We all know how embarrassing a surprise breast milk leak can be – especially if we find ourselves outside when it occurs. Luckily, to help avoid such moments, there are things called milk collection shells.
Milk collection shells are exactly what the name implies – shell-shaped devices made out of silicone or plastic that you place over your nipples to collect any excess milk that leaks between feeds.
The nipples themselves are placed on a round ring at the bottom that helps keep the milk collection shell firmly in place.
The ring also applies constant pressure on the nipple to ensure any leftover milk is properly drained. You might also find milk collection shells being called “nursing cups”. Don’t worry, they’re the exact same thing – just with a different name.
Using these shells helps many mothers with inverted or flat nipples keep their nipples drawn out for longer.
They also aid with letdown. Keeping them on after a feeding if your nipples are as described above should help make the next feeding sessions go by a lot smoother and faster than normal.
They are a great aid against breast engorgement and assist with this problem thanks to the constant pressure that the milk collection shells apply, allowing the excess milk that’s causing the engorgement to drain away.
The other benefit the shells provide is by acting as a shield to prevent nipple chafing. We’ve all had periods where our nipples have been too sensitive after a feeding.
Milk collection shells and their soft silicone membrane help protect sore nipples and even cracked ones from further abrasion against your bra or clothing.
This helps prevent further discomfort or potential accidents as mentioned previously.
But, what are the best milk collection shells on the market? Well, I’ve assembled a list just for the occasion. Let’s go ahead and take a look, shall we?
1. Elvie Catch Secure Milk Collection Cups
Starting us off with one of the most premium milk collection shells on the market, it’s Elvie with their very own food-grade silicone-constructed nursing cups.
The material is completely non-toxic, free from BPA and phthalates, and won’t leave behind a nasty chemical aftertaste if you decide to use the collected milk to feed your little one.
The material is also soft but durable and it’ll help keep your nipples protected from any added discomfort if they are sore or cracked from breastfeeding or some other reason.
The shells are completely discreet and won’t create any odd-looking shapes on your chest area as many others do, instead providing a nice, snug fit.
The product is also compatible with any nursing bra you may own, so don’t worry about appearances too much, Elvie has got you covered.
The best part about these milk collectors is that you can pop them in the dishwasher when they get dirty. There are only two pieces to clean so no need to worry about losing a part during the cleaning process.
All in all, this is a great option to collect your precious breast milk during the day and stop it from leaking onto your clothes.
2. Milkelle Breast Shells, Milk Saver, Nursing Cups
Milkelle is a company that makes good products on a budget for all of you money-sensitive moms out there.
Their milk collection shells are made out of high-quality, food-grade silicone on the inside with the outer shell being constructed out of Phthalate and BPA-free PP.
All of the materials are perfectly eco-friendly as well if, like me, you’re watching the size of your carbon footprint.
This is a quality breast shell product that helps keep any accidental spillage from occurring in your day-to-day life and manages to keep your sore and cracked nipples safe from further irritation and chafing.
Their unique design helps the milk collection shell stay practically invisible under your clothing, regardless of the bra you might be using while retaining a solid milk supply of nearly 20 ml.
The best part about them isn’t all of that though, it’s the added air vent at the top of the breast shells that help keep the air circulating to prevent excess moisture from accruing around the nipple, thus helping to prevent nipple rashes and other problems from occurring.
They’re the modern iteration of old-fashioned breast pads and a direct upgrade, easily replacing them and getting rid of one extra item off your already hefty baby gear shopping list.
They do only come in a pack of 2, but for everything they provide, it’s more than acceptable, and ordering more is never a problem if you feel like you need a spare pair.
3. Mommyz Love Breast Shell & Milk Catcher for Breastfeeding Relief
Another winner to add to this list is Mommyz Love’s very own breast milk collection shell.
Made out of the same materials as all of the other milk collectors mentioned so far, their soft silicone backs and BPA and phthalate-free PP construction make sure that they apply nicely on top of your nipples and provide a soft, chafe-free experience.
These milk collection shells also sport a unique design, where the nipples are never put under pressure and don’t touch the shell.
Instead, milk simply drips off into the shell, making this product ideal for breastfeeding mothers who frequently end up with sore nipples.
