Hand expression is the removal of milk from the breast/chest manually — using your hands! It can be helpful to begin practicing this before birth (but after discussing it with your care provider). Throughout the infant feeding journey, hand expression can be a helpful way to supplement feeding a baby directly, and it can be helpful to provide relief and prevent common issues like engorgement, clogged ducts, and mastitis.
The five steps to hand expression are to: (1) stimulate the nipple, (2) find the lactiferous sinuses (at the edge of, or within the areola and feel like “little beans”), (3) form a “C” shape there with two fingers, and (4) express by pressing, compressing, and releasing, and (5) switch sides and hand express again. The key, Sunny says, is to remember that we’re not trying to squeeze milk out, we’re doing this motion to signal the brain that it’s time to let the milk down.
Massaging the tissue over the mammary glands (which produce milk) can help increase the effectiveness of milk production, even increasing milk supply. It can also help prevent and provide relief from common challenges like engorgement, clogged ducts, and mastitis.
When we massage for lactation, we are not massaging the areola or the nipple — we are massaging the tissue above, which carries the mammary glands, which produce milk.