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Types of Flanges in Breast Pumps

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Different types of flanges are available in the market for breastfeeding mothers. Read the article below to learn more about the flanges of breast pumps.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richa Agarwal

Published At September 7, 2022
Reviewed AtJune 12, 2023

Introduction:

There are certain situations when direct breastfeeding is unavailable for the infants. In cases such as premature birth, some congenital abnormality like tongue-tie, some breastfeeding problems with mothers like sore nipples, low milk supply, or death of mother at the time of delivery. Human breast milk fulfills nutritional needs and protects babies against infections. Despite many advances and research in formula milk, human milk still remains the best nutritional supplement for the baby for the initial six months of their life. According to WHO (World Health Organization), stored breast milk is the best alternative when direct breastfeeding becomes impossible. Breast pumps play a significant role in overcoming these unavoidable circumstances by helping the mother extract milk.

What Is a Breast Pump?

A breast pump is a device that is used by lactating mothers to extract milk from their breasts which can be used later for feeding the infants. Various advancements have been made to imitate the mother's breast by making a breast pump. Breast pumps can be manual, where milk extraction is done by manual pulling, or maybe electric, where the entire process of extracting milk is automatic.

What Are the Parts of Breast Pumps?

Beast pumps are made up of a few essential components:

The components are:

  1. Breast Shield: A breast shield is a cone-shaped cup covering the nipples and areola (the darker area surrounding the nipple).

  2. Pump: The pump can be either attached to the breast shield or may have a plastic tube that is connected to the breast shield. It creates a vacuum that helps to express milk from the breast.

  3. Milk Container: A milk container is a detachable container that fits below the breast shield. It collects and stores the breast milk when pumped. The container can be a reusable bottle or disposable bag.

What Do You Understand by Breast Pump Flange?

A breast pump flange is a plastic material and is formed in a funnel-shaped that is made to fit over the nipple. It creates a vacuum seal around the areolar area around the nipple. The nipples lie inside the funnel which helps to extract human breast milk. The size of most of the pumps come with a standard 24 millimeter (mm) flange dimension. However, the availability of these flanges are variable and are distributed in wide ranges, starting from 21 mm to 36 mm. The size describes the diameter of the small tube on the flange's narrow edge.

Why Is Flange Size Considerable for Breastfeeding Mothers?

There are variable sizes available for breastfeeding mothers. It is a difficult decision for all the breastfeeding mothers. The selection of the right flanges can help the mothers in expressing the maximum amount of breast milk. The right flange makes the process efficient for breastfeeding mothers.

The dependent factors in the selection of the flanges are breast tissue and skin elasticity. If the fitting of the flange is too tight, it affects the breastfeeding by constricting the breasts tissue, as it leads to the formation of clogged milk ducts, which ultimately restricts the breast milk removal.

However, if the flanges are too loose, it can affect the breast milk removal which ultimately affects the milk production rate as it can lead to lower milk production. It may aggravate the nipple pain and can even lead to nipple injury. The fact is that if the breast pumping hurts it could lead to decreased breast milk supply.

When Does a Mother Need a Breast Pump?

The breast pumps are used in the removal and collection of breast milk from a woman's breasts. Following breast milk collection, it can be immediately fed to the baby when hungry or can be stored in bags and containers. Hand expression technique can also be used to extract the breast milk but pumps are more efficient for extracting the breast milk. There are certain situations when a mother needs a breast pump to feed their infant.

Breast pumps can be chosen by a mother under the following circumstances:

  • When the mother’s nipples are flat or inverted in shape.

  • When a mother is returning to work.

  • When the mother is out for a short period of time, and the baby gets hungry.

  • If the baby is in a neonatal care unit (NICU).

  • If the mother is suffering from breast engorgement, she needs relief from pain.

  • It can be used to increase the breast milk supply.

  • When a mother desires to temporarily wean the infant.

Why Is Getting the Accurate Size Breast Pump Flange So Important?

It is essential for a mother to get the right size flange in order to avoid any rubbing or punching on the nipples. If the flange size is inappropriate, it can hurt the nipple and make the extraction process painful for the mother. Additionally, it can also affect the amount of breast milk secretion. It can have a negative impact on breast milk secretion. It can also lead to a clogged milk duct if the flanges are ill-fitting and it is too tight on the nipple. Also, if the flange loosely fits the nipple, it could not provide adequate suction. This can also lead to improper removal of the milk from the mother’s breast.

Conclusion:

Breast pumps are helpful for working mothers, premature infants, critically ill infants, or infants born with some abnormality that restricts their suckling ability. Whatever may be the reason, usually, most breastfeeding moms find it useful to have a pump on hand. There are various types, styles, and brands of breast pump available, so it may be difficult or overwhelming to pick the right one. You may seek the help of your lactation counselor or breastfeeding specialist in choosing the accurate breast flanges for your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

How Do We Know if Flange Fits or Not?

