The right size breast shield can be really helpful for pumping moms! However, there is a lot of confusion about what a breast shield is and how is it used. One problem that breastfeeding moms face is choosing the right size. Many women do not know what size of breast shields they need, how to determine the right fit or the proper way to measure the nipple. Getting the correct breast shield size is essential for effective pumping so having the right information is important.
It is important to remember that breast shield size depends on your breast tissue and skin elasticity. Not only that, your breast shield size could change during the duration of your pumping experience. You might even need to get two different sizes of breast shields, or one for each breast. Hopefully the information in this article will help. Here are four myths and misconceptions about breast shields – with facts and insights to help breastfeeding moms make better-informed decisions.
Myth # 1 - A Breast Shield is the Same Thing as a Nipple Shield.
Breast shields and nipple shields are not the same – they are two different breastfeeding accessories that serve completely different purposes.
A nipple shield is a flexible silicone nipple worn over the mom’s nipple during a feeding session. Nipple shields are devices used to support babies to breastfeed. The nipple shield is a tool to help solve specific latch problems and should be considered a short-term solution. They can be a valuable tool to help moms make breastfeeding easier and more convenient.
If your baby has latch-on difficulties, the nipple shield can help the baby have an easier time with latching on to the nipple by providing a bigger target for suckling. Moms who have sore nipples often use nipple shields to protect their nipples while they heal, or for other challenges such as inverted or flat nipples. They can also help with an overactive letdown. Nipple shields should be used under the guidance of a lactation consultant.
Breast Shields are different from nipple shields. Instead of being used to help the baby latch on, breast shields are used for breast pumping. Breast shields are the interface between you and the pump, the right size can help maximize your milk production during breast pumping, and keep your milk ducts from being compressed. The Medela breast shield range aims to support milk flow, good breast drainage, comfortable pumping and prevention of nipple trauma.
You need to know how to choose breast shields according to your nipple size. Every woman is unique and one breast shield size does not fit all. That is why Medela offers a wide range of breast shield sizes to meet every mom's needs. Lactation professionals agree that proper breast shield fit is essential, for not only comfort, but also for expressing milk effectively. For good results, combine the breast shields with the natural suction rhythm of a Medela 2-Phase breast pump that uses 2-Phase Expression technology.
Myth #2 - Breast Shields Should Be Measured by Including Areola.
When measuring for breast shield size, the measurement should not include the areola area.
Choosing which size of breast shield you need can be difficult, and it is best done while breast pumping. Here is how you can figure out how to get the correct size of breast shield:
Center the nipple in the tunnel of the breast shield and start pumping. Then answer the following questions. If the answer to any of these questions is "No," your breast shield does not fit properly:
- Can your nipple move freely within the breast shield’s tunnel?
- The breast shield tunnel should only be pulling in a very little amount of areola tissue at the most – or none at all. Is this what is happening for you currently?
- During each pump cycle, can you feel soft, gentle, rhythmic motions in each breast?
- Do you feel like your breast is completely emptying?
- Is your nipple totally pain-free?
Finding Your Breast Shield Size
In order to find your optimal size, you can measure your nipple diameter. First, measure the diameter of your nipple (using measuring tape or a ruler) at the base across the middle in millimeters (mm). If you have a centimeter ruler, remember that 1 cm = 10 mm. However, focus only on the nipple – do not include your areola as part of this measurement. Once you have a measurement of your nipple diameter, use the guide below to find your approximate breast shield size.
Myth #3 - Medela Breast Shields Are One Size Fits All
Our breast shields are not one-size-fits-all. Medela breast shields come in five sizes ranging from 21 mm to 36 mm, with the standard size of 24 mm included with all Medela breast pump kits. Many women need to wear a breast shield size other than the standard 24 mm size. However, the best way to figure out your correct breast shield size and fit is to watch the nipple move during pumping.
Myth #4 - It’s Hard to Tell If You Are Using the Wrong Size
Most women can tell if they are wearing the wrong size of breast shield. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is your nipple rubbing up against the sides of the breast shield’s tunnel? If so, is it severe enough to cause even slight pain for you?
- Does it look like areola tissue is being drawn into the breast shield tunnel?
- Is there redness in your nipple or areola tissue?
- Does your nipple or areola seem to be turning white?
- After pumping breastmilk, do you feel like there is still unexpressed milk left over in your breast?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” try a new size by measuring your nipple diameter as described above. If you are still not sure if you selected the right size, please reach out for breastfeeding support from a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist.
Here is a visual guide for how various sizes of breast shields might fit (or not) during pumping:
Having properly fitted breast shields is not just a matter of comfort; it is also important for pumping efficiency and milk production too. Getting the right size of breast shields is essential for breast pumping success. Using breast shields that are too large or too small can significantly reduce the amount of milk you can pump and cause unnecessary discomfort. Even if you have been pumping breastmilk for a while, your breast shield size could still change. This is something to be aware of throughout your breastfeeding journey so that you can make adjustments as needed along the way.
Have you ever used breast shields? What was your experience? Did you find they were helpful in saving time and helping make your breastfeeding experience more successful? Please leave your comments below or join the conversation on the Medela Facebook page.