spot.
- Continue this action until no more milk drops come out and then if necessary move the fingers around to express from a different section of the breast.
- Avoid any sliding of the fingers as this can cause damage to breast tissue.
There are milk ducts around the whole circumference of your breast, so as milk flow subsides rotate the position of your thumb and forefinger around the breast like a clock face.
- Milk can be collected in a sterile cup or bottle, or in the case of colostrum can be ‘sucked up’ in a small syringe. It is best if someone is able to sit with you to help collect the expressed colostrum. When flow from one breast slows down, swap to other side and repeat.
– Fresh breastmilk can be stored for up to 6 hours at room temperature.
– 5 days in a home fridge at 0-4’C or for up to 6 months in a deep freezer.
– 3 months for a small freezer compartment above the fridge.
I do hope this was helpful. Please explore our other videos on breastfeeding in our other blogs. These include insights into Sophie’s journey of how she has found the first month of breastfeeding her first baby, Ivy. Also my sister Verity’s breastfeeding journey with Ada, which definitely wasn’t without its complications!
And don’t forget to have a read of why I think support is so important to a mother’s success with breastfeeding. Click the link here to read more.