If you are currently lactating and want to express your milk manually, this should help you to accomplish that. If you are not lactating and you wish to establish lactation, you can follow the following steps, and even though you will not see milk come out for a while, doing the same steps as often as you would as if you were breastfeeding will help you to reach your goal.
The best method of removing milk from your breasts is by allowing your infant or partner to suckle with his or her mouth. Your breasts are designed to produce milk when a tongue presses your areolar area (darker pigmented circle surrounding your nipple) up against the roof of the mouth, applying a slight suction to carry away your milk as it is produced.
When you are not able to be with the one that your milk is intended for, due to such reasons as sickness or travel or a busy work schedule, there are two other options for expressing your milk. The second best method is called Manual Expression, and consists of your using your hands to express your milk from your breasts. A third method is to use a breast pump. A breast pump is effective if you are in full-time lactation, but If you are attempting to re-lactate after a period of time of no lactation, or you are attempting to lactate without the benefit of ever having been pregnant, the breast pump may not be enough of a stimulus to your breast nerves to encourage them to produce milk. It takes light stroking of your milk ducts (lactiferous ducts that lead from your lobules to your nipple), your ampullae (reservoirs) behind your nipples, and the nerves surrounding your nipples. You can find drawings of the interior of your breast at the following locations:
If you want to manually express (express by hand) your milk from your breasts, you can start by standing in the front of a mirror (just this first time). Look at your left breast and imagine that you can see the numbers of a clock circling around your nipple, at the outer circumference of your areola, with the 12 at the center of the upper side of your breast. The 6 is directly below your nipple, and the 3 and the 9 are on opposite sides of your nipple.
Method for Smaller (A-cup through C-cup) Breasts:
Alternate Method for Larger Breasts:
It may be quite difficult for you to do manual expression with breasts that are a large D-cup or larger. You may have more success with the following procedure.
If you find that it works better for you to use some lubricant on your hands, any body lubricant would work fine. Body oils, massage oils, Pure Cornstarch baby powder, soap if you are in the tub or shower, chocolate pudding (if you feel really decadent). You can always let your partner help of course
You are massaging your breasts and stimulating nerves deep inside your breasts. The more important ones are just behind your nipple, so be sure to complete each stroke to the base of your nipple. Do not stroke the nipple. That works only on cows and goats. Human nipples are only passages.
Your glands and nerves in your breasts radiate out from your nipple in all directions, like the “minute marks” on the face of a clock. Rotate your hands a little to begin the next stroke so that you are stimulating a different bunch of glands and nerves on each stroke.
Actually, every woman should be doing some type of breast massage for ten minutes every day of their lives, starting from the age that they first have breast development. Your breasts have the least amount of blood vessels per cubic inch of body mass than any other part of your body. That means you have very limited circulation in your breasts to carry away the toxins and waste products from all of those body cells in your breasts. That is thought to be part of the reason breast cancer is so prevalent today. Your breasts compensate for this limited blood circulation by having the GREATEST amount of lymphatic fluid vessels per cubic inch of body mass than any other part of your body. Lymphatic fluids do not have a heart to make them flow and they can only flow when your breasts move and swing, as they naturally do when you do not wear a bra. Since our world wants us to wear bras, we can compensate somewhat by doing some type of breast massage every day and keeping the total hours per day that you wear your bra to a minimum. Pure lymphatic massage (not attempting lactation) only needs very light pressures.
For Those That Are Attempting To Re-lactate:
You may be asking: “Ok, so I’m doing it… but nothing will come out. What gives?” If you are attempting to re-lactate, then that is normal. You will most likely see SOMETHING come out, even if it is your first time. Women’s breasts will almost always release some liquid. Breast ducts are living tissue and fluids are always present or the ducts would dry out. That is the reason that the American Cancer Society no longer suggests that you squeeze your nipples during a Breast Self-Examination… you will almost always get something to come out. What they now recommend that you look for when you do a Breast Self-Examination, is to be aware if one or both breasts voluntarily emits liquids (without any squeezing). Also, be sure to note whether the liquids are pink or red in color (white, yellow, even green and black are usually ok), or if one breast has lately started to emit a fluid for no apparent reason. Obviously, when you are lactating you will get involuntary emission from your nipples, but you will know what that is and why you are getting it.