The right flange size is essential in choosing the breast pump as it can yield maximum milk supply. Loose flanges will affect milk production by creating a vacuum and thus decreasing milk output. If the flanges fit tightly to the breast, it can damage the tissues and clog the milk duct due to constriction.

2.

Are Silicone Flanges Better?

Some women find a silicon breast pump more comfortable and flexible than plastic one. In addition, silicon breast pumps are suitable for sensitive nipples as they are very soft and prevent the swelling of nipples during the pump.

3.

How Does the Wrong Flange Size Affect Milk Output?

Milk output depends on selecting the correct flange size according to the breast. If the breast pump flanges are too tight, it can cause constriction of the breast tissues, leading to a clogged milk duct. On the other hand, if the flange is too loose, it can reduce milk production by affecting the removal of milk from the breast.

4.

Does Wrong Flange Size Cause Mastitis?

Yes, the wrong flange size can cause mastitis or painful infection of the breast tissues. In addition, when the fitting of the breast pump flanges is not correct, it can affect breastfeeding by forming clogged milk ducts which further leads to soreness, swelling, redness, and pain in the breast tissues. Mastitis is a prevalent condition in breastfeeding women caused due to improper removal of milk from the breast leading to infection.

5.

Why Do the Nipples Swell During Pump?

The suction caused by the breast pump can put pressure on the nipples, and they can get swelling. Painful or ill-fitting breast pumps can also lead to swelling or inflammation of the nipples. Swelling can also occur due to clogging of the milk in the ducts of the breast, which can cause infection and pain in the nipples.

6.

How Can Pump Be Made More Comfortable?

Pumping can be made comfortable by sitting with back support to create a comfortable position and environment for collecting breast milk. Also, massaging the breast before pumping can be beneficial. In addition, maintaining the beast pump's low suction setting can make the pumping easy and comforting.

7.

What Happens if We Use a Small Pump Flange?

Small flanges of the pump can squeeze and pinch the nipple against it. Also, the smaller flanges' size creates excessive friction, which can lead to nipple injury. Therefore, the size of the flanges is according to the nipples to avoid difficulty using the breast pump and make the process comfortable and smooth.

8.

Does a Woman Need to Hold the Breast While Pumping?

A woman needs to hold the breast while pumping if the pumping bra is not used to support the breast. The breast should be held gently to avoid pressing it too hard as it can compress the breast tissues and affect milk output. The breast is supported by the palm and fingers, while the index finger and thumb are used to hold the breast shield.

9.

Do Nipples Get Damaged From Pumping?

Nipples can get damaged due to pumping if the flanges are ill-fitting and the breast pump hurts. Also, pressing the breast tissues vigorously to increase mild removal can cause nipple injury. Nipples can even get damaged, leading to bleeding or cracked tissues if breast pumps are not used correctly.

10.

How Do We Know if Breasts Are Empty After Pumping?

The breast is never actually empty after feeding as the milk production process is continuous in the breast. When a woman feels softer after feeding, it indicates that the breast milk is emptied, which makes the breast firm. Similarly, a firm breast means that breast milk is not fully drained.

11.

How Is Milk Supply Increased While Pumping?

Milk supply can be increased by pumping more often, stimulating milk production in the breast. It is advisable to pump milk every three hours to enhance milk production and output. However, the pumping should be done not more than 15 minutes as it can harm the breast tissues.

12.

Does Higher Suction Increase the Milk Output?

Higher suction does not necessarily increase milk production and can cause damage to the breast tissues, thus inhibiting the milk output. The milk production can be increased by pumping more often at normal suction levels for 15 minutes every two to three hours. However, higher suction can lead to nipple injury, soreness, and breast swelling.

13.

Why Do the Breasts Feel Full Even After Pumping?

If the breasts feel full even after pumping milk for 15 minutes, then there must be an issue with releasing milk through the breast pump. The condition may arise due to clogged milk ducts and accumulation of milk in the breast. Also, Breasts feel heavy due to being overfilled with milk causing pain, swelling, and hardness.

14.

Can We Stop Pumping Every Three Hours?

A woman can stop pumping every three hours if the milk production is well established during the initial weeks of postpartum. The pumping session can be reduced if the milk output increases with time and enough milk is available on every pump to feed the newborn. Mostly pumping every two to three hours can maintain a good milk supply without discomfort.

15.

What Are the Disadvantages of Breast Pump?

Breast pumps are beneficial under various circumstances to feed the baby and increase the milk supply in the breast. However, breast pumps can have disadvantages, too. For example, it can damage the breast and breast tissues, cause painful infections, damage to nipples, and breast milk engorgement. In addition, the setup of a breast pump can be expensive for some people and, therefore, can be a disadvantage for using pumps for feeding.
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Dr. Richa Agarwal
Dr. Richa Agarwal

Obstetrics and Gynecology

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breast milk
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