There may be times when you need to express your milk including in the early days if you are separated from your baby, or if you are trying to increase your milk supply or to relieve engorgement.  Later on you might express milk to leave for your baby if you want some time away.

For more information on how to give your baby your expressed milk visit the bottle and mixed feeding page.


You may want to express breastmilk if:
  • you have to be away from your baby, for example, because your baby is in special care or because you’re going back to work
  • your breasts feel uncomfortably full (engorged)
  • your baby is not able to latch or suck well, but you still want to give them breast milk
  • your partner is going to help with feeding your baby
  • you want to boost your milk supply


Hand expressing

You may find it easier to express milk by hand, especially in the first few days or weeks. With hand expressing you can express without needing a pump or an electricity supply.

Hand expressing also allows you to encourage milk to flow from a particular part of the breast. This may be useful, for example, if one of the milk ducts in your breast becomes blocked.

UNICEF hand expressing

This short video produced by the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative, shows  how to hand express successfully.

Breasts and nipples come in different sizes and shapes so it’s important to choose the right pump for you. Your pump may come with a standard-sized flange or teat, which may not be the best fit for you and could lead to pain and discomfort. The flange or teat is the part of the breast pump that comes into contact with your body when placed onto the breast and nipple, forming a vacuum seal with the areola. It fits correctly when:

  • your nipple is centred within the tube
  • no parts of your nipple rub against the sides
  • little or no areola is pulled in when the pump is turned on.

Often manufacturers do have other sizes available and some come with more than one option.


Different types of breast pump

Manual hands pumps have a lever you pump to draw milk out by suction.

They’re usually the cheapest and most popular type of pump. Although they can take longer to work than electric pumps, they can be a good option to have if you don’t plan to express milk often. They don’t usually take up much room so can be easy to transport.

Silicone pumps are hands-free and use no electricity.

They work by collecting your let-down, and breastmilk on one breast as you feed from the other.

Silicone pumps do not actively pump the breast, so it’s only useful for expressing the occasional bottle.

If you have a lower milk supply, this pump might lack the power you need to draw out a sufficient amount of milk.

You can buy single or double electric pumps. A double pump can be useful as you can express from one or both breasts at the same time.

A personal electric pump can support draining your breasts if your baby is struggling to do so or if you want to express regularly to give your baby expressed breastmilk.

These are double electric pumps. They are hardwearing and work using a “closed-system”. This means they have barriers in place to prevent milk and other fluids from entering the machine so they can be used by multiple families. They typically have a stronger pump suction so are often recommended for those who need help with their supply.

You can rent one directly from manufacturers for a monthly cost. Find out more from manufacturers Ardo or Medela.