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Breastfeeding - devices to help with breastfeeding

breast; breastfeeding; feeding; pump; shells; nipples; pads; nipple; shields; supply; lines; supplementers; protectors; lanolin;

Many 'lactation aids', things to help with breastfeeding, are advertised but mostly they are not needed. Here is a guide to some of them. Many are best used with the support of your health adviser.


Breast pumps

  • If you only need to express occasionally, it may be just as easy to do this by hand. See the section on "expressing milk" in the (related) topic "Breastfeeding - expressing and storing breastmilk" for more about this.
  • If you are expressing regularly for a premature baby or because you are going back to work, a pump may be helpful.
  • There are many types and sizes of pumps, both manual (where you squeeze a trigger or pull a piston to create suction), and electric (where the machine does this for you).
  • The larger electric pumps work well, but are expensive. You may be able to hire one from a pharmacist or from the ABA (Australian Breastfeeding Association).
  • Be sure to follow the instructions for cleaning very carefully.

Your breast pump and expression equipment are personal items that should not be shared with others while you are using them.

Make sure that all pumps are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected (following the manufacturer's instructions) before they are used by others.

  • Always check how they have been cleaned and disinfected:
    • If you use a pump in a child health clinic or other health service
    • If you hire a breast pump from a pharmacy, the ABA, or other organisation.

Breast shells (or nipple protectors)

  • These consist of a firm plastic dome with many holes, and are worn over the nipple area, under the bra. Some have a soft plastic base, which is more comfortable.
  • They allow air to circulate around the nipple to help cracked nipples heal. They also stop pads and bras sticking to a sore, cracked nipple.
  • You can get the same result more cheaply by using a plastic-rimmed tea strainer (cut off the handle and pad the rim) or even a cup from an egg carton with the base cut out.
  • Make sure your nipple protector does not press too firmly into your breast as it may block the milk ducts and cause lumps. You may need to loosen your bra to make room.

Breast pads (nursing pads)

  • These can be washable or disposable, and help absorb milk leakage which is common in the early weeks.
  • Avoid pads with plastic linings as they can lead to soggy, sore nipples.

Lanolin creams

  • Pure lanolin cream (sold as Lansinoh**) is supposed to help with nipple soreness.
  • This is not always helpful however, and it is more important to find and manage the cause of the pain (see the related topic "Breastfeeding - sore breasts and nipples" for more information).

Nipple shields

  • Most nipple shields are made from thin silicone with a firmer central "teat" with holes to let the milk through. Newer nipple shields have cut away sections to improve skin contact. The right size needs to be used - there can be damage to the nipple if a wrong size is used.
  • They can be used while feeding for babies who will not attach directly to the breast. Premature babies may be able to start breastfeeding more easily if a nipple shield is used initially.
  • They are sometimes used for sore nipples, but are not always effective for this and may make soreness worse.
  • Some babies learn to prefer to breastfeed using a nipple shield. You may need some help to get your baby off the nipple shield. See your child health nurse or lactation consultant.
  • If the shield is not cleaned carefully there is a risk that you and your baby might get a thrush infection.

Supplementers (supply line, supplemental nursing system)

  • These devices enable the baby to get extra milk (expressed breast milk or formula) while sucking at the breast.
  • They can be used when the mother's supply is low. They encourage a baby to suck more strongly at the breast, which can stimulate milk production.
  • For newborns, a syringe and feeding tube may be used as a supplementer. After the first week or so though, a proper supply line or SNS may work better.
  • Supplementers are particularly helpful if re-lactating (starting breastfeeding again after weaning) or feeding an adopted baby at the breast.
  • It is not easy to use a supply line. You will need help from a lactation consultant.
  • Supply lines need to cleaned after every use. Follow the product instructions for cleaning carefully, or when the feed has finished, first fill the bottle with cold water and squeeze the water through the supply line, then do the same with hot soapy water, then rinse with hot water.
  • See the related topic "Breastfeeding - not enough milk" for more information about coping with a low supply.


South Australia

  • Women’s and Children’s Health Network Parent Helpline – ph 1300 364 100
    (Calls between 7.15am-9.15pm will be answered by local staff. Outside these hours calls will be redirected to the national healthdirect helpline.)
  • Your local Child and Youth Health centre
    Ring 1300 733 606 for an appointment
  • Australian Breastfeeding Association helpline
    -Telephone: 1800 686 2 686 (1800 mum 2 mum)



**Please Note: The brand names of products referred to in any of these parent health guidelines are not intended to be an exhaustive list of all commercially available products on the market. However, those names which are mentioned are well-known brands and readily available on the market in Australia.

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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