Feeding your child breast milk directly is the ideal way of feeding. Your little one will benefit the most from it, and it will provide a bonding opportunity for mother and child. However, there could be different circumstances or situations in a mother’s life where this may not always be possible. What is possible is still ensuring that your little one gets to drink breast milk. This can be done by using a breast pump to extract milk from the breast so that it can be stored for later.
For new mothers or even those who have children, but have never had to use a breast pump before, this can seem a little daunting. Once you get the hang of it, it is easy and provides a convenient way to make sure that your little one gets the right nutrition, even if you are not able to be with your child during a feeding session.
There are certain things that you will need to bear in mind before you use a breast pump. The most important is that you need to choose a good quality breast pump and ensure to use the right size flange. Doing so will make sure that you avoid any damage that the wrong flange size can do to your breasts.
What Is a Breast Pump Flange?
The funnel-shaped part of the breast pump is known as a flange. The flange is meant to be placed directly onto your nipple. Once done, a vacuum seal is formed with the areola. This will then allow you to extract milk without leakage or damage. Generally, when you have a flange that fits well and is extracting milk as it should, it will give you a similar sensation to when your baby is suckling milk directly from your breast.
The breast pump flange’s size ensures that everything remains secure as you are pumping. There are many different sizes of flanges. The sizes range between 21mm to 36mm.
Why Is a Proper Sized Breast Pump Important?
If your flange doesn’t fit well because you are using the wrong size, there could be a lot of problems that you will face as a result of this. The damage caused to your nipple will be very uncomfortable, and in the worst-case scenario, it will change the shape of your breast.
Some problems you will face are irritated nipples, where they turn red and feel very sore. You can also experience cuts, and blocked milk ducts.
When you sustain damage like this, even normal breastfeeding will become difficult. If your milk ducts become blocked, you will be in a lot of pain and your baby will suffer from not having enough breast milk.
Not only that but if the breast is not emptied properly, it can result in infections. Overall, there are many problems that can be caused by a flange that is ill-fitting.
This is why it is so important to ensure that you have the right size flange when you are going to start using a breast pump.
How to Determine If Your Breast Pump Flange Is of the Right Size?
Most manufacturers of breast pumps will include a flange size chart to the right size of breast flange. You should always be sure to consult this guide before you decide on which one to buy. It is also very important to make sure that you can get a new one if you have bought the wrong size.
Before you go shopping for a breast pump, make sure that you measure the diameter of your areola, and the diameter of your nipple separately. This will help you to pick out the closest match to your needs.
Here are some ways through which you will be able to tell if you have bought the right size breast pump flange:
- Your nipple does not hurt.
- There should be very minimal, or no tissue at all inside the breast pump tunnel.
- There should be no uneven extraction of milk. This means you should not be able to feel the presence of milk in any area of your breast.
- There should be no white circle formed around the nipple base. Your nipple should not turn pale either.
- Your nipple should be able to move freely inside the breast pump tunnel as the flange ensures it is centred properly.
When Do You Need to Switch to a Different Size Breast Pump Flange?
One of the easiest ways to tell if you need a different size of breast pump is to take a look at the condition of your nipple. If it is red, or if it feels uncomfortable, you may have a size that is too small for you. On the other hand, you can tell if your flange is too big for you if a bit of your areola is also getting sucked into the tunnel of the pump. In cases where the flange is too big, the areola often turns either red or white in colour. A very good indication that you have the wrong size of the flange is when your breast is not completely emptied.
If you fit any of these categories, be sure to change the size of the breast pump flange. If it is too big, opt for a size smaller and see how that works. If it is too small, go for a size bigger. Sometimes you will need to try out a couple of different ones before you find the correct flange fit.
Sometimes, breast pumps come with different sizes, so there is a chance that you will be able to find your perfect fit right in the same box that you get your breast pump in. However, there are times when you will not. In cases like this, you can find more varied sizes from other manufacturers. You don’t need to worry about if the new flange will fit onto your pump. Most of them will fit just fine.
Whom to Reach Out for Help in Case of Confusion?
If you feel like you need help in finding the proper flange fit breast pump, you can always meet with your lactation consultant. This will be of great help to those who have never used a breast pump before or have sizes that may be in between, and therefore, difficult to cater to. If you don’t have a lactation consultant, you can check with your hospital or ask your paediatrician to give you the names of trustworthy lactation consultants.
If you prefer, stores that specialize in products related to breastfeeding can also help you figure out the right size that you need.
It is said that even if you are going to use a breast pump to extract milk, you should also take the time to learn how to hand pump and hand expression as well. These will be of great help during your breastfeeding period. Though pumping seems to be easy to understand, when you have to go about doing it practically, it may lead you to discover you have a lot of questions. This is why you should always ensure to see a lactation consultant. After all, making sure you are able to keep a healthy milk flow going comfortably will not only benefit you but your little one as well.