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Breast Pump Parts (An EASY Guide With Everything You Need To Know)

Breast Pump Parts (An EASY Guide With Everything You Need To Know)
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There are so many parts to a breast pump. When you receive your breast pump, you may be wondering what are all these breast pump pieces, and how do they fit together?

When I received my pump from insurance, I was surprised at all the components. I had to figure out how to assemble, clean and sterilize the pump parts when I began pumping breastmilk.

So, what are the parts of a breast pump?

  • Breast Pump
  • Breast Shields (Or Flanges)
  • Valves and Membranes
  • Tubing
  • Milk Collection Bottles
  • Connectors (depending on pump brand)
  • Backflow protectors (depending on pump brand)

Below, we will go further into detail about:

  • Each of the different pump parts, as well as
  • What parts of a breast pump parts need to be sterilized,
  • What parts of a breast pump parts need to be replaced, and
  • Does insurance cover breast pump replacement parts

Breast Pump

The breast pump is the unit that creates a gentle vacuum and suction. It allows you to draw milk out without directly nursing your baby.

A breast pump may be electric or manual.

Manual breast pumps have a lever you can squeeze to create suction instead of an electric motor. This allows you to control how quickly milk is expressed.

Manual pumps have a few benefits:

  • They are usually smaller and more lightweight than an electric pump
  • They can be used anywhere, and do not require power
  • Some women respond better (and can pump more milk) when they use a manual breast pump.

An electric breast pump has a few parts that are different from a manual pump:

  • It has a motor to create a gentle vacuum and suctioning power to express milk.
  • It has either a dial or buttons so you can adjust the speed and suction of the pump.
  • Electric breast pumps may have a battery pack, so you can pump without being plugged into a wall outlet.

Some benefits to electric breast pumps are:

  • You can pump hands-free and multi-task while pumping.
  • You can use your hands to massage while pumping.
  • Some women respond better to the stronger speed and suction from an electric pump.

Breast Shields (And Flanges)

The breast shield is the cone-shaped piece that comes in your breast pump accessories kit. It is also known as a flange.

This piece goes on your breast and is shaped like a funnel. The tunnel is where your nipple is pulled in due to the vacuum and suction of the pump.

The breast shield is typically made from hard plastic. Some companies also make breast shields from softer, flexible silicone.

This piece is very important to be sized properly. The size of the shield is measured in millimeters and is based on the diameter of your nipple.

If you are pumping and your breast shield is too small or too large, then it can cause several types of problems when you are pumping.

An incorrectly sized breast shield can cause:

  • A decrease in the amount of milk you express,
  • Pain while pumping,
  • Cracked nipples,
  • Sore nipples, or
  • Clogged milk ducts.

You may want to try a few different sizes of breast shields and flanges. When I first started pumping, I was experiencing a lot of clogged milk ducts. When I started to use a smaller breast shield size, my clogs went away almost completely.

Valves, Membranes, and Duckbill Valves

The valves are the pieces that connect to the flanges. They are typically made from hard plastic. They have holes in them, so milk can pass from the flange into the milk collection bottle.

Membranes are the small, circular pieces that fit onto the valves. They are flexible and open and close from the valve with the suction of the pump.

Duckbill valves are a different type of pumping valve. These are made from flexible silicone and have a “beak” like a duck. The beak will open and close with the suction from the pump. As the “beak” of the duckbill valve opens, milk can drip from the flange into the milk collection bottle.

If you are having any type of problem with suction on your pump, be sure to replace the valves and membranes or duckbill valves. They become loose, stretched out, and worn out over time.

Pro Tip: Medela pumps come with valves and membranes, and Spectra pumps come with duckbill valves. Did you know that you can use these interchangeably? I used duckbill valves with my Medela pump parts and it gave me better suction with my pump.

You can check out my favorite brand of duckbill valves here (link to Amazon). They work well with both Medela and Spectra pump parts.

Be sure to replace the valves, membranes, and duckbill valves every 2 to 4 weeks so you know that your pump is functioning properly. You can read more about when to replace all of your pump parts in this article I wrote.

easy guide to breast pump parts - valves membranes flanges duckbill valves tubing and bottles

Breast Pump Tubing

The breast pump tubing is the clear plastic tubing that connects the flange to the breast pump. It is important to keep this tubing as dry as possible to prevent the growth of mold.

When you are finished with your pumping session, you can leave the pump motor running with the tubing still attached.

This will help remove the condensation from the breast pump tubing. You can also read more about cleaning and drying pump tubing in this article I wrote.

Milk Collection Bottles

The milk collection bottles connect to the flanges. They will either screw on directly to the flanges, or onto connectors depending on your pump set up.

Most pumps have either:

  • Narrow-mouth openings for the milk collection bottles, or
  • Wide-mouth openings for the milk collection bottles.

These standard bottle size openings mean that the bottles are interchangeable. This is very useful because you have the ability to pump into the same bottles that you use to feed your baby!

As an example:

If you have a Spectra pump (and flanges) and you want to pump into Dr. Brown’s bottles, you can use an adapter like this one (link to Amazon).

Or, if you have a Medela pump and flanges, and you want to pump directly into Avent bottles, you can use this adapter (link to Amazon).

