Hand expression FAQ
1) How can I learn hand expression?
2) I am pregnant. When can I learn hand expression?
I learned hand expression prenatally from my doula. You can learn hand expression from doulas, midwives, lactation consultants or maybe even from your friends/ family/ peers. You can also try to get some tips online. Check out the
on this website. Learning hand expression is a bit like learning to do your hair after you just got a brand new hair cut: you need to mess around with it and get a feel for it.
You can start practicing hand expression as early as 32 to 34 weeks of pregnancy. Massage your breasts and express for a few minutes or until you get a few drops of colostrum. Always make sure not to cause any pain or discomfort. Like any pleasant physical sensation, nipple stimulation can release oxytocin. If you are at risk of early labour talk to your care provider before doing hand expression or anything else that may release oxytocin. I had a healthy low-risk pregnancy and expressed my first few drops about 2 weeks before my due date (around 38 weeks). I remember that I was blown away that something was coming out of my nipple!
3) Why learn hand expression when I can get a pump?
4) I tried hand expression once but it didn't work...
When it comes to milk removal from the human breast, the order of efficiency is:
Pumps are the least efficient way to remove milk from the human breast. Research has shown that we can remove almost 50% more milk with our hands than with a hospital-grade double electric pump (Morton et al. 2009). If you don't think this is true, check out this video
posted by Stanford University researchers:
Maximizing Production LPCH
Pumps are inherently inefficient because they lack compression, they don't adapt, and they don't stimulate our breasts to release milk the way human touch does.
According to the current recommendations by
, pump-users are advised to use their hands before, during and after pumping. If you have to use your hands anyway, why not 'dump the pump' (along with all it's inconveniences, such as hard-to-clean pump parts, noise etc.) and take matters in your own hands?
Maybe you tried at the wrong time... Timing is important, like with going to the bathroom. You are a human, not a machine. Do you want to give it another try? If your baby can get breast milk, so can you. It's just a matter of practice. Try on your other breast when baby is feeding and make sure to warn the people across the room :) Sally Tedstone, Breastfeeding Expert Midwife and Breastfeeding Educator with UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative, writes: "If it does not work at first, do not panic or think that there is no milk, simply try another spot, a slightly different hand formation or rhythm until it works for you. Keeping a playful, relaxed attitude is very important, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it perfectly first time as this will only make it harder.
Once you have got the hang of hand expressing breastmilk you can continue until the flow of milk slows naturally and then progress around the same breast."