How to do Hands-On Pumping: Benefits, Uses and Steps

Can Hands-On Pumping Work for You?

A breastfeeding or pumping mother may benefit from the utilization of techniques such as hands-on pumping. 

You will find many valuable tips and lots of useful information all about the technique of hands-on pumping in this post, let’s take a look.

Hands on pumping pin with an illustration of a women massaging her breasts while pumping.

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What is Hands-On Pumping?

Hands-on pumping is a form of breast massage and it was officially invented by Dr. Jane Morton at Stanford University. She discovered that moms with preemies could use hands-on pumping to help them produce more milk.

Hands-on pumping is superior to the suction of a breast pump because it more closely mimics the way a baby naturally kneads the breasts while nursing. 

It is also perfectly OK to massage your breasts while pumping. Likewise, it will not hurt or damage your breast tissue as long as you perform it properly.

The Benefits of Hands-On Pumping:

  • Increased milk production due to higher volume of milk removal.
  • You will pump more milk at each pumping session.
  • It helps to more easily achieve a let-down. 
  • Increases the amount of hind milk that you pump.

By using hands-on pumping before, during and after a pumping session, breastfeeding mothers may be able to more efficiently fully empty their breasts.

Because of this, hands-on pumping does help increase milk supply by increasing the amount of milk removal at each pumping session.

Milk supply is dependent on supply and demand.

The higher the volume of milk removed paired with frequency of removal determines this equation. As an example, power pumping is another technique used to increase milk supply.

How to Use Hands-On Pumping

Hands-on pumping can be used to pump more milk, increase overall milk production and increase the amount of fatty hindmilk pumped.

Pumping more fatty hindmilk is an especially useful factor to hands-on pumping for moms with preemies.

Another related scenario to mention, is that some breastfed babies can be sensitive to breast milk when there is a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance. Foremilk can be identified by it’s clear or blue color.

Using hands-on pumping may be a good option if this is something you are encountering.

A little further down, you will see the steps for how to do breast compression while pumping as well as how to hand express. You’ll also find some pumping and breastfeeding infographics you can save for later to your Pinterest account.

How Long Does Hands-On Pumping Take?

The whole process of hands-on pumping should take around 20-30 minutes for most women.

Hand expressing however, can take longer and that is up to your comfort level and  the time you have set aside to perform it.

How to Prepare Your Breasts for Pumping

Before you learn how to do hands-on pumping, here is how you can perform effective breast stimulation before a pumping session using the Marmet Technique.

Taking a few minutes to perform these 3 steps will help prepare your breasts for hands-on pumping and help you more easily achieve a let-down.

1. Stroke Breasts

With a light touch, stroke breasts downward toward the nipple to help trigger a milk let-down.

2. Shake/Vibrate

Gently shake or vibrate (vibrating lactation tools help!) your breasts while leaning forward to encourage milk flow and drainage. This step is similar to dangle pumping

3. Massage

Using two fingers, start in your armpit and work down the breast in a circular motion, working around and toward the nipple.

How to prepare breasts for pumping with the Marmet Technique.

Hands-On Pumping Steps:

Step 1:

Start by massaging both breasts for at least 10 minutes.

Heat may also be used to stimulate your milk let-down reflex. These warming lactation massage tools are made for this purpose. 

Step 2:

While wearing a handsfree pumping bra (Simple Wishes at Amazon is my favorite) and a double-electric handsfree breast pump begin pumping while also massaging your breasts at the same time.

Compress your breasts in a downward motion towards your nipple. Do this until no more milk is freely flowing.

Step 4:

Massage your breasts again using the aid of a warming lactation tool.

Step 5:

Finish the pumping session by hand expressing (see the steps for hand expressing below).

An infographic with illustrations on how to do hands on pumping in 3 steps.

You can watch a video demonstration of how to do hands-on pumping here.

How to Hand Express Milk (Step by Step): 

  1. Use a clean and sterilized container to catch your breast milk. A milk collecting vessel like this Haakaa Lady Bug works great (Amazon link).
  2. Cup the bottom of your breast with one hand.
  3. With the other hand, hold the breast in a c-shape.
  4. Using your thumb and fingers, gently squeeze from the base of your breast toward your nipple.
  5. Release and start this over again until you have gained a rhythm. Switch back and forth between breasts. Move your hands around the breast to find spots that need expressing. 

How Long Should You Hand Express After Pumping? 

How long you hand express after pumping is up to you as long as you are experiencing no discomfort.

Pssst… If you are pumping, or plan to use pumping as a flexible form of breastfeeding, this online exclusive pumping class will be a go-to tool in your baby feeding resource library!

Handsfree Pumping 

While we wrap up talking bout hands-on pumping, allow me to introduce you to handsfree pumping. Handsfree pumping and hands-on pumping are actually a very compatible duo, even though they sound like the antithesis of each other.

In order to properly perform hands-on pumping, you need the use of your hands while pumping. You can keep reading all about handsfree pumping in this post and see all of your best handsfree pumping options.

Hands On Pumping Summary 

Hands-on pumping is a form of breast massage and compression that will help increase the amount of milk pumped at each pumping session.

Hands-on pumping is also beneficial in many ways. It can help increase overall milk supply, make it easier to have a milk let-down and increases the amount of fatty hind milk your baby gets. 

Hands-on pumping usually takes around 20-30 minutes for most women. 

Read these pumping articles next:


  1. Combining hand techniques with electric pumping increases milk production in mothers of preterm infants –
  2. Hands On Pumping – Lactation Counseling Services

How to Perform and Use Hands On Pumping