How to Express Milk by Hand



Hand expression uses massaging compression to remove milk from the breast using one or both hands. It can be used as a stand-alone method, or as a complement to hands-on pumping with an electric breast pump. Hand expression combined with pumping is an evidence-based method for ensuring optimal milk removal in the early postpartum period and thereafter. Hand expression is also valuable when treating engorgement. While hand expression requires very little by way of equipment, it is a skill that must be learned.

Hand expression in the first hours after birth or in the first few days after breast or chestfeeding is a great way to stimulate the milk supply as well as collect important drops of colostrum that can be fed to a sleepy baby.

Equipment Needed:

• Hands
• Collection container such as a bowl, cup, or spoon
• Food-based oil like olive or coconut oil (optional)


***Try this in front of a mirror for feedback on how you are doing***

  1. Wash your hands and get your container for breastmilk (spoon, medicine cup, bottle, or cup).
  2. Massage both breasts using circular motions all the way around the breast.
  3. Place fingers about an inch and a half away from your nipple
  4. Press back towards your chest wall
  5. Squeeze gently
  6. Compress to comfort and catch any drops of milk
  7. Relax your hand and then repeat
  8. Switch back and forth between breasts after a few expressions or when no longer seeing drops of milk
  9. Change where fingers are placed on the breast to collect milk from different areas of the breast. You may also use the hand that is not expressing to provide positive pressure/compression to the breast towards the back.

The best hand position can vary from person to person. Practice with your fingers closer to the nipple and then farther away to find the best position for you.Be patient with yourself, it may take a few minutes of hand expression before you see any milk.

Follow Up:

If this process does not work to express the milk or you are so engorged the milk feels “stuck”, try reverse pressure softening


Hand Expression of Breastmilk – Stanford University