5 Reasons Why You Should Hand Express Breast Milk Postpartum

Learning the benefits of hand expression has completely changed my experience as a nurse caring for mom and baby. After our hospital completed the Baby Friendly Initiative training, one of the things nurses could agree on the most was that hand expressing breast milk in the early days postpartum is invaluable. It has the ability to change the outcome of a mom’s breastfeeding journey.

hand expressing breast milk


Hand Expressing Breast Milk After Feeds Helps Your Milk Come In

Hand expressing in the first three to four days after feeding your baby can provide the extra stimulation for your breasts needed to ensure your milk supply comes in well.

According to a randomized control study led by researchers at UCSF in 2011, hand expression in the early postpartum period improves breastfeeding rates compared with moms who pumped. While 72 % of moms in the breast pump group continued nursing two months postpartum, a whopping 97% within the hand-expression group were still nursing at the same time. Those are some great odds!

Hand Expressing Breast Milk Can Help Heal Sore Nipples

Breastfeeding does not come as naturally as expected for many moms and babies, and nipple pain can make breastfeeding even more difficult. In addition to a Lanolin cream, a great (and free!) option to heal bruised and battered nipples is to express a small amount of colostrum (the early breast milk), apply it to your nipples and then allow to air dry.

Hand Expressing is Free

While a good quality pump can be hundreds of dollars to buy and rentals can be in short supply, your hands are always available to express breast milk. No matter your income, hand expression when taught correctly, is an option for all moms.

That’s pretty great.

hand expressing breast milk

Hand Expressing Provides Your Newborn With Nourishment if Your Newborn Won’t Latch

I spend a large part of my job helping moms breastfeed immediately postpartum, and I can safely tell you that it is the most rewarding part of my job. I will also tell you though that it can also be the most frustrating! Sometimes rarely, no matter what trick you use, a newborn baby just won’t latch.

Latching is the most important aspect of providing nourishment to your baby, but while you and your baby are perfecting your latch, don’t you think it would be nice to have an alternative option for feeding your baby that doesn’t involve formula or bottles?

By expressing colostrum after attempting to breastfeed (which is a much easier way to extract milk in the first few days before your milk comes in), you are giving yourself multiple options to feed your baby – spoon-feeding, cup-feeding, syringe and tube feeding and finger-feeding.

It’s helpful to remember that your newborn baby’s stomach is the size of a chickpea at first… So even if you feel defeated with the small amount you are able to express, it is actually perfect for your baby!

Hand Expressing Can Relieve Your Engorgement

After your milk comes in somewhere between day three and five, your breasts may become engorged. Engorgement can be a very painful experience for you and can make it very difficult for your baby to latch on, which may mean a sore mom and a fussy baby.

When you experience engorgement, you can find relief through hand expression. Prior to feeds, hand expressing breast milk can relieve the pressure of your breasts, giving your baby a fighting chance to latch on and remove all the milk from your breasts.

How Do I Hand Express Breast Milk?

If you are interested in finding out more about how to hand express breast milk, you can check out this helpful video below.


I hope that you found this information helpful on hand expressing breast milk! If you have anything else to add, please use the comment section below!

The Mama Nurse


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Hi! I am a Registered Nurse on a unit that encompasses labour and delivery, postpartum, medical, surgical and palliative care in a rural hospital in Ontario, Canada. I am a mom of two and am passionate about women's rights, mom and infant care, parenting and nursing. I hope to create an educational, entertaining and highly relatable resource for women around the world. Thanks for stopping by! Xo, The Mama Nurse

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