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Feeding the Child

How can I express my milk by hand?

It'll take a bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it, you'll find it really useful. You can express your milk by gently and rhythmically pressing down on your breasts.

There are probably as many ways of doing this as there are mums. The trick is to press the milk ducts behind your nipple. Many mums make the mistake of squeezing the nipple itself. You won't get any milk that way and it'll probably hurt.

Here's how to do it:

- Wash your hands before you start. Find a suitable wide-rimmed container for your milk, such as a jug. Either sterilise it in a steriliser or wash it well and scald it with boiling water.

- Sit comfortably, with your back straight.

- Place your little finger underneath your breast, against your ribs, and spread your other fingers slightly to support your breast. Your thumb needs to be on top, about 3cm or 4cm back from the base of your nipple.

- Adjust your fingers if you need to, so that your first finger and thumb are opposite each other, making a big C shape around your breast.

- Your milk comes from deep within your breast, so your finger and thumb need to be well away from your nipple. Place them towards the edge the darker skin surrounding your nipple (areola). If you have a large areola, you may need to bring your fingers inside it.

- Gently squeeze your thumb and first finger together, hold the squeeze for a count of three, and release, but keep your finger and thumb in the same position.

- Repeat the squeezing and releasing until you see drops of colostrum or breastmilk appearing at your nipple. Be patient, it may take a minute or two for milk to appear.

Some mums find hand expressing works better if they press their whole hand back and in towards their breast, just before they squeeze. Here are some more tips to help you:

- Don’t slide your thumb over the skin of your breast, as this may damage your skin.

- If your fingers feel tired, use your other hand, or try your other breast.

- If the flow slows, rotate your hand slightly and try a different section of your breast before you change breasts.

Once you have had a bit of practice, you may find your milk sprays out. If this is the case try collecting your milk using a funnel inside your container. Scald the funnel first with boiling water.

It does take time to learn how to express by hand, but keep going. Many mums find that, once they become skilled at it, they can hand express a lot of milk in less time than it takes to use a manual or electric breast pump.