Pumpin Pal vs Lacteck flanges
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 can always be 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', when its a 2-piece its sometimes the 'breast-shield' and 'connector'.
Lacteck® and Pumpin Pal™ are companies who make just the flange/breastshield part. 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 13mm – 36mm, generally in at least 2mm increments. Each size of Pumpin Pal™ flanges fit a range of sizes – XS = 15 – 18mm, S = 19 – 23mm, M = 24 – 29mm, etc. These number relate to the 'regular' 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 6+ 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
Lacteck® This is a relatively new company, founded by 2 MIT graduate mothers, who exclusively expressed for their babies. They currently make 2 products - Pump2Baby bottles and BabyMotion flanges (update - they now make a few other products, you can find them by searching 'Lacteck' under the 'Shop Now' button) 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 currently available in 18, 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 (although needing to use a very high vacuum may mean that you are using the wrong size - click here for a sizing guide or here for an article on why choosing the right size is so important).
Lacteck BabyMotion flanges
Some people have commented that the Lacteck flanges are sized incorrectly - that they are too big. They are actually the correct size (eg a 21mm measures exactly 21mm at the opening of the funnel part), but because they are made of soft silicone they expand slightly, or have some 'give' in them, making them appear bigger. Therefore it may be necessary to go a size smaller - eg if you are using 19mm flanges, go for a 18mm rather than a 21mm.
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 MyFit connector (available under 'Shop Now'). 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 a MyFit wide connector (they also come in narrow, which mimic the Medela connectors)
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 flange that is smaller than a 19mm 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 1-2mm. Your sizing may change over time and you might need a different size on each side. Click here for more on sizing
*A note on 'elastic' nipples
Recently I have been allowing customers in Perth to come try out flanges in person (I got tired of telling people to try smaller and wanted a way to 'prove' that it would help). What I noticed was very surprising - the majority are finding that even smaller than what I would have sized them at seems to be more comfortable. I also have a flange lending service for those outside of Perth (search for this under 'Shop Now').
I have also had a few people come to me saying that they have elastic nipples and they want me to recommend a product for them. What I usually find is that they are using the wrong size (too big) to begin with.
Here is a story that really highlights this point:
A customer contacted me saying that she has elastic nipples and is there such a thing as a flange 'extender' as her nipple was touching the back of the flange. After a few emails back and forth I learned that she had exclusively expressed for her first child for 13mths with a 27mm flange, with no issues. She was currently EE'ing for her second and was using a 27mm flange, but she found that her nipple was being pulled right into the flange. She heard that the Pumpin Pal flanges were good for this, so she bought a Medium. But she was still having issues.
I asked her to send me videos of her using both types of flanges and from those estimated that she needed a 17mm flange. She was adamant that the 27 was correct and just needed an extender. I said an extender didn't exist and that I really believed that smaller flanges would help.
She bought the Small Pumpin Pal flange (XS would have been better, as S starts at 19mm) but wrote back saying she was still having issues. I again re-iterated that 17mm regular flanges would probably be better.
So she got the 17's (somewhat reluctantly as she was still somewhat convinced that 27's were correct, due to her having no issues before). A few days later she was messaging me in excitement - her nipple was no longer touching the end of the flange and she had doubled her morning output! She was amazed that I was right about her needing 17's.
I have had a few more customers/clients since then ask about elastic nipples and we have discovered that they are using flanges that are too big. So I strongly recommend that you check your flange sizing before thinking you have elastic nipples - since doing sizing in person I have not had anyone need bigger than 21mm (and I see an average of 3-4 people per week)
Please feel free to email me with any questions - firstname.lastname@example.org. To buy either in Australia go to www.cherishedparenting.com.au/online-store