Silicone breast pumps – the full story
Silicone breast pumps, also called silicone suction cups, are fairly new on the market and have taken social media moms’ groups on a storm. Moms love them, which says something (they wouldn’t get good feedback if they didn’t work at all).
From a lactation consultant viewpoint there are some concerns though. And as with most other tools and gadgets, they have a place but need to be used correctly and for the right reasons.
What is a silicone breast pump?
This is basically a silicone cup that you squeeze and then apply to your nipple to create a vacuum/suction, and collect milk.
Silicone suction cups used for milk collection
Most mothers use them to collect the milk leaking on one side while they are feeding baby on the opposite. You should know though that it doesn’t just collect milk (like breast shells do), but actively provide suction to get the milk out. This means that you increase the demand and will thus make more milk. For some moms this may lead to an oversupply, which contributes to engorgement, blocked ducts and mastitis.
Silicone breast pumps used for engorgement
These cups can be used to relieve engorgement which may bring relief for moms in the early days when their milk comes in. Just note again that it may indirectly worsen the situation by overstimulating, so only use it to relieve the worst pressure. You should not be walking around with it constantly.
These cups can also be used to treat plugged ducts. Do also read our articles on breast engorgement, and on blocked ducts and mastitis as there are many factors to consider, and many other tips that you should follow to prevent further complications.
Can silicone breast pumps cause damage?
They can, indeed. In addition to causing an oversupply, the constant suction can cause swelling and nipple damage. Don’t leave it on for too long on a too high suction. If it hurts you, take it off. You may need to experience with different brands to find a comfortable one.
If you have breast oedema a silicone breast pump is an absolute no as it will pull even more fluid towards the nipple.
Can a silicone pump be used instead of a normal breast pump?
You must know that a silicone cup is not a usual breast pump that properly stimulate and maintain a supply. It is not a good option for a mom who needs to express for going back to work, or for a newborn baby not latching. Read our article on ‘do you really need a breast pump’ to help you decide.
Can you safely use the milk expressed with a silicone pump?
There has been concerns over bacterial growth in the cups of a silicone pump. It is important that you don’t leave milk in the cup for prolonged periods, and that you wash and sterilize it frequently and properly.