Is there anything to be careful of when using a breast pump?

Generally, no. Breast pumps have to pass safety testing and meet specific safety criteria before they can be sold to consumers (this is why you'll see CE, FDA and other certifications stamped on the box). It is, however, important for your safety to make sure you're using them correctly. Here are some things to check. 

Breastshield sizing

Did you know that breastshields come in different sizes? Spectra breast pumps ship with size 24mm because that is the most common size; however, that doesn’t mean that everyone will fit that size (we don’t all wear the same sized shoes, after all). In fact, using the incorrect breastshield can hinder milkflow, lead to pain or discomfort, and even cause injury such as milk blisters and cracked nipples!

Pumping should never hurt. It is normal to feel some discomfort especially if you're just starting, but if you're experiencing pain while pumping, you should check your breastshield size first. Here's how: 

First, measure the diameter of the nipple at the base. 

After your nipple has swollen, measure the diameter of the nipple at the base of the nipple. Be careful not to include any areola in the measurement. Gently lay a ruler onto the areola next to the base of the nipple so the measurement lines are visible when looking straight at the breast. This can be tricky so some women find that doing it in front of a mirror or using a smart phone in selfie mode is helpful (if you’re having trouble, please contact customer support and we can help you with this step).


Then, select a shield size 2-3mm larger than your nipple diameter

To allow the nipple to move freely within the flange while pumping and to avoid any pain or discomfort (or worse – blisters!) from rubbing, select a shield size that is 2-3mm larger than the diameter of your nipple. For example, if your nipple measures at 18mm, you would want to try the 20mm shield. It’s important not to go too large either because excess areola can be drawn into the flange, causing discomfort, pain, or even constriction of milkflow.

Still not sure?

Breastshield sizing a lot of times is trial and error, and it can be tricky because it isn't an exact science. If you're still not sure you're using the correct size, you can read our Breastshield Sizing Guide or reach out to customer support :) 

Spectra offers a few different sized breastshields ranging in size from 20mm to 32mm; and, there are breastshields on the market ranging in size from 15mm to 36mm! 

Pumping above your comfort level

Pumping should never hurt. It's important that when you pump, you never pump above your comfort level. Don't turn the suction level up too high. Doing so can actually hinder milk supply, and even cause injury to your nipples and breasts. To determine your maximum comfort level:

  • Pump for 3 minutes on a low setting
  • Slowly turn up the suction level one level at a time. 
  • Once you feel discomfort, turn it down by one level. That is your maximum comfort level. 

If you're double pumping, you might find you have a different maximum comfort level on each side. Always choose the lowest setting that's comfortable for both breasts. Make sure that you've checked your breastshield size, too.

Concerning milk supply

If you're exclusively expressing, or pumping regularly to maintain supply (e.g. you're pumping twice at work) it's important to pump until you feel your breasts are empty, and 5 minutes past when milkflow slows. This is to make sure the breast is completely empty and thus you're signalling your body to make more milk.

Remember too that a pump may not remove milk as efficiently as a baby, so you may not remove as much milk expressing as a healthy baby with a good latch does. The amount of milk you can express isn’t an indication of your milk supply.

If you feel you're not expressing enough milk, check that you're practicing hands-on pumping (e.g. doing breast compressions and massage while pumping), that your shield size is correct, and that you are using settings within your comfort level.

If you've experienced a sudden decrease in milk output, it may be time to replace your valves. 

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