Would you like to get even more milk when you express using a breast pump?
The tools you need are right there in front of you – your hands!
Research has shown that using a technique called hands-on pumping maximises the volume of milk you can remove from the breast – by as much as twice the amount collected from pumping alone.
Would you like to know how to do it? Of course you do! Firstly, here's an explanation as to why it works.
Your baby has the most advanced design when it comes to getting milk from your breast – after millennia of research and development known as evolution, nature wins the prize.
A combination of positive pressure and negative pressure work to squeeze and suck the milk from the breast. When we hand express, we use positive pressure to squeeze out the milk from the ducts under the areola.
When we use a breast pump, it uses negative pressure to suction the milk out from those ducts. When you combine the two techniques by compressing the breast tissue with your hands while pumping, you get the results of both.
Here are 4 steps to hands-on pumping:
#1: Step One – Choose Double Pumping
You can still get the same effect using a single breast pump but other studies have shown pumping both breasts at the same time increases the overall volume of milk you release. A hospital-grade rental pump with a double milk collection kit will give you the best results overall. You can also buy specially-designed bras to allow you to pump hands-free, which makes it a lot easier to work the hand compressions. Read more about choosing a breast pump here.
#2: Step Two – Massage Your Breasts
Help get your breasts ready to work by stimulating the let-down reflex (also known as the milk-ejection reflex) with your hands. Using your fingers flat against your breasts, gently massage in a circular motion, starting where the breast meets your chest and working towards the nipple.
#3: Step Three – Start to Pump
Pump as normal, until the milk slows to a dribble. This is usually around 15-20 minutes. Now massage your breasts again, feeling for any areas of firmness. Using gentle pressure, massage these spots gently towards the nipple. You can use one hand per breast to compress or use both hands on one breast, switching backwards and forwards between them. Continue until the flow eases to an ooze and you cannot collect the drops.
#4: Step Four – Single Pump and/or Hand Express to Finish
While one breast rests, express the other by either using a single collection kit and using hand compressions to expel remaining fat-rich milk or put your pump aside and use hand expression only to get the milk out. Go from breast to breast, focusing your hand compression on the firmer areas, most likely the outer breast near your arms. When the flow slows down, switch to the other breast and continuing switching until you feel the breast is soft and milk stops trickling.
You can collect the milk you hand express directly into the funnel of your milk collection kit, meaning you don’t need a separate container. The more you practice these new skills, the better you will come to know where to add pressure and which parts of your breasts respond best.
Find out more about hand expressing in our article: 4 Steps to Hand Expressing Your Breastmilk.
You can see a video explaining these points in detail and showing the techniques in practice here.
Read even more tips to help in our article: Tips To Help You Express Breastmilk Like A Pro.