Home Page Follow Up Care Help and Support Publications from HRLC

How Do I Express My Breastmilk By Hand?

There are many ways to express breastmilk by hand.  With practice, you will find the way that works best for you.

Before you start, wash your hands and the collection container with soap and water.

To encourage milk flow, first massage your breasts and nipples by moving fingers in a circular motion around the breast. Remember to be gentle.  You can bruise your breasts easily.

Using a warm moist towel on your breasts for 5 minutes can also help your breastmilk to flow.

Support your breast from underneath. Your hand should form a large "C" shape.  Place your thumb and 2 fingers about 2 to 3 cm (1 to 1½ inches) behind the nipple.  Push your thumb and fingers straight back towards your chest.

Next, roll your thumb and 2 fingers together.

Imagine you are pushing the breastmilk out, not squeezing the nipple shut.

Repeat this rhythmic motion as long as your breastmilk flows.  Then move your fingers around the areola to express breastmilk from all areas of the breast.  When the breast becomes soft and the flow stops, switch to the other side.

To get more breastmilk, go back and forth from breast to breast until no more breastmilk spurts out.

In the beginning expect to spend 20 to 30 minutes to empty both breasts.  Do not worry if you only get a few drops when first learning to express.  Expressing breastmilk will get easier and better with practice.