As any breastfeeding mom will tell you, using a breast pump can be a huge help. Pumps allow you to express breast milk for your baby, as well as store extra milk for later.
When it’s time to choose a breast pump, you’re going to want to pay extra attention to how the flange feels and fits on your nipple. What many mamas don't know, is that breast pump flanges come in different sizes. Any soreness or visible marks (cuts, redness, etc.) usually means that you need a different flange size.
What is a breast pump flange?
As we covered earlier this month, A flange (or breast shield) is the part of the breast pump that positions directly over the nipple and forms a vacuum seal over the areola, drawing your nipple into the tunnel for milk extraction. When you’re pumping, the flange is what secures over the breast for suction and release.
Finding the perfect fit
Flanges are essential for pumping, so you’ll want to make sure you get one that fits your nipple just right. Most pumps come with 24mm size flanges to fit the 24mm size. You can test this out to see if it works for you and if not, many companies sell sizes ranging from 21mm - 36mm.
If your flange doesn’t fit quite right, chances are you’ll know. Incorrectly sized flanges can lead to soreness of the nipples and blocked milk ducts, which can impact milk production.
If you are noticing any issues with breast pump suction, an incorrectly sized breast pump flange is usually the cause. Proper suction is very dependent on having the correct contact with the nipple and breast tissue.
When you’re looking to find the correct flange size, you’ll want to make sure that the flange is also the correct size for your nipple shape and the areola density and fullness. Seeing a lactation specialist, either in person or virtually, can help you determine the best fit.
With a good flange fit, your nipple is centered in the tunnel and able to move in and out. Essentially, the motion should mimic your baby’s natural suckling pattern.
Our bodies are all different, so don’t worry if you don’t fit the standard 24mm size breast pump flange. If you're unable to consult a lactation specialist or are still having trouble determining your size, there are a few tips that can help.
First, take a look at your nipple and see if it is rubbing the sides of the tunnel. If it feels uncomfortable or is red or irritated, this is a tell-tale sign you may need to increase the size.
On the flip side, if you notice that a large part of your areola is being suctioned into the tunnel with your nipple, then your flange is most likely too big, especially if the areola is turning white or red.
When you finish pumping, do your breasts still feel full of milk? When the flange size is incorrect, you most likely won’t be pumping out all the milk that’s ready to come out.
Keep in mind
It’s not uncommon for a woman’s breasts to change between the third trimester and after giving birth, so consider that as your breast size fluctuates, so will your desired flange size. It’s always a good idea to regularly check in and see how your flange is fitting. Any pain or discomfort is an indication that something needs adjustment.
If you've found the right fit and want to give your pumping experience a boost for more comfort, help prevent clogged ducts or to help keep your milk supply up, you can consider adding breast massage and breast compressions to your pumping routine. The Lilu Massage Bra can help, so you can get the benefits of breast massage hands-free.
Lilu is a Women’s Health company building tech-enabled devices to empower new moms. Our first product, the Lilu Massage Bra, mimics compression massage, so you can empty your breasts fully to establish, increase and maintain your milk supply. Pump up to 50% more milk each session, all while going hands-free.
Introducing the revolutionary Lilu Lactation Massager Bra - designed to make your pumping sessions more efficient and comfortable than ever before. With our lactation massage cushions, you can experience the benefits of hands-on compression motions recommended by lactation experts, without using your hands. Our bra holds the cushions securely in place, massaging both breasts while you pump, helping to increase milk flow and maintain your milk supply.