Why Does Using My Breast Pump Hurt? Hint: It Shouldn’t!

will using my breast pump hurt?OUCH! Are you feeling a bit like you’ve been hooked up to a vacuum cleaner after using your breast pump? Do you find the experience just a bit too intense or painful? Here are a few suggestions for making sure that pumping is a comfortable experience.

Are you turning it up to the MAX?

Many mothers think that, for the best milk removal, they need to turn their pumps all the way up! When it comes to pumping, “all the way up” isn’t better and it can be very painful. Finding the right level of pump suction is essential to a comfortable pumping experience.

Drawing milk out of the body relies on much more than just the suction from a breast pump. As the breast is stimulated, your body releases hormones which eject the milk out of the body.  We often call this a “milk let down” or “milk ejection reflex”. When the pump suction level is too high, it can impact the body’s ability to release this milk. Turning the pump up to a level more powerful than a mother needs can actually lead to LESS milk being collected.

If your pumping experience feels painful, dial back your pump a bit.  We want it to be at the highest suction level that is comfortable for YOU but this setting can vary between mothers.

Note: Hygeia pumps have independent speed and suction controls and we suggest that even experienced pumping moms start pumping with both dials turned to the lowest position possible, then slowly turning up the speed/suction to your optimal level. Many moms find they need a lower setting over time.

Does Your Flange Fit?

As an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), I’ve seen lots and lots of breasts. Let me assure you that there is an incredibly wide range of normal. Nipples come in all shapes and sizes too…so why do we assume that “one size fits all” when it comes to the parts of a breast pump that touch the body? For a comfortable pumping experience, we must make sure that a mom has a great fitting flange.*

When a mom pumps, she places the flange up against her breast with the nipple pointed towards the “tunnel” of the flange. It is difficult to figure out whether a pump flange “fits” without actually watching the nipple move once the pump has been turned on. When watching your nipple move within the flange, make sure that there is some space between your nipple and the tunnel.  If it is rubbing up against the side, you can imagine that the friction could be quite painful!

If your pump flange isn’t the right size, you might see:

  • Cracks around the bottom edge of the nipple
  • Your nipple turning white
  • Your nipple not staying centered in the tunnel
  • Your areola coming into the tunnel
  • Your breast not staying sealed to the flange

Over the course of pumping journey, it is certainly possible that the fit of a mom’s flange could change. If, at any point, pumping becomes uncomfortable, it is certainly a great idea to watch for any sort of fit issues.

If you have questions about whether or not you need an alternate size pump flange, talk to your local IBCLC or breastfeeding support volunteer. If you own a Hygeia breast pump and need different size, you can order them from our website.

Remember, comfortable pumping leads to better volumes of milk and a more relaxed mother.

* Poor fit issues can also affect how milk flows out of the breast and can have an impact on milk supply.

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