The Importance of Correctly Fitting Breast Shields
Many pumping moms don’t realize that the flanges or breast shields they are using may not fit them properly. Ill fitting flanges can result in soreness, abrasions, edema, reduced let-down, and reduced milk supply.
The size of shield you use is not determined by your breast size but is influenced by the diameter of your nipples and also the location of your milk ducts (some women’s ducts will be closer to the nipple and for others a little further back).
While many women will benefit from larger flanges, there are others who will do better with smaller than standard size flanges. There are some general guidelines to help you determine if you may benefit from a different sized flange and whether you need larger or smaller flanges. Keep in mind that the nipple will stretch and change shape during pumping, so it is not always possible to determine the best flange size without actually pumping.
You many need a larger sized flange if:
pumping is painful, even at very low suction.
you are having a difficult time removing milk with your breast pump.
you have pain or soreness on the nipple, particularly around the edges of the nipple.
the nipple is squished into the tube of the flange and is not able to move freely.
ongoing trouble with plugged ducts due to the ducts not emptying well.
Needing to switch from a standard size flange to a smaller flange is not as common as switching up to larger flanges, but you may need a smaller sized flange if:
you have pain or discomfort towards the base of the nipple or around the areola caused by too much areola being pulled into the tube of the flange.
the tip of the nipple is sore due to being pulled too far into the tube and hitting the end.
Other alternatives and options to try are silicone flanges such as the Flexishields by Ameda or the SoftFit and Comfort Breastshield by Medela. The Flexishields will reduce the diameter of the flange to 21mm as they fit inside the regular flanges and also provide increased nipple stimulation. I have also heard very good things about the Pumpin’ Pals flanges which are an angled insert that fits into the breast pump flange.
Sometimes you will have to try and test out different flanges or inserts to find what will work for you. The benefits will be well worth it!