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Pump Trauma


Definition:  pain, redness and inflammation of the nipples and areolae due to overuse or misuse of a breast pump.  Blood blisters and/or bruises may also be present.


The pain due to pump trauma may range from a superficial burning or stinging of the nipples and areolae to severe deep breast pain (sharp or dull) between feedings or pumpings.  Sometimes it is diffucult to differentiate between pump trauma and yeast.


Pump trauma may occur if:

-         you are pumping for long periods of time,

-         pumping at too high of a vacuum

-         starting at maximum vacuum rather that slowly bringing it up

-         using pump flanges that are too small


Pump trauma can be difficult to resolve, especially if pumping is your only form of milk removal.


Here are some guidelines:


1. Pump only for 2 minutes after the milk stops flowing.  There is no need to pump “dry.”  This does not help increase milk production.


2.  Massage breasts while pumping, to help milk exit faster.


3.  Try to pump for no more than 10-15 minutes.


4.  Use olive oil on the nipples and areolae while pumping, to decrease friction.


5.  Keep suction at the minumum setting for at least 30 seconds and then slowly bring it up.  Take the suction up to the lowest level that gets milk out.


6.  Get the correct flange size.  If you are using the standard size, 24 mm, try going up to 27 mm or using angled flanges which are wider.  Ideally, the shaft of your nipple should not rub against the side of the flange.  If it does, you may need a bigger flange size.  Be aware that some nipples and areolae will expand to whatever size flange you use, so do not keep changing to bigger and bigger flanges.  This will only increase the surface area that is traumatized.


7.  Hospital grade pumps tend to be more gentle pumps and can help decrease pump trauma.


8.  Use olive oil or another soothing ointment on the nipples and areolae between feedings or pumpings.