You heard right, milk removal from your breasts with your own hand is a skill every lactating woman would benefit from learning. In fact, hand expression in conjunction with pumping can increase output for pumping moms, yet teaching the skill is neglected on many maternity wards.
I’m not sure when we started to assume that our own handy work wouldn’t be sufficient and obsessed about finding the right pump for milk expression. It seems that a first-time mom is required to add an electric breast pump to her baby registry if she decided on breastfeeding, along with the starter bottle set just in case.
Just in case of…Can you think of a few reasons that require you to have an electric breast pump? I can too, but except for the case of a working mom most of them are very unlikely, like a very premature baby, being separated from baby for a longer period of time, or feeding issues that prevent latching. For most of those rare events, a mom would be able to rent or borrow a hospital grade pump, the most efficient, multi-user, and pricey item on the product list of manufacturers. Working moms and exclusive pumping moms may benefit from the use of a good electric pump, but being efficient in hand expression can only be of advantage to pumping moms as well. Yes, it’s work and you won’t be able to check Facebook while doing it, but I can come up with one advantage for every digit on my hands that may persuade you to give hand expression a try.
2 x 5 advantages of learning hand expression over buying an electric breast pump:
- Hand expression is always available provided you have a free hand or someone to lend you a hand. Imagine you pumped a bottle for baby and went to an event without lugging the pump because the carrying tote didn’t coordinate with your gorgeous dress and there’s no place to store it. You start to feel painfully engorged and need to remove some milk for comfort. Thank goodness you know how to hand express and the ladies’ room is just around the corner! Five minutes, and you’re back at the party!
- Hand expression doesn’t require electricity - even better, you increase your own energy expenditure. I certainly wouldn’t mind burning some extra calories. You can express anywhere, no need to look for an outlet and chair.
- Hand expression, more specifically breast compression, can help pumping moms to effectively drain the breast and increase output, especially if practiced in the early days.
- Supplies are minimal and cleaning is fast. You need a dish to catch the milk if desired, otherwise the sink, ground, or a towel will do. No extra aftercare is required.
- You learn the technique you respond best to and get to know your breasts – it’s not a one-fits-all approach, like the suction of a pump, -- and if there are issues or lumps you will know.
- It’s faster than a pump once you are proficient. More mommy time? Why, thank you!
- Hand expression can help while nursing to remove plugged ducts and aids in treatment of mastitis much better than a pump, second only to baby.
- In NOT buying an affordable, single user pump (which can’t be resold) for occasional use, you reduce electric waste and preserve resources. Breastfeeding rates are increasing and at this rate we may have underused pumps orbiting the earth as space trash soon. You get my point.
- Working with your hands increases confidence in your body and yourself. Much more so than comparing yourself to a dairy cow.
Now that you are intrigued to try, check out this video to get some pointers on technique and start practicing. It will take time to learn, so don’t be discouraged.
Do you see some results? High five!
Please share your experience with hand expression, special tricks, or situations where it helped you in a comment below.