What’s worse than a nip slip? What about soreness, pinching, irritation, or blocked milk ducts? All of which could occur if you use the incorrect breast pump flange size. A breast pump flange (breast pump shield) size that is too small or too big could seriously hinder your breast pumping journey. So, be sure to choose the correct size to properly express milk for your infant.
Finding The Correct Breast Pump Flange Size
First, What Is A Breast Pump Flange?
A breast pump flange is the funnel or cone-shaped plastic cup that fits over your breast. It fits directly over your nipple to form a seal around the areola to create a vacuum that gently draws the nipple into the funnel for milk extraction.
Not having the correct flange size could impact your milk flow by causing blocked milk ducts, pains, nipple damage, swelling, or cuts on the nipple. But with finding the correct size, you can comfortably maximize milk production.
Finding The Correct Flange Size
Most breast pump manufacturers will provide a flange size chart to help you understand if which size you need. Be sure to review each size option to choose the one that will fit best.
To determine what size you need, you’ll need to know your nipple size. You can measure your nipple by taking a ruler or measuring tape to measure the diameter of your nipple (the horizontal width across it). Measure the nipple alone, do not include the areola which is the outer edge around your nipple.
The measurement should be in millimeters (1 cm = 10mm)
Then select your flange size based on your measurement.
- If you measured up to 17mm you’ll fit in a 21mm flange.
- If you measure up to 22mm use size 24mm.
- If you measured up to 23mm select size 27mm.
- If you measured up to 26mm use 30mm.
- If you measured up to 32 mm use size 36 mm.
You’ll know if you have the right pump shield if:
- Your nipple is in the center of the flange and moves freely into the tunnel of the breast pump for comfortable milk expression.
- Your areola has little to no tissues inside the tunnel of the breast pump.
- You do not feel areas of the breast that still contain milk, as this could indicate uneven breast milk extraction.
- You don’t experience any nipple pain.
- Your nipple and areola do not turn white or become discolored, meaning the blood supply has not been cut off.
Ashley Georgakopoulos, Motif Medical Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), explained that when looking for the correct fit to, “Find what is comfortable. Too much friction to the tissue, tightness, or painful sucking could indicate the incorrect size. The top of the nipple and its base should be the only part entering the flange tunnel.”
How To Tell If Your Flange Is Too Small
If your breast pump flange is too small you may experience:
- Rubbing as the nipple is pulled against the sides of the breast pump tunnel.
- Pinching and squeezing of the nipple.
- Your nipple or areola becomes white or discolored.
- Low breast milk production.
- Painful milk extraction.
How To Tell If Your Flange Is Too Big
If your breast pump flange is too big you may experience:
- Your areola could become pulled into the flange and tunnel
- Painful nipple pinching, pulling, and squeezing
- Lower breast milk production
- Your nipple or areola could become white or discolored
Bonus Flange Size Tips
- If this is your first-time breast pumping, consult with a lactation consultant to assist with determining the flange fit according to nipple shape, areola density, and areola fullness.
- Once you receive your breast pump go ahead and try it out. If your nipple moves freely in the tunnel to mimic your infant’s natural suckling pattern with gentle tugging, you have the right size
- Measure both of your nipples in case they are different sizes. Some moms need two different flange sizes.
- Your flange size could change over time, especially during the third trimester and after giving birth. Regularly measure your nipples to see if you need to change sizes or not.
- There are generally five main breast pump flange sizes, but check your pump manual to see what options come with yours. Also, you can find larger sizes if needed.
All content published on the Motif Medical site is created for informational purposes only. This information should not substitute as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your doctor or qualified health professional with any questions regarding the health of you or your baby.