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  1. Expressing breast milk
  2. Expressing by hand
  3. Expressing with a pump
  4. Feeding advice
  5. Storing breast milk
  6. Hints, tips and more help

Expressing by hand

Expressing your milk by hand is a useful skill to have. It may take a bit of time and practice, but once you've mastered it, you'll find it's very helpful.

And the great thing is you only need your hands and a container – rather than a shop-bought breast pump.

Hand expression can be useful in various situations, for example if your baby isn't feeding or latching on well, if you want to stimulate your milk production, or if your breasts become engorged (this is a good way to relieve them).

Video: Hand expression

Watch this video to learn how to express breast milk by hand.

How to hand express breast milk

Before you start, make sure you wash your hands really well. You will also need a sterilised container – this could be a feeding bottle or wide jug or bowl.

Here are some tips on how to hand express:

  1. Get comfy – preferably in a warm, quiet room where you can relax undisturbed. Place the container within easy reach.
  2. It can be helpful to start by gently massaging your breasts (make sure your hands are warm). Start off with long strokes from your armpit, working towards your nipple.
  3. Next, cup your breast in a C-shape using your finger and thumb (2cm to 3cm back from your nipple). Your finger and thumb should be opposite each other – if you imagine that your breast is a clock, your thumb would be at 12 o'clock and your finger at 6 o'clock
  4. Gently press your thumb and fingers together, release your fingers and repeat in a rhythmic movement. It may take a few minutes so be patient! Gradually your breast milk (or colostrum) will start to slowly drip out. Keep going, try to build up a rhythm – you're doing really well!
  5. When you notice your milk flow slowing down, move your hands around your breast so you are expressing from a different area (position your finger and thumb at 11 o'clock and 5 o'clock) and repeat the process.
  6. Once you've expressed as much as you can from one breast, repeat the process on your other breast. Then move back to the first breast – you may be surprised at how much milk you can express.

Breastfeeding Friend from Start for Life

The Breastfeeding Friend, a digital tool from Start for Life, has lots of useful information and expert advice to share with you – and because it's a digital tool, you can access it 24/7.

Help and support

For confidential breastfeeding information and support, call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212. Lines are open 9:30am to 9:30pm every day.