One thing we know is that you will not be pushing out milk right away, unless you were actively lactating very recently (or if you are on some hormone treatments, including some birth-control methods). What you have to remind yourself of is that you are “training” your breasts and developing new glandular tissues. You are also sending nerve signals to your brain to release the proper hormones that will allow your breasts to develop to the point that they will start lactating again. By doing this stroking behind your nipples you are causing your breasts to send a signal to your brain and your body to tell them “Hey, we are requesting milk down here!” It will usually take a few months or so to get the point across (the more consistent you are with your schedule, the earlier they will get the message), so you just have to keep sending the message and hope that your brain and body ‘hears’ you … soon.
It is critical that this manually expressing your breasts continues happening for a long enough time during EACH session (EACH TIME YOU DO MANUAL EXPRESSION) and on EACH breast, or your brain will not think that you are serious. Always remember that whether your breasts are producing a tiny bit or a whole bunch of milk, if you skip even one session, your brain, body and breasts will all think that you are quitting (weaning your baby), so they will REDUCE the amount of milk they produce for the next session or two. Breasts will produce as much as you ask them to produce… enough for two or three babies if you want them to… but they will shut down the MINUTE they can if they think that they are not needed. Skipping a session before you are producing milk may basically set back your progress toward reaching lactation for the next four sessions or so.
It is also very critical that these sessions happen on a REGULAR basis. Our bodies really do love to be extremely punctual. We are true clock-watchers without knowing it. If you express every three hours on Saturday and Sunday, then only do it twice a day through the week, your breasts will figure that you are “weaning your baby” and will reduce the amount of milk they make.
If you are trying to start lactation without the advantage of having delivered a child recently, I would strongly encourage you to do either oral expression (baby’s or partner’s mouth on your breast) or manual expression for a minimum of ten to fifteen minutes for EACH BREAST, each session. You will not be getting milk right away, but by continuing this "dry" nursing or expression, you are sending the message of what you are expecting from your breasts. After you are producing some milk for a few minutes of the session, continue to do the expressing past the end of your milk, for the full ten to fifteen minutes, so you will have more milk after the next few sessions. Your breasts will rise to the occasion. This is how you tell them that you want more then a dribble.
Try to do a session at least every 3-4 hours, 24 hours a day, just the same as you would be doing if you had a brand new baby at your breast and in your home. Those babies ask (should I say DEMAND?) to be placed at your breast every few hours, morning and night, as you know.
As a little ray of hope here, it will get better. After you are lactating as much as you want, you can start to cut back a little on the midnight sessions and you may even shorten the sessions somewhat, as long as you monitor your output. Remember, when you cut back on your schedule, your breasts will cut back on their quantity of milk. Also, after you are fully lactating, a good breast pump will do a good job for you, so you do not have to do so much manual expression. You are no longer “training” your breasts to lactate… they are already there. Many pumps just do not do a good nerve stimulation like you need to get started, but will serve you fine after you are in full production.
One benefit of using a breast pump to stimulate your breasts to re-lactate is the fact that it will pump at a rapid rate, similar to the rate a newborn babe would use, stimulating the nerves in your breasts to start lactating. Often, adding five minutes of pumping after your session of 10 – 15 minutes of manual expression (until you reach your anticipated production level) could be beneficial.
Looking at a video would be helpful, and they are very hard to find. Most are for sexual gratification. There is one that at least shows hand positioning well: http://video.about.com/breastfeeding/Hand-Expression-Technique.htm Remember that this video is of a woman that is already lactating... if you are re-lactating, you will not see milk coming for quite some time.
Remember that establishing lactation Is Not Easy, but you have plenty of supporters cheering you on.
Please do not hesitate to ask me to go over any part of this that is not really clear to you. Or contact me by e-mail if you have questions or wish assistance.
I wish you the best of success.
Ken L. Smith
Breast Health Facilitator for the American Cancer Society