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Preparing Your Body For Your Baby's Arrival

Published in Birthing Services, For the Health of It Author: Holly Zellhoefer-Tacl, RN-BSN, CLC

Hand expression is the act of using your hands to express breast milk. Having additional breast milk available can be useful for any mother planning to breastfeed. 

When a mother is at 37 weeks, she can begin hand expression to save colostrum. Hand expressed milk can be saved for later use. This milk can be frozen and brought to the hospital. Before you start doing this, it is important to talk with your provider about prenatal hand expression of your breast milk.

Some reasons that additional hand expressed breast milk can be useful:

  • In situations where baby’s blood glucose will need to be checked after birth. A baby may need blood glucose checks if the mother is taking certain medications, if the mother has gestational diabetes or other medical conditions.
  • The mother has or is:
    • Expecting twins or triplets
    • Had breast surgery
    • A history of low milk supply
    • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
    • A history of endocrine disorders
    • High blood pressure
  • If the baby struggles with latching, having breast milk available can be helpful for that first feeding.

Other reasons hand expression is helpful:

  • Hand expression also helps to stimulate milk production and can help with managing breast fullness.
  • If your baby is sleepy after birth, a taste of hand expressed breast milk can help entice baby to latch.
  • Typically, your baby is the most effective at removing milk from your breasts. But if you’re struggling with baby latching, hand expression is the next best thing for removing milk.
  • Many moms may consider pumping as well, but hand expression may be more effective at removing milk in those early hours and days after baby arrives.
  • Early removal of breast milk is key in establishing your milk supply.

Meeting with a lactation consultant will be helpful in teaching you the proper technique. Consider meeting with a lactation consultant prior to delivery of your baby, registering for a breastfeeding class or attending a La Leche League meeting in your area.

See additional breastfeeding resources.