Too much friction in our silicone flanges can cause pain. The way to reduce friction when using them depends on whether or not you have elastic nipple tissue. Do your nipples tend to stretch to the end of the tunnel in standard flanges? If not, feel free to use any edible lubricating oil (such as coconut or olive) to prevent friction. You may need to experiment with how much to use for maximum milk drainage.

If your nipples are elastic, though, our silicone flanges have a special feature that holds the nipple tissue in place to keep them from stretching, which also holds the milk ducts open so the milk drains more easily and quickly with total comfort. Only the very tip of the nipple should move in the flange. They can only do this without any lubrication, though, so it's important to remove it from every source.

Here's a list of known lubrication sources to check:

Anything lubricating applied directly to your breasts, nipples, or areolae, OR your baby’s cheeks or mouth at any time of the day (stays in the deeper skin layers for several days)

  • Oil (coconut oil, vitamin D, vitamin E, etc) 

  • Nipple butter 

  • Lotion 

  • Lanolin 

  • Creams 

  • Medications 

  • Epsom salt soaks

Dish soap that leaves a lubricating (and sometimes irritating) film on silicone 

Only the original Dawn Ultra (blue with yellow ducks on the label) and green original Palmolive types remove all the milk and body oils without leaving anything lubricating behind.  (After switching soaps, be sure to change or thoroughly wash any sponges or brushes that were used with the old soap.) 

Dishwasher soap OR rinse aid 

  • Any "prevents water spots" or "shine" feature leaves a lubricating (and sometimes irritating) film on silicone

Cleaning nipples and areolae in the bath or shower 

  • Moisturizing soap (Aveeno, Dove, Castile, most liquid soaps) 

  • It's fine to use moisturizing soap on the rest of your body, just not on your nipples and areolae 

  • Not cleaning at all 

  • It’s important to wash your nipples and areolae to remove the lubricating daily milk oils  

  • We recommend a standard non-moisturizing bar soap like Ivory, and the original non-moisturizing versions of Dial, Safeguard, Irish Spring, cheap hotel travel soap, etc — the kinds that leave your skin "squeaky clean" (if you prefer not to use soap there, try a microfiber cloth)

Putting silicone flange in the refrigerator 
  • It seems to lock milk oils on the silicone more firmly so they’re harder to remove
  • As long as there isn’t an infection in the home, just wipe them dry after pumping and wash them thoroughly every 3-4 sessions

  • Dry flanges will not grow bacteria and human milk is already resistant to bacterial growth

  • It will help to wash them after every pumping session until all the lubrication has been eliminated

Wool breast pads 

  • Wool contains lanolin which is moisturizing

Household water softener 

  • Water softening minerals leave a slippery residue on skin 

  • Use witch hazel before and after pumping to remove it (see below)

It can take 3-5 days after discontinuing the lubrication for it to work its way out of your deeper skin layers.  During that time, it can help remove surface oils by using pure Witch Hazel (like in hemorrhoid pads) to wipe your nipples and areolae both before and after pumping.  Use a pure kind without other ingredients other than water or the medicated kind that has glycerin.  Alcohol-filtered types like Thayer’s and Tucks remove the natural (bad) smell and don’t have alcohol in the final product. 

Until the oils are completely gone in a few days, one technique to get as much milk removed as possible and protect your milk supply is to stop pumping halfway through and finish pumping with your old flanges (assuming they don't hurt).  This will also reduce your risk of sore spots from friction while there's still oil.  

Once all the lubrication is gone, you should start getting better milk removal with the silicone flanges and they should be completely comfortable for the whole pumping session.   If not, let us know and we'll do our best to figure out why.  

Reviewed by Diana West, IBCLC

June 10, 2021