Expressing your breast milk

What does ‘expressing milk’ mean?

  • Expressing milk means squeezing milk out of your breast
  • You can express milk by hand or with a hand pump or an electric pump
  • Different pumps suit different women, so ask for information to compare them
  • A pump needs to be clean and sterilised each time it is used.

Why express by hand?

Although you may never need to do this it is useful to know how as it can help:

  • If your breasts feel uncomfortably full
  • if you get any red lumpy arears (a sign that one of your milk ducts mat have become blocked)
  •  If your baby isn’t sucking well but you still want to give him mum’s milk
  • If you don’t want to buy or use a pump to express milk
  • In the first few days it is easier to express by hand.


How to express milk by hand

  1. Have a clean sterilised container to hand before you start.
  2. Cup your breast and place your thumb and finger about 2-3 cm from the base of the nipple
  3. Using your thumb and the rest of your fingers in a C shape, gently squeeze this area – this shouldn’t hurt
  4. Release the pressure and then repeat again and again, building up a rhythm. Avoid sliding your fingers over the skin. At first, only drops will appear, but just keep going as it will help build up your supply. With practice and a little more time, milk will flow freely
  5. When the flow slows down, move your fingers round to try a different section of your breast and repeat. When this happens again swap to the other breast. Keep changing breasts until the milk is dripping very slowly or stops altogether
  6. If the milk doesn’t flow, try moving your fingers slightly towards the nipple or further away, and try a gentle breast massage.

This short clip, produced by the Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative, provides an overview of hand expression and how to hand express successfully

Please click here for additional videos on how to hand express your breast milk

Storing milk

  • Remember to use a sterilised container to put the milk in
  • You can store mum’s milk in the fridge for up to 5 days at 4o C or lower (usually at the back, never in the door)
  • Mum’s milk can be stored for 2 weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge or for up to 6 months in a freezer
  • Defrost frozen mum’s milk in the fridge. Once thawed, use it straight away. Never refreeze
  • If your baby prefers, you can warm the milk up to body temperature before feeding. Never heat milk in the microwave as it can cause hot spots which can burn your baby’s mouth.

Improving the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of expectant mothers, infants, children and young people throughout Aneurin Bevan University Health Board Area.

(N.B: The Family and Therapies team at ABUHB is NOT responsible for the content on the webpage links that we refer to in our resource sections and linked information to external sites. All information was accurate and appropriate at the time the webpage was created.)

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