Our CEO, Anna, gave birth to her baby boy in October 2018. She began hand expressing her milk on the go when she returned to work and realized she had left behind a part of her pump.
Anna wasn’t alone in her experience; plenty of other busy mothers have found that hand expression saved them when the pump failed them. In this Motherly article, “7 Miconceptions About Hand Expression,” the author had a similar experience. “I started hand expressing milk when I went back to work and was trying to keep up with my baby’s bottle intake. It was just an addendum to pumping then, and I never considered that it could be more than that. That is, until my very first trip without [my] baby, when I forgot some of my pump parts.”
Pumping at work can be difficult. Breastfeeding mothers who find it inconvenient to use, clean, and transport a breast pump may prefer to hand express their breastmilk.
- Is more affordable than pumping (Angeletti, 2009)
- Doesn’t use noisy parts that need cleaning (La Leche League)
- Can increase milk production when combined with using a breast pump or when used as the sole method of milk expression (Droplet; Imagine, a Way to Collect Breast Milk Without a Pump)
Mothers that hand express tend to breastfeed longer as well. A study from the University of California, San Francisco looked at “68 mothers of newborns 12–36 hold who were latching or sucking poorly.” They were randomly assigned to be taught either hand expression or pumping. Results suggest that mothers that were taught hand expression went on to breastfeed longer. “At 2 months, mothers assigned to hand expression were more likely to be breastfeeding (96.1%) than mothers assigned to breast pumping (72.7%).”
An essential part of successful hand expression is the proper training of healthcare providers. Our Lactation Simulation Models (LSMs) are realistic hand expression trainers. We aim to build confidence in their breastfeeding skills, so parents can come to them with any problem and their healthcare providers can help them reach their lactation goals.
In our Breast Health Training Tool Collection (BHTT), a set of 10 breast models covering 50+ medical illustrations, Breast #7’s sample training scenario is pain during breast pumping.
It seems like for now, hand expression has won the “battle.” It’s cheaper, no extra tools are needed, and there is evidence that it helps increase milk production. If you still choose the pump, that’s okay! Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different. We support everyone’s choices when it comes to their chest/breasts.