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Knowing how to hand express milk can help solve your breastfeeding problems.

Photo: Poet and activist Staceyann Chin with her daughter Zuri in 2012. Captured by J. Quazi King for mater mea

Hand expressing is the G.O.A.T. of breastfeeding—if you’re having problems breastfeeding, lactation consultants and educators everywhere will recommend manually massaging the breasts with your hands to get milk out instead of using a pump or doing a feeding.

We asked certified lactation educator counselor and doula Jennifer D. Evans to share the best way to hand express milk. Here’s what she had to share:

You’re going to make a C shape with one of your hands. Your hands are going to be on the outside of your areola, not really touching it, and you’re going to roll your thumb to your index finger. It’s a rolling motion toward your nipple. That is the easiest and best way.

I love hand expressing … because you don’t want to pump too much at the beginning when your supply is still regulating. If you’re pumping too much, you’re signaling your body to make a lot of milk.

The good thing with hand expressing is that it’s not a sucking motion, so you’re still removing milk. You can take a little bit of milk out and help baby latch [better] when your breasts are engorged, without signaling your breasts to make double the milk.

You can express before and after feeds. Do it in the hospital—it’s a great way to supplement, and it’s a great way to help increase supply in the beginning, especially when it’s hard to get baby to latch.

It’s a great tool to learn even before you go to the hospital, because you never know what’s happening in the hospital. You could be separated from [your] baby, and when you’re able to get a pump, it’s great [to know how to hand express milk]. It can help with milk blebs, clogged ducts, everything.

I think hand expression is something every breastfeeding parent should learn, even dads! With our first, I vividly remember [my husband] helping me to hand express. We looked up videos online; he was helping me hand express into a bowl because I was in so much pain.

Jennifer D. Evans is a certified lactation educator counselor and doula.

Watch lactation consultant Anjelica Malone give breastfeeding advice!

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