Hand Expression of Breast Milk: Exactly How To Perform This Technique

Hand expression of breast milk is a great way to get milk out of your breast without using a breast pump. It can be especially helpful with early breast stimulation after birth, if you experience engorgement, increasing your milk supply, or getting your baby interested in latching by putting a drop or two of milk on their lips.

As a registered dietitian and lactation consultant, I’m going to walk you through this fairly simple process.

In the video below, Sarah Trinajstich provides a visual demonstration of how to perform the hand expression of breast milk.

If you don’t like the video or want more information, continue reading.

Here are the steps to perform the hand expression of breast milk:

Step 1

Massage your breast in a circular motion, working your way all the way around your breast. If needed, hold your breast with your hand on opposite side of your body for easy access to your areola and nipple. Your areola is the colored area around your nipple.

Step 2

With your hand on the same side of your body as the breast you are expressing, place your thumb and index finger on the outside edge of your areola. Your fingers should be directly across from each other as if they were at “12 and 6” or “3 and 9” on a clock.

Step 3

Press firmly, but gently, into your breast with those fingers, toward your chest.

Step 4

As you press into your breast, without lifting your fingers off your breast, spread your fingers slightly.

Step 5

Squeeze your fingers back toward your nipple without sliding them down onto your nipple. This should be a circular, massaging motion back toward your chest and out toward your nipple.

RELATED: 6 Steps For Getting a Comfortable & Effective Breastfeeding Latch

Things to keep in mind during the hand expression of breast milk:

  • If your fingers end up squeezing your nipple, they have slid too far down. Place them back to the outer edge of the areola.
  • It may take several repetitions before milk comes out so remember to be patient. 
  • You can rotate the position of your fingers around your areola to stimulate different milk ducts.
  • Do not pinch down on your nipple or areola, as this will cause pain and could stop milk flow.
  • Remember it is a circular, massaging motion in toward your chest, then out toward your nipple.
  • If you only express a few drops, you can catch your milk in a spoon or medicine cup. However, if you plan to express a greater amount, you may need a bigger container.

RELATED: 4 Signs Your Baby Is Hungary (and Needs To Be Fed)!

For additional help with the hand expression of breast milk, meet with your certified lactation consultant!

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Sarah Trinajstich, RD, IBCLC
Hi, my name is Sarah Trinajstich. I'm a registered dietitian and an international board-certified lactation consultant. I received my bachelor's degree and completed my dietetic internship at California State University Long Beach. I then completed my lactation consultant education at the University San Diego Extension. I believe in the power of good nutrition from the moment of conception and the importance of breastfeeding, not only for babies nutrition but for the bonding and physical benefits to baby and mom. There is no greater satisfaction for me than to help a mother and her baby breastfeed successfully. Breastfeeding is more than what the body does without thinking. It involves skills that mom and baby learn together. I look forward to help ease the learning curve!