3 Key Things to Know About Pumping

woman using a breast pump

For most new parents, pumping is part of your feeding plan, and it’s also something that causes a lot of worry and confusion. In this blog, I’m going to share 3 really important things every new parent should know to help them get their ideal pump fit.


How you use your pump and how well it fits is the most important thing you can do when using your pump. There isn’t a single rule that will give you your perfect fit, but with experimentation, you can find a pump fit that helps you get the most amount of milk in the shortest amount of time, without causing pain and damage.


Your pump isn’t a vacuum cleaner.

Your perfect pump setting isn’t the *highest suction you can withstand for 20 minutes* to get the most milk. It’s the one that comfortably and effectively collects your milk, without causing pain or clogs during or after your pumping session.

Turning your pump up as high as it can go isn’t a long-term strategy for pumping, because it can cause a lot of damage to your nipples, and when recovering from pumping damage can take a long time to heal, because you can’t just skip removing milk.

If you feel like you have to turn your pump up to its highest setting to get your milk to flow, that’s a good clue that you have the wrong size for your body.

Expert Tip:

You may need two different vacuum settings on your pump - one to get your body to let-down your milk and one to collect your milk once it starts to flow. Some people’s bodies respond to the pump differently, so you are going to have to experiment to figure out what works best for you.


You probably have the wrong size flange.

Your right-size pump flange is the one that helps you remove the most amount of milk in the least amount of time without causing any damage to your nipples.

Most new pumps come with a size 24mm and a 28mm, and these sizes are way too big for most people. The vast majority of people I have worked with have found something between a 15mm to a 19mm to be their ideal size.

There are lots of general guidelines about how to get the right fit by measuring your nipples, which recommend adding anything from 1-5 mm to your measured size.

Some people’s nipples swell a bit after pumping so adding 1-2 mm makes sense. For other people, your nipples may stretch with pumping which causes them to get longer and smaller, and you may need to size DOWN to get your best fit.

Think of your pump fit like a puzzle to figure out, and the measurement you get is just the starting point to get you in the ballpark to experiment to figure out your ideal size.


Expert Tip:

Pumps have the potential to cause a lot of damage to your nipples. When pumping you want to be monitoring your nipples for bruising or swelling which tells you either the fit isn’t right or the suction is too high, until you are absolutely sure you have it right.


If your pump pinches, it’s likely too BIG.

It may seem absolutely counterintuitive, but pumps can get more uncomfortable before they fit just right.

Your nipple is the only tissue that is supposed to fit inside your flange because it's the only breast tissue that is designed to stretch. When your pump is too big, it pulls your areola into the flange too.

When your pump is too big by a lot, it pulls a lot of your areola into the flange and that spreads the force of suction over a lot of your areola. This usually means it doesn’t hurt, but it just isn’t very effective at removing milk.

As you get closer and closer to your right size, that force gets applied to less and less areola, and that makes it feel more uncomfortable until you get to your right size until you get it just right. This *worse until it’s better* pain causes a lot of parents to size back up when they really are almost there.

Expert Tip:

When your flange is the right fit, your nipples may touch the sizes of the flange, and this isn’t a problem if the inside of your flange is lubricated. You can safely use coconut oil or even nipple cream inside your flange to help your nipples slide through easily.



Making sure your pump fits you and works FOR you is the absolute most important thing you can do if pumping is going to be a big part of your feeding plan, so that you can comfortably pump as long as you planned without causing damage to your body.  If you want to make sure you are in the right ballpark for your flange size, you can grab our free nipple sizing guide right here.


If you get stuck or just want to know how to make sure your pump fits you perfectly, get the most milk from your pumping sessions, or how to make pumping more sustainable for you, check out my  Stress-Free Pumping Webinar, and get all the tips and tricks you need to make all your hard work worth the effort. 



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