It might sound crazy, but it works. The only downside is that they don’t provide the constant pressure that helps ease breast engorgement by draining excess milk off a bit quicker.
That said, it’s still a perfectly viable product and one of the most comfortable ones on the market, especially considering the Mommyz Love milk collection shell is completely leak-proof and its design easily helps you drain breast milk off for storage if you wish, ensuring none of your precious milk goes to waste.
This is all thanks to the spout on the top of the shield that helps keep the nipple ventilated, preventing any nasty issues that might occur from moisture buildup like rashes, thrush, or even some nasty yeast infections that may contaminate the milk.
And finally, unlike other milk collection shells on this list, their design helps your nipples rest – a definite benefit as sometimes they might be sore and need a break after a solid session with your manual or electric breast pump.
It certainly helps to have a cushion for them to rest on much like one would rest one’s head after an exhausting day of work.
4. Babebay’s Breast Shells, Nursing Cups and Milk Saver
Next up on the list are Babebay’s very own breast shells.
Again, much like the others, they are constructed out of high-quality, food-grade soft silicone that feels as close to a baby’s soft and tender mouth as it possibly can, embracing your nipple in the same comfort you feel when breastfeeding.
Their ideal design makes them discreet and comfortable to wear in public without the fear of them being noticeable underneath your clothes.
They’re practically invisible. So much so that even you might forget that you’re wearing them.
The breast milk collection shells come with an air vent at the top that helps you siphon the milk off into a storage container once the shell is full.
The vent also helps keep the air inside of the collector fresh, preventing moisture from accumulating and stopping any nipple problems from developing.
The fresh air also helps sore and cracked nipples heal faster if engorgement or a previous feeding or pumping session has caused any damage.
Do keep in mind to not put them the wrong way round and to keep the vent facing upwards, otherwise, you might get a nasty surprise when you realize all your milk has started leaking downwards through the vent.
Though that’s their only downside – the rest is as clear-cut as it’s made out to be.
And, as with all good products, they’re simple and easy to clean – you just need a bit of soapy water and a drying rack.
Just make sure you properly rinse them so you don’t contaminate the milk with any potentially harmful chemicals.
5. Lacti-Cups Breast Milk Collectors
Coming in at number 5 are Lacti-Cups, milk collector shells with a slightly different spin on them.
The difference between these and the regular shells is the addition of a plug for the air vent. This acts as an added safety valve for when the milk collectors might get a bit too close to full capacity.
Made out of food-grade polypropylene (the PP I’ve been mentioning throughout the article) that’s completely safe for both you and your baby, these milk savers are wonderful at relieving the pain you might feel from sore and/or cracked nipples rubbing up against your bra or your outerwear.
The vent on top helps aerate the inside of the milk collection shell and keeps the area dry and void of moisture that can cause yeast infections, among other issues.
In some shells, a vent can pose a risk of milk leakage if you lean too far forward with a full tank.
That’s not an issue for Lacti-cups though as they come with a built-in plug to help prevent accidental spills from occurring. The plug itself isn’t cumbersome at all.
In fact, easy removal and application is the reason it’s there in the first place.
Not to mention the fact that they, much like the Mikelle’s breast shells, are designed to leave the nipple untouched, letting it heal faster thanks to the lack of constant pressure on them.
They still perform the purpose all collectors are made for, which is to help prevent any leak spots from appearing on your clothes.
The best part? They’re completely discreet and are unnoticeable under just a lightly padded bra.
Also, they’re quite easy to clean as breast milk collection shells ought to be.
6. Haakaa Manual Breast Pump & Breast Shell Combo
If you haven’t heard of the Haakaa brand before, prepare to become a fan! Their manual breast pump is a huge hit with all breastfeeding moms, especially if their nipples are cracked or very sore.
In this combo set, you’ll get the Haakaa pump and two collection shells to wear underneath a nursing bra.
I love that no assembly is required, making them super easy to use and maintain.
7. Milkies Milk-Saver
And my final, but still equally as important entry on this list is the Milkies Milk-aver.
It’s the granddaddy of all milk savers as far as capacity goes as it can store up to nearly 2 oz’s worth of breast milk at a time.
This helps fill those milk storage bags in fewer emptying sessions than other milk collection shells.
