Learning to Pump and Hand Express Milk
It may take practice, but soon you’ll be a pro at pumping and hand expression.
Expressing milk will take time and practice at first, and different methods will work for different moms. Reach out to your WIC breastfeeding staff to learn how to make pumping and hand expression work for you. Most moms start by washing their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, whether expressing by hand or pump. Then they find a comfortable location and relax.
Hand expression is a great way to express milk if your breasts are feeling extra full, if you do not have access to an electric breast pump, or if you want to make more milk. It is good for all mothers to know how to do this.
To hand express, you use your hand to massage and compress your breast to remove milk. While it takes practice, skill, and coordination, it gets easier over time. And it can be as fast as pumping.
Hand expression is helpful if you are not away from your baby often or you need an option that is always with you. Your WIC breastfeeding staff has great resources that can help teach you how.
For moms returning to work or school, travel, or otherwise will be away from their baby, a breast pump can be an important tool.
You can choose from a variety of breast pumps. There are manual pumps, multiple-user electric pumps, pedal pumps, and single-user pumps that are manual, electric, or battery-operated. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for your pump's assembly and use.
- Once assembled, place the flange, also called a breast shield, on your nipple and breast. You can hold a flange on your breast with your hand. A breast pump works by creating a seal around your nipple and areola. Then it applies and releases gentle suction in cycles.
- When suction starts, you should see milk begin to flow into the collection container connected to the pump. You may need to adjust the speed and suction settings. It's also important to make sure the flange is the right size for your breast.
- When you are finished, store your milk safely, and clean your pump and parts as soon as you can.
Whether you are using your hands or a pump, you will spend around 15-20 minutes or longer pumping each breast. Your breasts may feel softer when you are done.
It's normal if you don't make much milk at first. For most moms, milk expression gets easier with practice, and moms are able to express more milk over time.
Reach out to your WIC breastfeeding staff to help answer your pumping questions.