Mastering the Art of Expressing Breast Milk: A Guide to Hand and Machine Expression

Created by Doctor Kim, 5 months ago

Properly expressing breast milk is crucial for maintaining an abundant milk supply and supporting long-term breastfeeding. Whether you need to express milk due to difficulties in direct breastfeeding or other reasons, understanding the techniques and methods can greatly benefit both you and your baby. Below, we will provide detailed instructions on how to express breast milk by hand and with the assistance of a breast pump.

mastering the art of expressing breast milk a guide to hand and machine expression

How to Express Breast Milk by Hand:
Expressing breast milk by hand can be an effective and convenient method. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  • Start by thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water.
  • Gently massage your breasts to stimulate milk flow.
  • Position your hand on one breast with your thumb and index finger around the areola, away from the nipple.
  • Apply gentle pressure to your breast while pulling your thumb and index finger forward slightly. Avoid sliding your fingers up the nipple.
  • Repeat this rhythmic motion to initiate milk flow, alternating hand positions to stimulate all milk ducts.
  • Massage between strokes as needed and switch to the other breast, following the same process.
  • Use a wide-mouth cup placed under the breast to collect the expressed milk.
  • If milk droplets are released from the other breast during expression, you can place a small bottle inside your bra to catch them.
  • Store the expressed breast milk in a bottle or storage bag and refrigerate it as soon as possible.

mastering the art of expressing breast milk a guide to hand and machine expression

Instructions for Expressing Breast Milk with a Hand Pump:

Using a hand pump can provide convenience and control during milk expression. Here's how to use a hand pump effectively:
  • Follow the instructions provided with the hand pump.
  • Moisten the outer edges of the funnel with water or a small amount of breast milk to enhance suction.
  • Place the capture funnel over the nipple and areola, ensuring a proper seal.
  • Mimic your baby's sucking action by using quick, short pumps initially and then transitioning to longer, more stable pumping sessions once milk flow is established.

mastering the art of expressing breast milk a guide to hand and machine expression

Expressing Breast Milk with an Electric Pump:

Electric breast pumps offer efficiency and convenience, especially for regular milk expression. Follow these steps for expressing breast milk with an electric pump:
  • Familiarize yourself with the instructions provided with the specific machine you are using.
  • If using a dual pump, it can save time and stimulate increased milk production.
  • Moisten the outer edges of the breast pump for optimal suction.
  • Begin pumping slowly and gently, gradually increasing the intensity as milk begins to flow, if necessary.
  • Adjust the pump setting to a comfortable level to avoid discomfort or pain.
  • When double pumping, you can determine which breast produces more milk as each breast functions independently.
Principles for Proper Milk Expression:
To ensure effective milk expression, it is essential to follow these five basic principles:

Maintain proper hygiene: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before expressing milk. Clean the breast funnel and bottle with warm water and a bottle cleaner, then pat them dry or let them air dry.

Read the user manual: Carefully read and understand the instructions provided with your breast pump for proper usage and cleaning.

Express milk when breasts are full: If your baby is not nursing, express milk when your breasts feel full. If your baby is nursing on one side, you can express milk from the other side simultaneously.

mastering the art of expressing breast milk a guide to hand and machine expression

Establish a routine: Express milk every three hours to maintain your milk supply. During breaks, consider expressing milk for approximately 10-15 minutes. Additionally, breastfeeding your baby in the evening or on weekends helps maintain milk supply and strengthens the bond between you and your baby. Expressing milk after breastfeeding can also increase your milk production.

Seek support when needed: If you encounter difficulties or concerns with breastfeeding or milk expression, seek guidance from healthcare professionals, lactation consultants, or support groups. They can provide valuable advice, assistance, and support to ensure successful breastfeeding and milk expression.

Tips to Promote the Let-Down Reflex:
The let-down reflex is essential for efficient milk expression. Here are some tips to help stimulate the let-down reflex:

Create a conducive environment: Express breast milk in a warm, quiet, comfortable, and distraction-free space. Take deep, slow breaths to relax your mind and body. You can also enhance relaxation by drinking a glass of warm water or listening to soothing music. Taking a warm bath or washing your face with warm water before expressing milk can also be helpful.

Gentle breast massage: Prior to expressing milk, gently massage your breasts using the palm of your hand or the edge of your finger. Stroke your breasts towards the nipple and gently roll the nipple between your fingers. These actions can stimulate milk flow and trigger the let-down reflex.

Emotional connection: While expressing milk, think about your baby. This emotional connection can facilitate milk flow and make the process more effective.

Seek support from your partner or family members: Having emotional support can significantly impact milk production. Many mothers find that they have increased milk flow when they feel comforted and supported by their partner or family members.

mastering the art of expressing breast milk a guide to hand and machine expression

Milk Production and Baby's Nutritional Needs:

Breast milk production remains fully maintained for the first six months after birth and provides all the necessary nutrition for your baby. During the initial weeks, babies tend to breastfeed frequently and experience rapid growth. 

On average, girls gain about 30g per day, while boys tend to gain even more. From three to four months after birth, the growth rate slows down, and if the baby gains weight too quickly during this stage, it can lead to obesity.

A mother typically produces approximately 600-900ml of breast milk per day. Babies between birth and six months of age consume about 600-900ml of breast milk daily, with each feeding session ranging from 90-150ml.

mastering the art of expressing breast milk a guide to hand and machine expression


Expressing breast milk by hand or with the assistance of a breast pump is an important skill for mothers who need to provide milk for their babies. By following proper techniques and maintaining good hygiene, you can ensure a healthy milk supply and support successful breastfeeding. 

Remember to seek guidance from healthcare professionals or lactation consultants if you encounter any difficulties or concerns. With dedication and support, you can provide your baby with the nourishment they need while enjoying the beautiful bonding experience of breastfeeding.

Answered by Doctor Kim, 5 months ago