This also means, though, they are a bit bigger in size, while still equally as discreet as all of the other milk collection shells.
The added stash capacity is the reason why they’re one of Amazon’s best sellers. Maybe even the best they have in stock if capacity is something you value greatly.
They are made out of pure, soft, BPA and phthalate-free silicone, ensuring a soft fit that won’t agitate your nipple or leak any harmful chemical smell or substance into the milk.
Designed by nursing moms for nursing moms, these milk collectors are the real deal and I’ve had the pleasure of using them myself.
I found that they were ideal to use during nursing sessions, where I’d cover one breast with the Milkies Milk-Saver while the other was used to breastfeed my baby, leaving a solid surplus of milk to use later that would’ve normally been lost on a nursing pad.
They come with a plug for the vent featured on the milk-saver, so there is no spillage when you bend over.
I’ve personally never had the problem, but that’s because I didn’t have a frequent need for them in the first place.
They also come in a very handy carrying case so you can keep them away from the rest of your baby products and in a safe compartment that’ll be easy to find and prevent any damage happening to the milk-savers.
They are also dishwasher safe, though I do recommend washing them by hand as it’s much quicker and cleaner in my opinion.
And, by getting these you’re supporting our nation’s economy since the milk-saver is manufactured entirely in the United States.
The One Thing You Shouldn’t Be Using Milk Collection Shells For
You shouldn’t use the collected milk to feed your baby IF the milk has been lingering in the shell for a while.
While some people say it’s fine, I can personally attest that by doing so you’ll expose the milk to potential contamination and bacteria which will taint it and transfer over to your little one.
I know all of you mammas hold your precious children close to your hearts and that you always look out for what’s best for them, so do keep this in mind.
It’s not a sin to throw that excess milk away, it’s simply safer for the baby. There will be more milk anyway, this lot should be kept far away from your kids.
If you’re adamant on using it, then at least make sure your milk collection shells are kept sanitary and that the milk doesn’t stay in the shells for too long, exposed to the elements.
Keeping Your Breast Shells Clean
This is a very important aspect, whether you decide to use the milk or not.
Most milk collection shells have ventilation holes on them to help the air to circulate inside, so it’s not a closed system at any point (this is why I said that the milk shouldn’t be used).
The point of the holes is to help prevent moisture buildup within the shells and to help keep nipples from becoming irritated.
As moisture builds up, so too does the chance of any of the usual problems that may arise during breastfeeding periods.
These problems include thrush, mastitis, a couple of nasty rashes, or even skin breakdown.
If there’s anything that needs constant hygienic attention, it’s the milk collection shells.
Luckily, they’re rather easy to clean.
All it takes is a bit of soapy water, a good rinsing, and a period of drying and they’re all ready to be used again.
Are Milk Collectors The Same Thing As Nipple Shields?
While they may sound the same, they most definitely aren’t. I thought the same at first until I became better informed.
The point of a nipple shield is to help aid with better latching if your baby is having problems.
A nipple shield is especially helpful with nipple confusion cases, where the baby had gotten too used to the bottle.
Meanwhile, a milk collection shell’s purpose, as mentioned at the very start of this, is to drain off excess milk and help prevent any public embarrassment or the staining of your favorite dress shirts.
They both have their uses and times where they can be helpful.
The breast shield should be worn during feeding while the milk collection breast shells should be strictly worn only between feedings, otherwise the baby won’t have access to the nipple it so desperately craves.
There are so many things to buy before the baby is born – from lanolin breastfeeding creams to high-tech baby monitors.
Then you need to decide on the brands – will you go for Honest or Hello Bello diapers? Or will you go for Huggies or Pampers? It can be hard to tell which products are high-quality since everyone says they are the best.
While there are many milk collection shells out there on the market, you should be wary of what you put on your nipples.
Not all products are the same and some can do more harm than good.
That’s why I’ve made this list, to help make sure that you have curated access to some of the best on the market.
I sincerely hope it’s helped you choose your ideal shell and that any problems you may have with breastfeeding due to the way your nipples are shaped will be reduced.
Or maybe I’ve simply helped prevent an accidental milk squirt or two onto your favorite shirt.
Whatever the case, that’s it for this article and I will talk to all of you lovely fellow mammas out there again soon.
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