Pumping for your baby can sometimes feel overwhelming, but at Rumble Tuff, we are here to help! One of the most important aspects of a comfortable pumping session is making sure that you use the correct flange size. Whether you are an exclusive pumper, or you’re only pumping while away from your baby, here is everything you need to know about flange sizing.
What is a flange, anyway?
Also referred to as “breast shields”, the flange piece of your breast pump is the part that fits around the breast/chest tissue, areola, and nipple. It creates a funnel shape and facilitates suction to help express milk, just as your baby would, nursing. Flanges may be plastic or silicone, and there are many inserts on the market that may work in harmony with your flange to create a customized pumping experience.
Why is flange sizing so important?
Most breast pumps come with 2 standard flange sizes, 24 mm and 28 mm. Unfortunately, a great percentage of women fall outside of this range, which is why sizing is so important. When we need to substitute nursing for pumping, our focus is milk removal and maintaining milk supply. After all, it’s hard to match a baby’s stimulation! Finding the correct flange fit will help you to comfortably maximize the amount of milk you are able to collect when pumping. Effective milk removal is the key to a sufficient milk supply, and although we can’t match baby’s stimulation perfectly, we can do our best to get pretty close.
Remember: pumping should never be a painful experience!
How do I know what size flange I need?
To find your ideal flange size, you will need to measure your nipples. You will want to measure your nipple before a nursing or pumping session begins. Make sure you are only measuring the width at the base of the nipple. Imagine a straight line from where the nipple starts to the other side where it ends (width).
Including any part of your areola will result in too large of a flange size. Since flange sizing is metric, you will want to ensure you are measuring in millimeters, rather than inches. It is not uncommon to need two different flange sizes, so measuring both nipples is important. Most women find the best size by adding 2-4 mm to their measurements, but this isn’t a fail-safe, and sometimes this takes a little trial and error. The goal of measuring is to get you a range of what should fit. For example, if you measure your nipples at 15 mm, you may want to order 17 mm and 19 mm flanges and try both.
Remember: Every body and nipple is unique. We are measuring nipple size, not breast size. Larger breasts do not automatically mean larger flange sizes! Rumble Tuff understands that nipples come in MANY shapes and sizes. That’s why we offer the widest range of flanges, and extra silicone inserts, so that you can find what makes you most comfortable. Rumble Tuff flanges come in a variety of sizing from 13mm to 32 mm. You can shop our flange/breast shields here.
I measured but how can I be sure I have the right size?
Once you’ve received your new flange sizes, you need to try them out and see if they fit! Some helpful tips to consider when deciding if your flange is fitting correctly are:
- Comfort: Most importantly, are you experiencing any pain when the pump is on? Pain is a #1 indicator that sizing may be incorrect. Pain may also come from your pump settings, so it’s a good idea to play with this as well.
- Nipple movement: Your nipple should be in the center of the flange opening, moving freely in the funnel. We do not want any friction or nipple blanching. If your nipple is rubbing against the walls of the funnel, your flange is too small.
- Areola placement: Ideally, you will have minimal areolar tissue moving inside the flange funnel. If your areolas are pulling into the funnel, your flange is too big.
- Milk output: Are you effectively removing milk with the new flanges? Low milk output is a big sign that you may have the wrong sizes or pump settings, especially if your output was higher before the change in flange.
If you’d like to read more, this guide provides some great information on flange sizing.
What does ‘Elastic Nipple’ mean?
Elastic nipples are nipples that expand with stimulation. This is a normal physiologic response that babies would tolerate while nursing. It becomes challenging with pumping since flanges are more rigid than an infant’s oral cavity. Ultimately, elastic nipples may expand enough to fill the entire flange during the pumping session. This can result in friction against the walls of the flange, or even contact with the end of the funnel. These situations can cause serious discomfort, nipple damage, and may even hinder milk supply.
What can I do if I have elastic nipples?
Sometimes, even the most accurate flange sizing cannot make pumping comfortable with elastic nipples. Luckily, more and more products are coming on the market to help. Silicone inserts can help with the discomforts that come from elastic nipples, and there are many different kinds! Rumble Tuff understands that silicone inserts can make a big difference, which is why all of our pumps come with our own silicone inserts that fit perfectly in our flanges. You can find replacements here.
Alternatively, we have partnered with Pump ‘N’ Pals to offer their silicone flanges, which many find to be a great tool for elastic nipples, or general pumping comfort. You can find these on our website here. For more information on Pump ‘N’ Pals, head to their website, where you can even take a sizing quiz! One last tool is our long silicone flange insert. This is a more rigid, soft silicone insert that can enhance comfort along the entire length of the funnel for those with elastic nipples, or just more sensitive nipples in general. You can find these here.
Lactation consultants are experts in pumping support and care. At Rumble Tuff, we have International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) who can help you with flange sizing to make the most out of your pumping sessions! Pumping is hard work and you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to one of our IBCLCs for any pumping questions or flange fitting sizing. Book a FREE pumping consult here!.
You’ve got this, and we’ve got you!