During my first few weeks back to work after the birth of my daughter, I was pumping just enough milk to sustain her throughout the day, but there wasn't a drop to spare. I had a deep fear of our care provider running out of milk before I could get home, which meant my evening commute was a feverish wind sprint to our front door. So when I heard that Medela's new breast shield extracts 11 percent more breastmilk, I knew it was a total game-changer for breastfeeding moms. When it comes to that liquid gold, being able to express more — particularly if your supply is tight — can make all the difference, both for your baby's feeding options and your sanity.
While Medela's new PersonalFit Flex breast shields might not look drastically different than other models, they feature some really smart design optimizations for the breastfeeding mom. Whereas the traditional angle of the flange is 90 degrees, Medela's new breast shields boast an 105° angle and a more oval shape to better fit the shape of a mother's breast and help the milk flow more easily, according to Danielle Prime, Ph.D., medical research associate and lactation scientists at Medela.
"Changing the opening angle of the flange... made a difference; it better matched the contour of the breast and reduced compression of the milk ducts, which allows milk to flow more freely through them. This change resulted in the ability for breast milk to flow faster per minute during a pump session — 11.8 percent more overall," explained Prime in an interview with Romper.
Thinking back to how tight my milk supply was in those early days of pumping, the fact that these shields saw an 11 percent increase in milk expression was a really meaningful statistic. That increase might have actually saved me from having to start supplementing with formula when I did. And, that stat is backed by multiple clinical trials. "When researching and developing the design for the PersonalFit Flex breast shields, more than 100 breastfeeding moms participated in four clinical studies," according to Prime.
What's more, Medela's PersonalFit Flex shields are designed to feel more natural (they have soft rims), and are available in different sizes for both comfort and pumping efficiency. Many women, myself included, find themselves with different sized breasts while nursing, so that shield customization is key. "Breast shield sizes can differ between breasts, and size might change over the time that she’s pumping," explained Prime.
Of course, there are other reasons why you might want to reevaluate the shield you're using, including nipple soreness or irritation, the quantity of breast milk you're pumping, or the position of the nipple or areola inside the shield, according to Prime.
But how exactly do you know if you're using the correct shield? It turns out that there are a few easy "tests" you can do to evaluate your nipple/shield fit.
Prime recommends watching the nipple movement during a pumping session, and asking yourself some key questions, like "Does your nipple rub sides of tunnel, causing discomfort?", "Do you see excessive areola being pulled into tunnel?", "Do you see any redness, or is your nipple/areola turning white?" and lastly, "Do you feel unexpressed milk after pumping?"
If you say 'yes' to any of those questions, it's a good idea to rethink your shield size, advises Prime. With high-tech options like the PersonalFit Flex out there, there's no reason to settle for a shield that isn't working for you.
After experiencing a traumatic c-section, this mother sought out a doula to support her through her second child’s delivery. Watch as that doula helps this mom reclaim the birth she felt robbed of with her first child, in Episode Three of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes, launching Mondays in December.