What are the different ways to express breast milk?

Once breast feeding is well established (usually 4–6 weeks), there may be times where a mother may need or want to express breast milk.

Expressing milk by hand

Before expressing milk, the mother may find that softening her breasts beforehand will help with hand expression. This can be done by applying a warm face cloth, taking a shower or massaging them. The mother’s hands must be cleaned, and a sterilised, wide rimmed bowl is required to collect the milk.

By supporting the breast with one hand then massage down from the top of the breast to the nipple. Work all round it including the underside. Then put gentle pressure on the area behind the areola (the dark skin around your nipples) with the thumb and forefinger.

By squeezing them together and pressing backwards milk should be released. It is important to be aware that the milk can spray in lots of directions.

Expressing milk by manual or electric pump

Using a pump can be quicker and less tiring than using hands. The mother may find that softening her breasts beforehand will help with hand expression. This can be done by applying a warm face cloth, taking a shower or massaging them. The pump should be thoroughly sterilised before expressing. Depending on the pump used, it should take 20–45 minutes and should not cause any pain. It is important to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure that the nipple is properly fitted, or expressing can be ineffective and cause damage.