Expressing milk

For many mums, expressing provides welcome flexibility and the freedom to go off duty for a few hours – to catch up on a little sleep or even go out – while someone else cares for bub. Expressing can also be a necessity if your baby is sick or premature, you have to go back to work or you’re experiencing breastfeeding issues.

Whether you decide to express by hand, or to use a manual or electric pump, our guide will help you navigate the maze of choices. Your decision will come down to how frequently you’ll express, where you’ll be doing it and how much you are willing to spend.

By hand

Barb Glare, lactation consultant and Mother & Baby expert, says hands are often overlooked as a way to express. “If you only want to express for the occasional outing – such as getting your hair done – you might not need a pump at all.” If your baby is going to be an occasional user of expressed breastmilk, hand expressing could be the way to go. It’s also good if you’re experiencing engorgement and need to express just a little milk at a feed.


Manual pumps are operated by hand. They don’t have to be plugged in, so they can be used anywhere, and can be small enough to fit in your handbag. They’re usually cheaper than their electric cousins, but can be a little slower to use. Don’t automatically think that an electric pump will do a better job than a manual. “Some mothers go for a cheap electric pump over a manual – thinking it will do a much better job – but this isn’t always the case,” warns Barb. It really depends on the quality of what you buy. “Some of the cheap electric brands really don’t work.”


A good quality electric pump takes the hard work out of pumping and is often quicker to use than a manual. There are different sizes of pump ranging from smaller hand held battery powered pumps to more powerful plug-in electric models. You can also choose between single pumps and dual pumps, which allow you to express from both breasts simultaneously. This will cut your pumping time.

Hospital hire

For some mums, the decision to express breast milk is made for them if their baby is born premature or sick. In this case you may be expressing around the clock and you’ll need the best quality, most powerful pump available. These are called hospital grade pumps and can be hired from your hospital, pharmacies or from the Australian Breastfeeding Association. A midwife can help you with this.