Expressing Milk - Mother's e-Guide

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Expressing Milk

Expressing milk is the act of squeezing milk out of the female breast. This can be achieved using the hand, electric or hand pump. Each time a breast pump is used, it must be clean and sterilised. Expressing milk as a system of feeding the baby may be useful if the mother will not be around (i.e. away from the baby). In this case, it is worthy of mentioning that expressing the milk will make the baby to have access to breast-milk even if someone else is feeding them. It is advisable to wait until the baby is a little older (like a month old) before regularly expressing milk. This will first create a chance to get the feeding going well. By this, the body will have that ample space to build up a milk supply that precisely matches the baby’s needs. It will also save you – the mother from the extra effort that goes with the pumping of breast milk.

Expressing Milk by Hand: The Process

No. 1: Have a clean sterilised container to hand or available before you start.

Sterilised Container
No. 2: Cup your breast and place your thumb and finger about 2-3 cm from the base of the nipple.

Squeezing the breast
No. 3: Using your thumb and the rest of your fingers in a C shape, gently squeeze this area – this should not hurt.

Squeezing the breast - Expressing Milk

No. 4: Release the pressure and then repeat again and again, building up a rhythm. Avoid sliding your fingers over the skin. At first, only drops will appear, but just keep going as it will help build up your supply. With practice and a little more time, milk will flow freely.

No. 5: When the flow slows down, move your fingers round to try a different section of your breast and repeat. When this happens again swap to the other breast. Keep changing breasts until the milk is dripping very slowly or stops altogether.

No. 6: If the milk doesn’t flow, try moving your fingers slightly towards the nipple or further away, and try a gentle breast massage.

Storing and Feeding Expressed Milk

If the milk is to be consumed within the next four hours, you can leave it out and feed the baby with it at room temperature. The expressed milk should be put in a sterilised container; it can be refrigerated (never in the door area of the fridge) for up to 5 days at 4 degree centigrade or lower. It can also be stored for 2 weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge or for up to 6 months in a freezer. Frozen milk (expressed) should be defrosted in the fridge; once it is thawed, it should be consumed immediately. The milk can be warmed up to body temperature before feeding the baby. Meanwhile, express milk should never be heated up in the microwave. It can cause hot spots which can burn the baby’s mouth.

Signs the baby is getting enough milk.

  DAY 1

  • The baby should be healthy and gaining weight after the first 2 weeks.

  • In the first 48 hours, your baby is likely to have only 2 or 3 wet nappies. Wet nappies should then start to become more frequent, with at least 6 every 24 hours from day 5 onwards.

DAY 2 - 3

  • At the beginning, the baby will excrete a black tar-like stool called meconium. By day 3, this should be changing to a lighter, runnier, greenish stool that is easier to clean up.


  • From day 4 and for the first few weeks (4 to 6 weeks) your baby should pass at least 2 or more yellow stools a day. Most babies pass lots of stools and this is a good sign. Remember, it’s normal for breastfed babies to pass loose stools. Your baby should have at least six wet and two dirty diapers a day, and the amount of stool varies from baby to baby. If your baby did not defecate in the last 24 - 48 hours, visit the doctor as this may signal inadequate access to milk (by the baby).

Milk Extraction: Possible Reasons

Reasons for expressing milk by hand can be attributed to the fact that the breast is uncomfortably full (engorgement) because of this, the nipples and breast as a whole hurt a lot, baby does not gain enough weight because he/ she is not sucking well and still must be given the breast milk. Inability to buy or get a pump can also serve as hindrance to using it, therefore expressing manually by hand is the remaining alternative. Some actually find it easy (in first few days) to express milk by hand hence, they practise or engage in what is convenient for them.

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