Finding the proper fitting flange... and finally getting results

young woman breastfeeding

In the US, 25% of new mothers are forced to return to work as soon as two weeks after giving birth.

Additionally, only 60% of American women qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which grants 12 weeks of protected, unpaid maternity leave.

For many mothers who want to feed their babies breast milk, having a breast pump is essential.

Breast pumps help working moms ensure their babies get breast milk even when they’re away working.

Even if you’re not a working mom, a breast pump can come in handy when you have to leave your baby under someone else’s care.

With this in mind, you won’t regret investing in a good breast pump.

While shopping for a breast pump, don’t forget to also find a flange that fits your nipples properly. Just as breasts come in a wide range of sizes, so do nipples.

Despite this fact, breast pump flanges included in your breast pump purchase tend to come in one size or two if you’re lucky.

What is a Breast Pump Flange?

Breast Pump
Image from: Bump N Bambino

A breast flange, also called a breast shield, is the funnel-shaped part of a breast pump that connects your breast to the pump.

Breast pump flanges are designed to fit snuggly over the nipple and areola, forming a seal around the areola.

The flange creates a vacuum that should gently draw your nipple into the funnel when you’re pumping.

Most brands of breast pump come with one or two “standard size” flanges. Usually, these flanges range from 24mm to 27mm in size.

You might be lucky to get a flange that fits over your nipple and areola perfectly.

If neither of the flanges fits you, the manufacturers usually have alternative sizes you can purchase separately.

Manufacturers have plastic flange sizes ranging from 21mm to 36mm. But, you can get glass flanges in size 40mm.

Remember, the size of your breasts doesn’t determine the size of your nipples.

Women with small breasts can have large nipples, while those with large breasts can have small nipples.

Hot Tip: Some insurance providers cover the cost of buying a breast pump and the appropriately-sized flanges. Check if your insurance carrier is one of them!

Why Size Matters

Using the wrong breast pump flange can cause many problems including:

  • Nipple soreness
  • Nipple injuries (such as cuts and rub marks)
  • Blocked milk ducts
  • Reduced milk supply

As a result, many mothers may get discouraged by pumping and opt for early weaning.

Thankfully, you will likely notice a huge difference almost as soon as you find the correct-sized flange.

You will notice that expressing with a pump becomes more comfortable.

The amount of milk you are able to express will also start increasing.

Measuring Your Flange Size

Nipple measure
Image from: Medela Breast Shield Sizes

The best place to start before choosing a breast pump flange is by getting your nipple diameter measurements.

Fortunately, this is something you can do yourself with these simple steps:

  1. Get a ruler or a measuring tape
  2. Measure the distance straight across the middle of your nipple at the base
  3. If your ruler is marked in inches, convert 1 inch = 10mm
  4. If your ruler is marked in centimeters, convert 1cm = 10mm

10mm = 1cm = 2.54 inches

Note: Don’t include your areola while taking the measurement.

Based on the nipple diameter measurements, use this guide to find an appropriate flange size:

nipple diameter chart
Image from: Medela nipple diameter

If your nipple diameter is 16mm, your recommended flange size is 21mm. This is because the 21mm flange can fit nipples up to 17mm.

Likewise, if your nipple diameter is 24 mm, the best flange size is 30mm.

Bear in mind that these sizes are for Medela breast pumps. Other brands might offer different size guides for their flanges.

Signs of the Wrong Flange Size

Once you’ve bought your breast pump, it’s time to test it

When you’re pumping, look for these signs which determine the right fit:

  1. Nipple rubbing the sides of the funnel and getting sore - this means that the flange is too small.
  2. A large part of your areola gets pulled into the funnel along with your nipple - this is a sign that the flange is too big.
  3. When you’re done pumping, your breasts still full as if they aren’t properly drained.

Pump flange fit
Image from: Love and Breast Milk fit and position

How to Tell if Your Flange is a Good Fit

When you’ve purchased a flange, you can tell if it’s appropriate for you using these signs:

Nipple Movement

When you’re pumping, the nipple should move freely in the breast pump’s funnel.

The nipple shouldn’t be sore and red after a pumping session.

If your nipples are painful and red after pumping, this is a sign that your flange is too small.

A white circle at the base of your nipple or blanching of the nipple could also indicate that the flange is too small.

Areola Movement

When using your breast pump, only a little of the areola tissue should be pulled into the breast pump’s funnel.

If your areola isn’t moving at all, the flange might be too small. And if there’s too much areola movement, your flange might be too large.

Breast Movement

Through the duration of pumping, your breast should have gentle and rhythmic movements, just like your nipple.

This indicates that the breasts are receiving proper stimulation to express milk.

Well-Drained Breasts After Pumping

After a pumping session, your breasts should feel soft.

If your breasts feel engorged and lumpy, this indicates poor and uneven removal of milk.

No Discomfort

With the correctly-sized flange, the pumping experience should be smooth and pain-free.

Any sign of discomfort might mean that you have the wrong size of breast pump flange.

Changing Breast Pump Flange Sizes

Your breasts will change in shape and size during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and so will your flange size.

In the early stages of breastfeeding, your breast pump flange might fit perfectly, only to start feeling too large in the later stages.

If this happens, you should measure your flange size again and get a flange that fits.

To maximize the amount of milk you’re able to express and your comfort when pumping, ensure that you always have the appropriate flange size.

Therefore, you have to regularly check your flange size.

Get the Right Bra for the Job

When you’re pumping, it is important to support your breasts.

A regular bra, which doesn’t allow for easy access to your breasts, isn’t designed to accommodate pumping.

You can use a specially designed hands-free pumping bra or a high-quality maternity bra.

New Bloom has a range of maternity bras that will take you seamlessly through pregnancy and breastfeeding.

These maternity bras are made with innovative UGrow Technology, enabling them to adjust to your changing body.

The Everyday Maternity Bra
The Everyday Maternity Bra provides optimal support

New Bloom maternity bras are designed to provide your breasts with proper support. This ensures your comfort and helps prevent the sagging which is often associated with breastfeeding.

The bras come with super supportive, wire-free cups which are also designed for easy access.

You will have the following options to choose from:

Browse the online store to find something that suits your needs and style preferences.

Don’t forget the New Bloom Ultra-Thin Bamboo Nursing Pads. They are designed with a hex weave for faster absorbency, keeping you and your clothes dry.

Remember, every breastfeeding mom needs to have three maternity bras at hand.

This way, you will always have a clean bra to wear when one is in the wash, and the third one to spare in case of emergencies.

Feature Image: Yanalya



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