Do you have pain with pumping? The issue might be your breast shields. Here’s an overview of what can cause pumping discomfort, and how to find the most comfortable breast pump flanges for you.
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What are Breast Shields?
Breast shields are the pump part that you place directly on your breasts. They are sometimes also called flanges or “horns.”
Generally, they are shaped a bit like a funnel to cover the areola, with a tunnel where suction is applied to the nipple.
Why Might Breast Pump Flanges be Uncomfortable?
There are a few reasons that breast shields might cause pain or damage while you’re pumping.
This is the most common issue. Many breast pumps only come with one size breast shield in the box, but that may not be the right size for you.
Incorrectly sized breast shields can cause problems if they are either too large or too small.
- If a breast shield is too large, too much of the areola is pulled into the tunnel, which can bruise that tissue and cause inflammation and pain.
- If a breast shield is too small, the nipple can’t move freely, and the added friction causes discomfort.
Here are some tips for how to measure your nipple to see if you have the correct size.
Most breast shields have a hard ring going from the funnel into the nipple tunnel.
While this ring is fine for most pumping moms, some women find that a more gradual taper is more comfortable for them.
Many breast shields are made of hard plastic. However, there are some alternatives now that are made out of silicone. These can be more flexible and may feel more comfortable for some women.
Additionally, women with elastic nipples (nipples that stretch far into the breast shield tunnel, sometimes touching the connector) often find silicone breast shields work much better for them than standard plastic flanges.
What are the Most Comfortable Breast Pump Flanges for Moms Having Pain?
If you find that you’re having pain with pumping, one of the issues may be size. You may want to first measure your nipple and see if you are using the correct size; if you aren’t, try getting the same breast shields that you’re using, but in the correct size.
However, if you can’t seem to find a size that fits you (or you’d just rather try other options), here are some breast pump flanges that many women find more comfortable than traditional breast shields.
1. Pumpin Pals
Pumpin Pals are designed with a gradual taper from the breast shield funnel into the nipple tunnel. Many women prefer this shape to other flanges, and they are highly recommended for women with elastic nipples.
Pumpin Pals are easiest to use when your breast pump parts have a separate flange and connector (like Medela’s breast pump parts).
If you have a Spectra or another breast pump with a combined flange/connector, you can get an adapter use Pumpin Pals or you can hack your pump to use Medela breast pump parts. (Which is easier to do probably depends on whether you have used a Medela before and how many sets of breast pump parts you’ve already bought.)
Because it’s not uncommon for the size you need to change, Pumpin Pals sends you three different sizes at once.
2. LacTeck BabyMotion Flanges
The LacTeck BabyMotion Flange is another great option if traditionally shaped flanges don’t feel comfortable to pump with. They are made of silicone, and are soft and non-abrasive.
This flange is designed to mimic nursing, so it’s an especially good choice for nursing moms whose supply is fine when feeding their baby directly, but who struggle with pumping output.
(You can use the code EPUMP212 for 10% off LacTeck BabyMotion flanges.)
3. Beaugen Cushions (Flange Inserts)
Another option is to use Beaugen cushions with your current flanges.
Beaugen cushions are silicone inserts that you can put in almost any breast shield (Pumpin Pals are the only ones I know of that are not compatible, though there might be others), and many women – again, especially those who have elastic nipples – find the silicone cushion very helpful. Much more on Beaugen inserts here.
Note that Beaugen cushions will reduce the size of your breast shields by about 2mm. This can be helpful if you are between sizes; however, if you are using a size that works for you now, it’s possible that you would need to go up a breast shield size to use them.
4. Medela Comfort Breast Shields
Medela Comfort Breast Shields are also made of silicone on the edges and are softer and more adaptable than traditional plastic flanges.
You can see more of these breast shields in this story:
Hopefully this gives you a good overview of the most comfortable breast pump flanges! Have you used any of these? Leave your review in the comments!