What are elastic nipples, and how do they affect milk production?

Simply put, “elasticity” refers to stretchiness. All tissue has some elasticity, but individuals vary in just how elastic their nipple tissue may be. Elastic nipples are perfectly normal and may not cause any problems whatsoever. However, issues can arise when the combination of elastic nipple tissue and your pumping apparatus causes milk duct constriction.

Lactiferous ducts, or milk ducts, are the pathways that carry the milk from the milk lobules to the nipple. When these ducts are stretched or pinched, this can restrict the free flow of milk to the baby or pump. In other words, these ducts—essentially milk pathways—are being stretched and deformed to the point they can not easily pass this milk. The flow stops, leading to low milk output, stress, and frustration.

Requirements for successful pumping

While lactation is a highly complex process, successful breast pumping can be simplified into two criteria.

  1. When a sensation is felt at the end of the breast (the pump tugging on the nipple), the brain must interpret the source of this sensation as requiring the release of milk. If this happens, a “letdown” occurs.
  2. Then, nothing should compromise the flow of milk through the milk ducts i.e. the result of outside pressure on the ducts causing the ducts to flatten or constrict.

The job of a pump is not to suck the milk out or mechanically extract the milk out like in a dairy setting (fine for cows, not for moms). Instead, a breast pump creates the sensation at the end of the nipple (step 1 above), triggering a signal to the subconscious (the gatekeeper of the milk) that “baby is hungry,” and collects the milk in the bottle when it comes out (step 2).

Easy, right? Well…in theory.

The problem with standard flanges

standard flange compressing elastic nipple tissue

Standard flanges—the ones that come included with your pump kit—work for some pumping moms. However, many parents find that they need a different solution, for reasons ranging from size to comfort.

This is especially likely if you have elastic nipple tissue. Standard flanges are symmetrical, with a hard ring at the bottom of the funnel. If you have elastic nipples, more areola tissue will get pulled into the flange (due to the stretchiness). The restrictive ring and/or extra tissue will put more pressure on the breast, compressing the milk ducts and potentially reducing milk output.

How Pumpin’ Pal flanges help

Pumpin’ Pal’s flanges are angled, with no hard ring at the bottom of the flange funnel. So not only are they more comfortable, they won’t put that inward pressure on the ducts…meaning less restricted milk flow!

Our flanges have helped thousands of moms with all body types. However, for elastic nipples in particular, we didn’t stop with the angled design: we also introduced silicone flanges for our smaller sizes. The BPA-free silicone creates a “sticky” surface that physically keeps the areola tissue from getting pulled into the tunnel. This maximizes the benefits of the flange design.

Read more about the benefits of silicone by visiting our extensive Knowledge Base.

Pumpin' Pal flange not restricting elastic tissue, allowing milk flow

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