Breast milk expression

As a breastfeeding mother, you yourself may sometimes need to remove milk from your breasts.

There are many benefits of breasfeeding. Not only does it increase the bond between baby and mother, but it also provides nutrients that formula lacks. While breastfeeding you may experience times when you need to express milk yourself.

Breast milk expression may be necessary if:

  • Your baby is unable to breastfeed directly
  • You want to make more milk
  • You will be away from your baby for one or more feedings
  • You need to relieve fullness in your breasts

You can remove milk with your hands or with a breast pump.

Removing breast milk by hand:

  • Removing milk by hand is convenient and doesn’t require any special equipment. You may need to practice with different hand positions until you find what works for you.
  • Begin by applying warm cloths and gently massaging your breast. Start at the outside, moving from the chest toward the nipple in a circular motion.
  • Use your thumb and fingers to form a “C” at the outer edge of the areola, the darker skin around your nipple. Go to for an illustration of this procedure under fact sheets/Express Yourself!
  • Press, compress, relax
  1. Press back towards your chest.
  2. Compress your breast by gently bringing your index finger and thumb together, being sure not to pinch your nipple
  1. Relax the pressure and start over again
  • Move your fingers around to get milk from each area of your breast.
  • Switch breasts every few minutes to get more milk

 Hints to make expression easier:

  • Choose a quiet, comfortable place
  • Apply warm, moist washcloths on your breasts
  • Think about your baby. Look at a picture or smell something he has worn.
  • Turn on relaxing music or listen to a recording of your baby’s voice

 Using a breast pump:

It is important to choose a pump that meets your needs. A manual or single electric breast pump will work if you only pump once in a while. A double electric pump allows you to express both breasts at the same time and is best if you pump often.

Ask your WIC nutritionist or Michigan State University Extension’s breastfeeding peer counselor to help find the right pump for you, and get any assistance you may need in using your pump.

MSU Extension’s Breastfeeding Mother to Mother Program can answer your questions about breastfeeding. For additional information on breastfeeding your baby, go to or call a representative of the program.

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