In the dictionary,

milk something: to take milk from a cow, goat, etc.

So, we often use the verb "milk" with animals

Can we use the verb "milk" with humans?

For example, The mom milked her breast / herself by machine.

If not, then what verb can we use to express the meaning of the above example?

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    Amusingly, the way we express it… is express ;)) [I didn't think this belonged in the answer itself]. Oct 15, 2022 at 9:07
  • @gonefishin'again. - yes. A woman is not a cow or a [nanny] goat. Nor is she a mare, ewe, or jenny. Oct 15, 2022 at 10:37
  • It's much more likely to be used metaphorically: he milked his parents of all their savings. Oct 16, 2022 at 10:43
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    Why not? It might be unlikely, but that would be purely about idiom - or personal taste - not grammar or semantics. Oct 16, 2022 at 19:23
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    I've also come across a human-related use of milk with a postal blood test kit, where the user pricks their finger and then milks the blood out into a small vial. The instructions use the word milk to emphasise the most helpful motion to get the blood out.
    – dbmag9
    Oct 16, 2022 at 20:23

5 Answers 5


For humans, it's known as 'expressing'.

Expressing milk means squeezing milk out of your breast so you can store it and feed it to your baby later.


Using the verb ‘milk’ in this way is never polite and never formal. In some very informal contexts you may hear this usage, but it’s pretty rare outside of certain subcultures that I would rather not discuss further here for fear of running afoul of the moderators (and possibly the site Terms of Service).

The standard ‘one-word’ verb used for this general meaning is ‘express’. Two of the (much less commonly used) definitions of ‘express’ are ‘to press or squeeze out’ and ‘to exude or emit’. Those particular definitions fit the specific case of a mother collecting milk from her own breasts to use later to feed her baby.

In practice though, that’s often seen as a somewhat ‘clinical’ term, and at least in the US it would be more normal to use something along the lines of ‘The mother collected her own milk.’, or even to just say that she was using a breast pump (the general term for the type of machine used for this purpose).

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    I can't recall ever encountering "she was using a breast pump". I've always seen it as "she was pumping". Oct 16, 2022 at 3:11
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    @LorenPechtel - News story: 'A Canterbury [Kent, England] café customer has been banned by the owners after complaining that a new mum had "ruined her lunch" because she was using a breast pump.' Showbiz web site: '[Amy] Schumer [famous actress] went on to share that she was using a breast pump for a while but, again, it didn't feel like something she wanted to continue doing.' Travel news website: 'American Airlines has issued an apology to a female passenger after she claims she was scolded by a flight attendant for using a breast pump aboard a recent flight from Chicago to Phoenix.' Oct 16, 2022 at 11:44
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    @MichaelHarvey (and Loren) those news articles have no other source of context; in an article all about feeding babies , "pumping" would be clear on its own.
    – Chris H
    Oct 17, 2022 at 8:41

Figuratively, sure:

I milked him for all he's worth

Literally, it's not easy, because to milk is a usually transitive a farmhand milks their cow in which case someone would have to be milking a human female. As animals don't milk themselves, there's not precedent to milk yourself.

Aside: you milk a cow, not cow's udder. Thus it doesn't really make sense to milk your own or someone else's breast.

Apparently it's also possible to to milk milk from cows but I feel that's rare.

Finally, using to milk on a person would is probably rude.

While humans are certainly mammals and animals, we think our culture has elevated us far above other animals and thus we use different words for the same concepts:

  • food for people vs feed for animals
  • a crowd vs a pack
  • to give birth vs to bear, except children are born
  • euthanize vs finish off
  • poop vs dung
  • to bring up vs to raise, except in the USA
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    My uncle gave up his dairy herd and started a B&B and camping site: "Much easier than cows, tourists milk themselves."
    – RedSonja
    Oct 17, 2022 at 6:39
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    Well that one of the two figurative meanings, if you ask me ;-) Oct 17, 2022 at 11:44
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    to bring up vs to raise, except in the USA -- I have definitely heard both of these constructions with regard to human children, in the USA. Perhaps that's what you meant by "except"? Oct 17, 2022 at 20:59
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    @RossPresser That's what he meant. The answer says those two terms are used for humans vs. animals except in the USA, where both terms are used for humans.
    – ErikE
    Oct 17, 2022 at 21:53

With milk, the verb is to do something to something. So to milk a breast is probably ok (but not very common, and most would consider it rude). If you're in a situation where you are "milking" someone else's breast, I would assume that is acceptable too (again though, probably considered rude).

That said, I have often heard the verb milk used in relation to humans when talking about actions focused on machines. For example "That machine milks me better than that other machine." Again, here though, while not "rude" exactly, it's a relatively rare thing to hear or say, and the people doing the saying are generally "comfortable" with what's going on, and using "milk" as a verb is more than likely to reduce stress.

So, that brings us to "what to say". If your looking for something more "clinical" then "express" is your go-to option. But keep in mind that "express" is what the mother is doing. She is "expressing" milk.

If you talking about the baby, then the baby is sucking, feeding, breastfeeding, or nursing.

Usually, if you are talking about a breast pump then, "pumping" is commonly used. Collecting may also be common.

Example sentences:

The mother expressed some milk for her child.
The baby nursed at her mother's breasts.
The child was feeding at his mother's breasts.
The mother pumped 4 oz. of milk using the pump for overnight feeding.


Believe not these linguistic rascals with their pumping of breasts, while massaging gets us close to the point, it avoids addeessing the operative bit. To be certain, in actual colloquial use, the term is generally assumed under the umbrella of "nursing", a term which I would assume carries some connotation of loving embrace and good intention to put forth the various efforts as to produce some standard of health and vigour in the object. But, I think nursing is the appropriate term. or bottle-feeding, which suggests the pumping without anybody getting into using such raw vocabulary.

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