Like all things with expressing (or life in general) there is no guarantee that any product will work well for you. ‘Rules’ given in this article are in general and for the majority – there are always exceptions
Definitions and basic info
The ‘flange’ is generally considered the part that touches the breast. It can also be called a ‘breast-shield’. Then there is the ‘elbow’ – the part that is literally shaped like an elbow and usually connects to a back flow protector or the tubing directly. The valve then hangs into bottle from the underneath. It can also be called a ‘connector’.
Some breast pump companies make their flanges as a one piece, others a 2-piece – the flange detaches from the elbow. When it is a one piece system the whole thing is usually just called 'the flange'
Lacteck® and Pumpin Pal™ are companies who make just the flanges.
Pumpin Pal™ flanges
Started in 1999, these are angled flanges designed to allow relaxed expressing and comfort. Traditionally when you express with ‘regular’ flanges you need to lean forward to allow the milk to flow down the funnel and towards the bend. These flanges are angled to allow you lean back.
They also have ridges on them to potentially increase output (by stimulating the breast tissue around the nipple).
They come in 5 sizes – X-Small, Small, Medium, Large and X-Large. Regular flanges can be found in sizes ranging from 15mm – 36mm, generally in at least 2mm increments. Pumpin Pal flanges fit a range of sizes – XS = 15 – 19mm, S = 20 – 23mm, M = 24 – 29mm, etc. These number relate to the flange size.
The XS and S sizes are made of soft silicone, the M sizes up are made from the same material as regular flanges. The XS and S also come with a hard ‘collar’, which allows them to fit snuggling into a connector.
I have been a member of an exclusive expressing and low supply support group (2 separate groups) for 5 years – there have been numerous reports on both sides of those who love them and those who don’t respond to them. Some who use them well say that you need to turn up your suction slightly, others have said they can use a lower setting as they work so well for them.
Example of a Pumpin Pal flange - note that it angles down from the breast so that you can sit in a comfortable position
This is a very new company, founded by 2 MIT graduate mothers who exclusively expressed for their babies. They currently make 2 products - Pump2Baby bottles and BabyMotion flanges
Their BabyMotion flanges are a variation on the current flange in that they are made from soft silicone, rather than hard plastic. They are shaped in the same way as regular flanges.
They also include a small section that moves during expressing. The company says this is to better mimic the tongue action a baby makes during direct feeding.
At the moment the flanges are only available in 21, 24, and 27mm, but there are rumours that the company are thinking about making other sizes.
The company points out that because they are made from soft silicone some of the vacuum may be absorbed and therefore it will probably be necessary to turn the vacuum up slightly. so if you are already using a high vacuum these may not work well for you
Lacteck BabyMotion flanges
Both the Pumpin Pal™ and Lacteck® flanges need a connector to attach to. Both types of flanges are compatible with Medela® pumps, provided that you already have a 2-piece system (ie the flange can be removed from the elbow). For 1 piece flange systems you can get a Pumpin Pal™ adapter for Spectra®*. For those that have the back flow protector built into the flange (eg Ameda® or Ardo®) you will need to buy back flow protectors as well.
XS Pumpin Pal flange shown in Spectra adapter
Both are made from BPA-free materials.
When customers ask me for my recommendation on which flanges to use this is what I usually say – find a regular flange that fits and works as well for you as possible. If you need a 20mm flange or smaller then the Lacteck® flanges are probably not going to work for you. If you are between a 21 and 27mm flange then the Lacteck might be more comfortable, but you might just need to take a gamble on one (or get both if you can afford it).
If you need help figuring out what size you need this is the rule that I have found most accurate - measure the diameter of the nipple (JUST the nipple) before expressing and add 4mm. Your sizing may change over time and you might need a different size on each side.
To buy either in Australia go to www.cherishedparenting.com.au/online-store
*Automatically added to your order from Cherished Parenting Services if you select 'Yes' to the option 'for Spectra'