Breastfeeding A to Z

Hand Expressing Breastmilk

Many women find that hand expressing breastmilk is an efficient way to provide breastmilk for their baby when only occasional expression is needed.

Expressing by hand: (1)

  1. Place your hand in a C-shape around the breast.  Thumb on top, fingers underneath breast.  Thumb and fingers need to be about 1-2 inches (3-5 centimeters) back from the nipple.
  2. Press thumb and fingers gently inward toward your rib cage.
  3. Roll, fingers together in a slight downward motion.  Towards nipple.  (Thumb and fingers slide and push towards nipple)
  4. It may take 3-5 minutes to establish a let-down of breastmilk.  Be patient.  As you practice hand expressing the let-down will come more quickly.  See Getting the Most Breastmilk  for ways to enhance a let-down.
  5. Continue this motion until the flow of milk slows and then shift thumb and finger pressure to another area on breast, slowly going around the entire breast.  You have milk ducts around the entire circumference of the breast, you want to release milk from all parts of the breast.
  6. Use a clean container to catch your breastmilk and store per guidelines given in Storage of Breastmilk link.


  1. Mohrbacher, N, Stock, J, La Leche League International The Breastfeeding Answer Book, 3rd Revised Edition, Schaumburg, IL, La Leche League International, Jan 2003, pp 216, 229.