Manually expressing breast milk

In certain cases, it is necessary to manually express breast milk. It is important for every breastfeeding mother to know this technique and how to apply it.

Before expressing breast milk

  • Before you begin, wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol based hand sanitiser.
  • Wash your nipple and areola with clean water and dry them well.
  • Gently massage your breast and areola to stimulate the milk production.

Stimulating lactation


Stimulating lactation

  • Massage the milk ducts and glands by pressing down on the nipple with a flat hand. Make circular motions with your fingers, concentrating on one spot for a few seconds before moving on to another. Move towards the areola in a circular motion. This method is the very same one used for breast examinations.
  • It may also help to use gravity by leaning forward and 'shaking’.
  • Roll your nipple between your thumb and index finger to massage it.


The expressing technique

  • Position your thumb (above the nipple) and your index and middle finger (below the nipple) about 2 to 3 cm from the nipple (not at the edges of the areola). Experiment to find the position that suits you best. Make sure that your fingers and hand form a ‘C’.
  • Move the fingers inward toward your chest.
    • Do not let the fingers spread.
    • For larger breasts: first lift the breast, then apply pressure inward toward the chest wall.
  • Now, roll your thumb and fingers forward at the same time. This rolling movement ensures that the milk reservoirs are emptied without damaging the delicate breast tissue. Note the placement of your thumb and nails at the end of the ‘roll.'
  • Repeat the movement rhythmically to fully empty the reservoirs.
    • Place, press, roll …
    • Place, press, roll …
  • Using both hands, turn your thumb and fingers to empty other reservoirs on both the left and right breast.
  • The breast milk will be collected in a germ-free plastic spoon, cup or bottle.
  • The expressed milk is given to the baby immediately, kept in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours or frozen.
  • Do not squeeze your breast, as this may bruise the breast tissue. Do not let your hands slide over the breast. Do not pull on the nipple, this can also damage the tissue.
Last edit: 23 January 2023