Learn how to hand express breastmilk

Avoid These Motions

  1. Do not squeeze the breast, as this can cause bruising.
  2. Sliding hands over the breast may cause painful skin burns.
  3. Avoid pulling the nipple which may result in tissue damage.

Assisting the Milk Ejection Reflex

  1. Massage the milk producing cells and ducts by pressing the breast firmly with the flat of the fingers into the chest wall, beginning at the top. Move fingers in a circular motion, concentrating on one spot at a time for a few seconds before moving on to another spot. Spiral around the breast toward the areola as you massage. The motion is similar to that used in a breast examination.
  2. Stroke the breast area from the top of the breast to the nipple, using a light tickle touch. Continue the stroking motion to help you relax, which in turn will stimulate the milk ejection reflex.
  3. Shake the breast while leaning forward so that gravity will help the milk eject.


This procedure should be followed by mothers who are expressing in place of a full feeding and those who need to establish, increase or maintain their milk supply when the baby cannot breastfeed.

  • Express each breast until the flow of milk slows down.
  • Assist the milk ejection reflex (massage, stroke, shake) on both breasts. This can be done simultaneously.
  • Repeat the whole process of expressing each breast and assisting the milk ejection reflex once or twice more. The flow of milk usually slows down sooner the second or third time, as the reservoirs are drained.


The entire procedure should take approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

  • Express each breast 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Massage, stroke, shake.
  • Express each breast 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Massage, stroke, shake.
  • Express each breast 2 to 3 minutes.

Note: If the milk supply is established, use the times given only as a guide. Watch the flow of milk and alternate breasts when the flow gets small.

Note: If little or no milk is present yet, follow these suggested times closely.

Copyright 1988 by Chele Marmet. Reprinted at ParentsPlace.com with permission from Medela Inc., Chele Marmet and The Lactation Institute, 16430 Ventura Blvd. Suite 303, Encino, CA 91436. This article may be printed out for personal use but may not be reproduced in any other manner nor for any other purpose without permission from both the author and Medela, Inc.

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