Using Hand Expression to Support Breastfeeding

Did you know that you don’t need a breast pump to express milk? “Hand expression” refers to the act of manually pumping milk from the breast using your hands. Knowing how to effectively use hand expression can help relieve engorgement, encourage milk supply, and even pump enough milk to store and feed baby at a later time. For the best results, follow these steps for hand expression:


1. Wash your hands.

2. Massage your breast.

3. Position your hand in a “C” shape on the outside of your areola (or 1-1.5 inches from your nipple) using your thumb and two forefingers.

4. Press back toward your chest.

5. Roll your fingers forward toward your nipple, compressing your breast.

6. Release & repeat. Be sure to change positions of your “C” throughout your session so as to use all of your milk ducts. If your breast was a clock, move your “C” so your thumb hits 12, 3, 6 & 9 o’clock.


When collecting milk during hand expression, use a cup, bowl or any container with a wide mouth opening. And, keep a towel under your breast to help absorb any runaway drips.

Hand expression can also be used while feeding your baby and while pumping to encourage flow. For more information, including an excellent video demonstration, check out these resources:

1. Hand expression basic instructions PDF - La Leche League

2. Hand expression video – Stanford School of Medicine (best video I’ve seen, by far)

3. More tips for hand expression – Dr. Sears



Avatar of Cara TerreriAbout Cara Terreri
Cara began working with Lamaze in 2004, two years before becoming a mother. Three kids later, she's a full-fledged healthy birth advocate and the Site Administrator for Giving Birth with Confidence. Most recently Cara began study to become a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and DONA certified doula (learn more about her services at She continues to stand in awe of the power and beauty in pregnancy and birth, and enjoys helping women discover their own power and joy in the journey to motherhood.


  1. Frances Brannen says:

    Great post, thanks for the links for more info.

  2. Lisa Baker says:

    Cara, thank you for sharing the video clip. It is a great resource to share with clients.

    Lisa Baker
    Labour and Love

  3. mParker says:

    A piece of advice when breastfeeding, make sure you wear comfortable clothing for optimum milk release. Use nursing clothings from or or clothes from http://www.mothercare.con. It’s not just the position of the mum and child, or the cleanliness of the process, or what not. Most of the time it’s about how the mum feel during that time.

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