Breast Pump Connectors

Pump Connectors are the pieces that are specific to the Medela pumping accessories. These attach to the breast shields and then connect to the milk collection bottles.

The design of having separate connectors can make it easier to clean your pump parts. This is because it is easier to reach into the small crevices when you can take this piece apart.

It also allows you to try out different breast shield sizes, and continue to use the same connectors.

Breast Pump Backflow Protectors

The backflow protectors are pieces specific to the Spectra pumping accessories. These attach to the flanges and the tubing. They prevent any milk from backing up into the pump tubing or into the pump motor.

What Parts Of A Breast Pump Need To Be Sterilized

The parts of a breast pump that need to be sterilized are the parts which come in contact with milk. This means that these parts should be sterilized:

  • Breast Shields
  • Valves and membranes
  • Connectors, and
  • Milk Collection Bottles,

These breast pump parts may need to be sterilized occasionally if they become dirty or if they have milk in them:

  • Backflow Protectors
  • Tubing (depending on the manufacturer).

Most of the time, the pump manufacturers do not recommend boiling breast pump tubing because it may become cloudy or discolored.

Before sterilizing any of your pump parts, be sure to look at the instruction manual that came with your pump and pumping accessories kit. The instruction manual will tell you if the parts can be sterilized without damaging them.

What Parts Of A Breast Pump Can Be Boiled?

The parts of a breast pump that can be boiled are:

  • Breast Shields
  • Valves and membranes
  • Connectors,
  • Milk Collection Bottles, and
  • Backflow Protectors

Most pump manufacturers do not recommend boiling breast pump tubing. It is best to replace the pump tubing if it starts to look dirty or if it contains any mold.

Be sure to look at the user manual for your individual pump kit and double-check that the pieces in your kit can be safely boiled. The user manual will tell you if it is ok to boil the pump parts without damaging them.

What Parts Of A Breast Pump Need To Be Replaced

The parts of a breast pump that need to be replaced most frequently are the valves, membranes, and tubing.

The valves and membranes need to be replaced frequently because as they wear out, the breast pump suction can be reduced. Typically the valves and membranes should be replaced every 2 to 4 weeks.

The other pump part that needs to be replaced frequently is the tubing. The tubing may start to have condensation or become dirty.

I wrote a complete guide on replacing breast pump parts in this article. Check it out to make sure that you are replacing your pump parts on time!

Does Insurance Cover Breast Pump Replacement Parts

A health insurance plan may cover replacement parts for a breast pump. This depends on the specific terms in your health insurance plan.

The easiest way to find out if your plan covers replacement pump parts is to fill out this form (link to Aeroflow).

The form will talk about getting a pump, but it is ok to go ahead and fill it out. Their customer service is fantastic. Once you have a response e-mail from them, tell them if you are interested in a breast pump, or if you already have a pump and are interested in only replacement pump parts.

The customer service representative can check out the details on your insurance plan. They will be able to help you if you are looking for replacement breast pump parts.

I was able to get replacement pump parts covered under my health insurance plan during my baby’s first year as long as I continued to pump.

You can also read more about my experience with Aeroflow in this post. I was able to use my HSA (Health Savings Account) funds to pay for a breast pump in their program.

Pump Parts That Are Specific To Pump Models

Most breast pump models have similar pump parts. However, there are a few differences between them depending on the specific model.

Parts Of A Medela Breast Pump:

  • Pump
  • Breast Shields
  • Connectors
  • Valves & Membranes
  • Milk Collection Bottles
  • Tubing

Typically a Medela breast pump has two pieces – the breast shields and connectors. This is different from a Spectra which comes with one piece that serves this same purpose (a flange).

A Medela pump also comes with valves and membranes, whereas a Spectra uses duckbill valves instead of these two pieces.

Parts Of A Spectra Breast Pump:

  • Pump
  • Flanges
  • Duckbill Valves
  • Milk Collection Bottles
  • Backflow Protectors
  • Tubing

A Spectra pump comes with Backflow Protectors, which a Medela pump does not have. These backflow protectors help to ensure that milk does not get into the tubing (and subsequently into the pump motor).

Parts Of An Avent Breast Pump

  • Pump
  • Flanges
  • Milk Collection Bottles
  • Tubing

Parts Of An Avent Manual Breast Pump

An Avent manual breast pump has a few of the same components as the electric pump. But, instead of a pump motor and tubing, there is a handle with a lever that can be used to control the speed and suction of the pump.

  • Flanges
  • Milk Collection Bottles

More Pumping and Breastfeeding Tips For Moms

Follow PumpingMamas on Pinterest here for more easy pumping and breastfeeding tips.

Also, be sure to save this article on Pinterest to your Breastfeeding & Pumping board so you can find it later.

Recommended Reading

  1. The Ultimate Guide To Using A Spectra S1 and S2 Breast Pump (& Bonus Tips!)
  2. Replacing Breast Pump Parts (1 Secret For Maximum Milk)
  3. How I Used My HSA To Cover A Breast Pump
  4. The Fastest Way To Clean Breast Pump Parts
breast pump parts - valves membranes duckbill valves


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