Recently, someone on instagram commented, “Help! I went to go pump and nothing comes out! But if I squeeze the breast tissue around the nipple and areola, milk/colostrum is there. Why won’t the breast pump draw it out?”
These days, it seems like the only two options presented to Moms are breastfeed baby or pump. The breast pump is a great tool in certain instances. However, it only applies suction! It’s missing the positive pressure component of the baby’s jaw moving up and down when latched. That’s why it’s so important to incorporate hands – to help encourage the let-down reflex and milk flow with manual expression. Many women who don’t respond well to the electric pump alone do much better when they start hand expressing breast milk. I believe all breastfeeding Moms need to know this skill – that’s why I teach it in all my classes and consultations. (It can also be really helpful for engorgement). It can be done alone or in a technique called ‘hands-on pumping’ (full video tutorial in my Pumping and Storing Breastmilk class). Here is a short clip of how to perform hand expression, either alone or with a helper. Remember, PUSH+PRESS+RELAX. PUSH against your chest wall, PRESS your fingers together, and RELAX your hand.
Did you know that you can start hand expressing breastmilk before baby arrives?
It is not required to have a good milk supply – but there are a few reasons why it can be beneficial, especially during those last few weeks of pregnancy (think 37 weeks and beyond).
+ It helps you get familiar with your breast tissue, so that you can recognize changes. It can help boost your confidence with hand expression so there is less of a learning curve when baby arrives.
+ If you have gestational diabetes, it can be good to collect the colostrum from these hand expression sessions in a clean container or storage bags and refrigerate/ freeze so it’s ready to feed to baby immediately after they are born to help with their blood sugar levels.
When should I start?
+ Start using antenatal hand expression at 37 weeks in the shower. Don’t worry about collecting the milk (unless you want to, you have GD or other health reasons). Just do it for 1 or 2 minutes – and no stress if nothing comes out!
Will this mess up or interfere with my milk once baby arrives? No! our bodies are so smart and knows you are still pregnant! It won’t “run out” or change anything!
I hope this helps! More great tips and video tutorials in my online video courses for everything from breast milk storage to pump parts and skin-to-skin. I also have in-person consults and e-consults available to help prepare and support you in your goals, whatever they may be. Make sure you are signed up for my newsletter for more tips and tricks from a board certified lactation consultant.
Thanks for coming by today,
Lindsey Shipley, RN, IBCLC