My Medela breast pump came with standard size breast shields, so I used them (suffered through them, to be more accurate) for the first few weeks. I was in pain the entire time I pumped, but I figured it was normal. Lo and behold, the breast shield size was too small for me! I ordered the next size up, and voila! I was pumping more milk, and I wasn’t in pain while doing it.
Finding the right breast shield size can make a huge difference in not only how comfortable you are while pumping, but also in how much milk you produce. Now that I’m even older and wiser, I know pumping should never hurt – at least, not any more than breastfeeding does. Your body will produce the most milk when you’re relaxed and comfortable, so it’s critical that you set yourself up for success in this way.
How do you know if you have the wrong breast shield size?
--You’re in pain or uncomfortable while pumping
--Your nipples are white or feel raw and sore
--The skin surrounding your nipple gets sucked in
--Your breasts don’t feel emptied at the end of pumping
Now we’ve determined whether you need a different breast shield (or if you don’t, jump down below to point #3 for the mom hack to pump more milk!). Let’s talk about how to find your ideal size. Depending on what breast pump you have, there are typically a range of breast shield sizes from small (15mm-21mm) to large (36mm-40mm). The millimeter measurement corresponds to the diameter of your nipple (not areola).
It’s best to measure right after pumping or breastfeeding, when your nipples are swollen, so you get a more accurate measurement. Use a ruler or measuring tape and stand in front of a mirror or ask your partner to help you. Measure the diameter of your nipple at the base (across the middle) in millimeters (mm). You could also download and print out this handy nipple ruler and measure yourself that way. Note that the sizing of breast shields has nothing to do with your breast cup size, but rather, is all about the nipple.
Now, add at least 4mm (2mm either side of the nipple) to figure out your breast shield size. Check out Medela’s Sizing Guide for further explanation:
Keep in mind that if your breasts and nipples are different sizes (quite common, as discussed in my article about uneven milk production), you may need different sized breast shields for each breast. Also, as your breasts fluctuate throughout the course of breastfeeding and pumping, you may need to reevaluate whether your breast shield size is still correct.
Once you’ve determined your correct size, you have a few options:
1. Order your correct size breast shield from your breast pump manufacturer’s breast shield selection.
2. Search the internet to see if there are other breast shields that are compatible with your pump that might be more comfortable for you or a better size for you. For example, there are universal breast shields, or ways to “hack” different breast shields to work with your pump.
3. “MOM HACK”: Use a breast pump cushion inside your breast shield to assist with fit and comfort while pumping. For example, the BeauGen Breast Pump Cushion Inserts were created by a pumping mom who found pumping to be quite painful. She developed these pillowy cushions to fit inside breast shields, making the pumping experience not only more comfy, but also more productive. These are also a great option if you’re between sizes.
There you have it! Once you find the right breast shields, you should see a noticeable improvement in your breast milk production, as well as your comfort while pumping. If you’re still in pain, you may need to adjust your suction and speed settings to a level that’s more suitable for you. Happy pumping!
About Katie Stansberry
Katie Stansberry is a work-from-home mom of two sweet girls and the creator of Breastfeeding Bliss. After struggling at the beginning of her breastfeeding journey, she wanted to create a happy place where breastfeeding moms could find practical tips, positive inspiration, and the newest and best breastfeeding products. On her "Back to Bliss" breastfeeding blog, she shares her personal stories and tips for making breastfeeding an easier and more enjoyable experience.