pumping and expressing breast milk

Expressing breast milk can be done by hand, with a manual breast pump or an electric breast pump.

A mother may express breast milk for several reasons, and there are a number of methods and products that ensure that the breast milk is collected and stored properly to prevent the risk of bacterial growth.

Expressing Breast Milk

To express breast milk you need to stimulate the nipple to start the let down reflex, which triggers the flow of breast milk from the breast sacs to the nipple. Expressing allows the flow of breast milk through correct massage and stimulation until the breast is emptied. A baby’s sucking mouth is the best trigger, but this can also be achieved through expressing by hand, manual breast pump and an electric breast pump.

Whichever method of expressing breast milk you choose, it is extremely important that the breast milk is collected, stored and used hygienically to prevent the risk of the breast milk becoming contaminated with bacteria.

  • Always wash hands.
  • Always use clean and sterilized pump and equipment.
  • Make sure containers for collection and storage are clean and sterilized.

Hand Expressing

Hand expressing breast milk

Being able to express milk by hand is convenient and affordable and can be done anywhere any time.

  • Always wash hands with warm soapy water and dry thoroughly with a clean towel.
  • Relax in a comfortable place, this will help with your let down. Looking at a picture of your baby can help if you are unable to have your baby close to you.
  • With the flat of your hand massage your breast working toward your nipple.
  • Place your thumb above your nipple at the edge, and your first finger below the underside of the nipple. Gently press your breast tissue back towards your chest using your thumb and finger and then squeeze it forward. Small drops of milk should appear on your nipple, gently rub these in that will help stimulate the let down and increase the milk flow.
  • Keep going with this motion on both breasts making sure it is a good massaging motion of the whole breast, the milk will start to flow.
  • Expressing by hand can become tiring, make sure you swap hands constantly and ensure breasts are emptied.

Manual Hand Held Breast Pump

Manual breast pump

A hand held breast pump can be quicker and more efficient with milk flow. A hand held breast pump can also be gentler on the breast if the mother has nipple damage or cracked nipples.

Choosing the right manual breast pump

  • Easy to Use
  • Comfortable
  • Effective
  • Safe

Electric Breast Pump

An electric breast pump can be a very effective and fast way to express milk, especially for mothers of twins, premature babies and working mothers.

The most effective hospital grade breast pumps can be hired from many pharmacies, the Australian Breastfeeding Association or maternity hospital.

These electric breast pumps also come in double function, allowing you to express from both breasts at the same time.

Smaller battery operated breast pumps are a great portable alternative for mums on the go who need an efficient pump to express.

Double Pumping – Expressing with Both Breasts


Using an electric double breast pump has many benefits – not only is it great for mothers of multiples, but it’s a great aid for keeping up a mothers breast milk supply. The double breast pump helps when nipples are damaged or babies are premature and in Special Care or NICU by working gently and efficiently in half the time of using a single pump.

Double pumping also helps mothers going back to work, ensuring a quick and easy way to express, keeping up supply and breast feeding for longer.

  • Up to 18% more milk is expressed during double pumping compared to single pumping.
  • Double pumping provides milk with higher energy content, especially beneficial for preterm infants. High energy content indicates increased breast drainage, thereby assisting in the maintenance of lactation.
  • Double pumping produces increased levels of prolactin – leading to increased milk output.
  • A double electric breast pump is gets the same amount of breastmilk as a single pump in half the time.

Breast Shields

Finding the perfect fit with a breast shield is so important, not only does it help with breast milk flow but also it helps prevent damaged nipples and more. A correctly fitting breastshield will avoid compression on the superficial milk ducts, allowing the milk to be transferred from the breast to the container completely and comfortably. This helps mothers to maintain their milk production and supports lactation.

A breastshield in the wrong size can result in reduced milk flow because blocked milk ducts or an inhibited milk ejection can cause a reduction of the milk output. Friction around nipple and/or areola can cause discomfort and trauma and may result in a mother being unable to pump regularly. The milk production is once again endangered. A nipple trauma can lead to tissue breakdown that increases the risk of an infection and mastitis.

Medela together with the university of Western Australia did some research on the Breast Anatomy and with their findings developed PersonalFit Breastshields, and they come in 5 different sizes.

Breastshields need to be the correct size for an individual mother.

With the following checklist, a mother can easily assess whether she is using the right breastshield size:

Centre the nipple in the tunnel of the breastshield. Then begin pumping and check the following points:

  • Is your nipple moving freely in the tunnel?
  • Is none or only very little tissue of the areola being pulled into the tunnel of the breastshield?
  • Do you recognize gentle, rhythmic movements in the breast at each pump cycle?
  • Do you feel the breast emptying all over?
  • Is your nipple free of pain?
  • If the answer to any of the above questions is “No”, select a bigger (or smaller) breastshield.

Finding the right fit:

The mother requires a different size if the breastshield:

…is too small, because the nipple is not moving freely in the tunnel.

…is too large, because too much tissue of the areola is being pulled into the tunnel of the breastshield.

…is too large, because the breastshield does not make a good seal.


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