When it comes to breast shells for expressing, one size does certainly not fit all. At Ardo, we cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure you have the correct size breast shell for you, your nipples, and your breastpump, to ensure you are getting the most productive milk flow.
The breast shell is the funnel-shaped part of the breastpump, which sits against your breasts when you are expressing. It collects the milk as it is expressed and channels it into the storage bottle you are pumping into.
There are a couple of reasons why using the correct breast shell is so important – one is so that you are comfortable whilst pumping, and the other is so you are maximising the amount of milk you express.
Expressing should not be uncomfortable, and if you’re finding that it is, it might be that you are not using the correct size breast shell. The best way to determine which size you need, is to measure your nipple (excluding the areola), to the widest part, add 4mm to this, and this is the breast shell you should try.
We offer a range of sizes, 22mm, 26mm, 28mm, 31mm, and 36mm diameter – the diameter is the circle on the breast shells where your nipple will enter.
However, choosing a shell size is not just about nipple diameter, but also about the texture, shape and movement of your nipple, areola and breast.
When you use a breast shell, the nipple should move freely within the shell following the rhythmic movements of the pump. It should not be moving too far down into the funnel, or not moving at all. If either of these things are happening, then you could potentially be repressing your oxytocin hormone – the hormone which controls how the milk flows with the ‘let down reflex’ (or milk ejection reflex) and means less milk may be expressed.
If you think you have the right size breast shell and your nipple is moving correctly with the rhythm of the pump, but you are still finding expressing uncomfortable, it may be that you need to decrease the vacuum settings on your pump. You could also try using an Optiflow massage insert, which is a soft silicone piece that massages the breast during pumping. The Ardo massage inserts are 26mm in diameter and fit inside a 31mm breast shell and is included in the Calypso Double Plus.
This may seem like a lot of information to think about, but we hope it demonstrates why the size of the breast shell you use is so important to you and to the success of your expressing journey.
If you need further help there is a YouTube video tutorial on Breast Shell sizing.