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Embracing the Natural Art of Hand Expression in Breastfeeding



Twenty-five years ago, as a single, black mother navigating the complexities of new motherhood amidst medical disparities, I embarked on my breastfeeding journey with my newborn son, Jordan, without the aid of a breast pump. This experience, born out of necessity, introduced me to the age-old practice of hand expression—a technique I initially believed was my unique, solitary venture.


The Timeless Technique of Hand Expression


Hand expression of breast milk is as old as motherhood, with stories of ancestors filling Mason jars with milk. It wasn't until attending a workshop led by Francie Webb, a teacher, mother, and CEO of TheMilkinMama, that I realized the value and validation of this method. Francie adeptly balances her professional life with the demands of motherhood through hand expression, underscoring its feasibility and efficiency.


Despite the prevalence of breast pumps atop baby registry lists and the eagerness of mothers-to-be to secure one through insurance, the emphasis on hand expression as a fundamental skill for breastfeeding mothers remains surprisingly low. Breast pumps, while helpful, can sometimes be harsh on delicate breast tissue and may not mimic the natural process of breastfeeding as closely as hand expression.


Understanding the Basics of Breast Anatomy


The female breast, a glandular organ designed to produce and deliver milk, operates through a delicate duct system that transports milk to the nipple. Hand-expressing breast milk involves gentle massage and compression, engaging the entire breast and stimulating milk flow, contrasting the localized suction of a breast pump.


Mastering the Technique of Hand Expression


Proper technique and relaxation are crucial for practical hand expression. The process should start with clean hands and a comfortable posture to reduce stress. Imagine your breast as a purse with various compartments—hand expression aims to gently coax milk from all these areas, ensuring a thorough and gentle extraction process.


The Importance of Patience and Practice


Rushing the process of breastfeeding or pumping can lead to stress and reduced milk flow. Massaging the breast before expressing or pumping can help alleviate engorgement and promote smoother milk ejection. Organic alternatives like coconut oil can be used for nipple care, especially if you or your baby have sensitivities to standard products like lanolin.


Incorporating Hand Expression into Your Routine


Practicing hand expression between feedings enhances skill and builds confidence in one's ability to provide for their baby in a natural, empowering way. This method offers flexibility for mothers, including those with preemies needing colostrum or parents who wish to maintain their supply while away from their baby. Hand expression is also an inclusive option for transgender parents seeking to participate in nurturing.


Learn from the Experts


Francie Webb’s TheMilkinMama provides valuable resources, workshops, and online learning opportunities for those interested in mastering hand expression. Her expertise supports breastfeeding mothers, doulas, and lactation counselors, promoting the benefits and accessibility of hand expression.


For more information, visit:


TheMilkinMama Online Learning

TheMilkinMama on Facebook


Hand expression is more than just a method of milk extraction; it's a testament to the resilience, adaptability, and deep-rooted connection between mother and child. It's a practice that underscores the importance of embracing natural, instinctual approaches to motherhood, fostering a sense of empowerment and closeness that technology cannot replicate.

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Denise Bolds, Bold Doula

Hi, I'm Denise

I'm Bold Doula, a passionate birth doula who advocates for empowering birth experiences. If you're looking for support or guidance on your journey to parenthood, please reach out. I'd love to help you navigate this transformative time with confidence and care!

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