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Breast Massage with Milk Expression by Hand

Breast massage with hand expression is a method to remove milk from the breast. Even though beast pumps are widely used, using your own hands to empty the breast can be helpful for the following:

  • Hard and swollen breasts
  • A premature or fussy baby
  • A baby having trouble latching
  • To increase milk supply
  • To maintain lactation when an infant cannot be fed

Breast Massage Technique

  • Supplies needed: Breasts, 2 warm hands, and olive oil (optional)
  • Wash hands.
  • Choosing a quiet, comfortable setting (soft music helps), take a warm shower or apply a warm washcloth to the breasts.
  • While mother is seated or lying down on a bed, gently shake the breasts with both hands and then begin massage.
  • With one hand on top of a breast and the other hand below the breasts, gently massage back and forth in opposite ways. Next with one hand on each side of the breast, gently massage up and down in opposite ways. Also, gently twist each breast, using both hands, in a wringing motion (Hartl, D., Cunningham, R. Breast Massage).

Hand Expression Technique

Illustration of expression through breast massage
(2010 La Leche League International, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Chapter 20)
  • Using your index finger and thumb, position your hand at the outer edge of the areola (darkened area around the nipple).
  • Gently compress the outer edge of the areola (do not compress the nipple). Repeat this method rotating index finger and thumb around the outer edge of the areola.

An alternate technique for hand expression can be found at https://med.stanford.edu/newborns/professional-education/breastfeeding/hand-expressing-milk.html

When to Call Your Doctor or Lactation Consultant

  • If you do not have relief with these measures
  • If you see any redness or streaking, or develop a fever or flu-like symptoms
  • If baby is unable to latch to breast

Works Cited

Hartl, D. & Cunningham, R. “Breast Massage”, Alive Magazine. Updated Apr. 24, 2015. Published January 1, 2005.

La Leche League Tearsheet “Hand Expression Technique”, La Leche League International, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. 2010.

La Leche League, “Expressing and Storing Milk”, New Beginnings, July/August vol. 24/#4. 2007.

Lawrence, Ruth A. & Lawrence, Robert M. “Breastfeeding, A Guide for the Medical Professional”, Eighth edition, ELSEVIER, 2016.

Wambach, Karen and Riordan, Jan “Breastfeeding and Human Lactation”, Fifth edition, Jones & Bartlett, 2016.

Stanford Medicine, Hand Expression of Breastmilk. Retrieved 21 August 2020.