The Top 3 Reasons Your Pump Won’t Work and How to Troubleshoot
Maintenance Tips For Your Evenflo Pump
It’s an all-too-familiar story: You’re exhausted and desperate to relieve your breasts—plus you have a pumping schedule to stick to—so you settle in with your breast pump, turn the thing on, and… Nothing happens.
In these moments, no parent wants to bust out the pump manual, or worse, wait patiently for replacement parts to arrive. So we talked to the team at Evenflo about the most common reasons a breast pump stops working, and what to do about it.
1. Something is Impeding Your Flange Suction
First, Evenflo recommends checking that your bra or nursing pad isn’t caught between the underside of your breast and the flange, preventing the flange from forming a proper seal. If you’re not using a bra or nursing pad and things look free and clear, however, you can assess your pump suction in four simple steps. Evenflo uses their Evenflo Feeding Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump as an example here, but you can follow this checklist to troubleshoot almost any electric pump.
- Plug your pump motor in, turn it on, and place your finger over the hole that the tubing adapter plugs into. You should feel suction.
- Plug your tubing adapter into the pump motor. If you are pumping one breast, you MUST cap off one side of the adapter or your pump will have no suction. To cap off one side, pull the tubing off the adapter on the side closest to the cap, then insert the cap.
- When you turn the pump on, the diaphragm should squeeze and release.
- The valve and membrane should be firmly attached to the bottom of the flange. Without the valve and membrane, your pump will have no suction.
Evenflo writes: “Nine times out of ten, the breast pump will suck correctly by addressing one of the above items. If you’ve gone through this list and the suction still seems off to you, reach out for support.”
2. Your Control Settings Aren’t Quite Right
Breast pumps are designed to mimic your baby’s suction. Babies inherently increase suction speed to stimulate letdown, and slow suction speed once your milk starts to flow. So at the beginning of a pumping session, the Evenflo Feeding Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump—and many other electric pumps—automatically kick off on a high-speed, low-suction setting to duplicate your baby’s light, fast suction and trigger the release of prolactin and oxytocin in your body. Once your milk begins to flow, you probably need to slow your pump speed and increase suction to match your baby’s feeding patterns.
As the Evenflo team says: “Adjusting your breast pump’s speed and suction can help pumping feel more like breastfeeding.” Parents and babies have unique speed and suction patterns, so you might need to experiment to find the settings that best suit you and your baby.
3. Your breast pump parts need to be replaced
When breast pump parts start to age, they can develop small tears or cracks that render them ineffective. Here’s how often you should replace certain breast pump parts and why.
- Replace pump valves every two months. Breast pump valves and membranes create suction by making a seal around your nipple, but cracked valves can’t create a proper vacuum.
- Replace membranes at least every two months (and as often as every two weeks). Stretched out or torn membranes also inhibit suction.
- Replace tubing every three months or as soon as you see warping, tearing, discoloration, or mold (eek!). Sometimes condensation can back up into tubing and damage your pump motor—or make pumping conditions unsanitary for you and your baby.
- Replace flanges and connectors every six months or when they start to seem worn. (Please note: Sometimes these two pieces are combined into one.) Overused flanges—or flanges that don’t fit you correctly—can cause weak suction, discomfort, and even low milk supply.
- Replace backflow protectors every three to six months. These soft pieces of silicone prevent milk from backing up into your breast pump tubing and motor, and they can’t do their job if they’re damaged.
If you’re still having issues with your pump after trying all of the above, reach out to your pump manufacturer for assistance. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant will also be able to help you troubleshoot and get you set up for pumping success. If you don’t yet have access to an IBCLC, request your first insurance-covered consultation with TLN here. Hopefully, these tips will help you so you can stick to your pumping schedule without having to worry about your pump!