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How to Express Breastmilk

How to Express Breastmilk

There are many reasons to express your breastmilk. If you’re returning to work or planning a night out with friends, but wish to continue feeding your baby breastmilk, expressing is an ideal way to ensure that your baby can still enjoy your breastmilk when you’re not around.

Expressing will also help to empty and stimulate your breast to make more milk. You should express after your baby has had a breastfeed – to start with you may not get much milk, but persevere as your body needs time to adjust to the increased demand.

When to express breastmilk

If you’re not breastfeeding your baby directly, you’ll need to express at times your baby would have fed – this will be at least eight times a day and you should express once during the night too.

It’s also important to consider the time of day that you express. During the night-time feed your prolactin levels are at their highest because your body wants to make milk for the next 24 hours of feeds. Because of this, it’s preferable to breastfeed your baby at this time, and if you are exclusively expressing milk, you should express at this time as well.

How to express breastmilk

You need to express from both breasts, even though baby may not have fed from both. Using the Lansinoh 2-in-1 double electric breast pump will help you to stimulate your breasts and increase your supply.

Even when your baby has breastfed and when you pump after a breastfeed, it is not always straight forward getting your breasts to release milk.  To help overcome this – especially in the early expressing sessions – try the following:

  • Sit in a comfortable position and relax your shoulders down as this will help with milk release
  • Remove tight clothing or don’t wear anything above the waist.  This will give you unrestricted access to your breasts, which is particularly helpful when you’re just starting to express

Hand massage is also an ideal way to encourage your milk flow, by warming up your breasts and stimulating your hormones and breast tissue. Here’s how to try it:

  • Using your finger tips or knuckles (clench your hand) and very gently press on your breast tissue
  • Start high up toward your shoulder and work downwards
  • Cover as much of your breast from your shoulder to the edge of your areola (the darker area of skin around your nipple).  You can also massage underneath your breast if you wish
  • Massage one breast at a time and once you feel you’ve massaged enough, move onto expressing

How to hand express breastmilk

Hand expressing is a good way to release milk from your breast and can be helpful to try before you start to use your breast pump.

According to the NHS, you should follow these steps for hand expressing:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly
  • Cup your breast with one hand and with your other hand create a ‘C’ shape with your forefinger and thumb
  • Squeeze gently, keeping your finger and thumb around your areola – avoid squeezing your actual nipple as this could make it sore
  • Release the pressure and repeat without sliding your fingers over the skin
  • You should see drops start to appear and then your milk flow. If drops don’t appear, try move your finger and thumb slightly while still avoiding the nipple
  • Once the milk flow begins to slow, move your fingers to a different section of your breast and repeat the process
  • Once it has completely slowed in one breast, switch to the other breast and keep changing breasts until your milk either drips very slowly or stops completely

Once you’ve expressed your milk, read our guide on storing expressed breastmilk to ensure it stays fresh and safe for your baby.

You should establish your breastfeeding with baby before you express. If you have any questions, or require assistance with breast massage and hand expressing, speak to your health professional.

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