Baby's First Year · Breastfeeding

5 Tips for expressing breast milk

Hand holding container of expressed breast milk

Hand expression takes time to learn but will become easier with practice. It involves no cost, is always available and can be done anytime and anywhere. If your baby is healthy use a clean glass or hard plastic container (BPA free) to collect your expressed breast milk. Clean means to wash in hot soapy water and leave to air dry on a clean surface away from where food is made.

Try these simple steps to learn how to hand express:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water
  • To help breast milk begin to drip, try any of the following:
  • Place a warm towel on your breast for a few minutes
  • Gently massage your breasts towards the nipples
  • Gently roll your nipple between your thumb and finger
  • Place your thumb and first 2 fingers along the outer edge of the dark area (areola)
  • Push your thumb and 2 fingers straight back towards your chest
  • Gently compress your breast using your thumb and fingers and roll fingers towards your nipple; then relax your fingers

Repeat the last 3 steps until the flow of breast milk slows down then switch to the other breast.

5 Tips for expressing breast milk

  1. Express in the morning, when your breasts feel fullest or after breastfeeding your baby.
  2. Be patient. You may only get a few drops of breast milk when first learning to express. Expressing breast milk will get better and easier with practice.
  3. Move your thumb and fingers in different positions around your nipple to ensure that all breast milk ducts are emptied.
  4. Switch breast whenever the flow of breast milk slows down.
  5. Most women are able to express breast milk by hand; however you can also express breast milk by using a breast pump

To learn how to hand express please visit Toronto Public Health’s free breastfeeding clinic.

You can connect with a Public Health Nurse if you have any further questions/concerns via our eChat or call (416) 338-7600.


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