What to Do When Your Breast Pump Isn’t Working
Avoid the breast pump blues with these trusty troubleshooting tips.
So you’ve settled into a rhythm with your breast pump. You’ve created a breastfeeding plan, gone back to work and consistently stuck to your workday pumping schedule. Things are going well and you’re stashing away milk like crazy.
Then, one day, something suddenly changes. You notice that your breast pump isn’t working as well and you don’t know why. Don’t get discouraged! Breast pumps—like all machines—can malfunction. Thankfully, they can also be fixed with a little troubleshooting. Here are a few common breast pump issues and how to fix them.
My Breast Pump Is Losing Suction
If you notice that your breast pump’s suction has decreased, there are two things you should check first: your pump’s valves and membranes. Your breast pump’s valves and membranes work together to create a seal around your nipple and facilitate suction; when they get old or break, that suction decreases. If you notice cracks, tears or defects of any sort in these pieces, it’s time to replace them. As a note, you should be regularly replacing these parts of your pump even if they aren’t broken (valves every two or three months, membranes every two weeks to two months). Before you go out and buy them, check with The Lactation Network to see if you are eligible for replacements at no out-of-pocket cost through your insurance!
Other culprits may be a failing motor, uncharged batteries (in a battery-operated pump) or misfit flanges.
Also, make sure the tubes are securely attached to the motor, since sometimes our new mom brains are tired, and we forget to fully connect the tube. If you are pumping one breast at a time, make sure the second tube port is covered so you aren’t losing suction there!
There’s Condensation in My Breast Pump’s Tubing
Condensation in breast pump tubing is fairly common, and it’s an easy problem to fix! To clean the tubing, simply run the pump with only the tubing attached and remove the milk collection kit (aka bottle and breast shield part of the setup). This will help dry out any moisture while you store your breast milk so you’re all set for your next pumping session. Make sure that you’re cleaning your breast pump thoroughly after every use and regularly sanitizing it, and you should be OK. Please note: Whatever you do, don’t wash or sterilize tubing. It’s not recommended because they will never sufficiently dry. Order your new tubing as needed (most manufacturers recommend every 3 months) through us, along with extra insurance-covered accessories.
My Breast Pump Is Not Turning On
If your breast pump won’t turn on, the first thing you should do is check the power source. Make sure your outlet is working properly. If it is, take a look at your power adapter. Is the cord plugged into the power adapter all the way? Are there frays or permanent kinks in the wire? If so, contact your breast pump manufacturer in order to replace your adapter.
My Breast Pump Isn’t Getting Enough Milk
If your pump isn’t getting enough milk during regular pumping sessions, it’s a good idea to start by ensuring that your flanges are properly fitting. “Not having the right size breast pump flange can result in problems,” says Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D., at VeryWell Family. “For instance, you may not be getting the most amount of breast milk possible and this may lead to blocked milk ducts. A poor fit may also cause nipple damage, including rub marks and cuts on the nipple.” Know that as your milk is coming in during your postpartum days, your breasts are likely to change in size. Having a few backup flanges in different sizes is a good idea for all pumping moms, and many notice that their milk production increases when they use the right size flange.
If you’re still not getting enough milk, you might also check your pump’s motor, replace some parts, or try experimenting with your pump’s settings.
You may also want to consider a hospital-grade rental breast pump, or take our quiz here and find the best breast pump for your lifestyle.
Remember that you can order replacement parts for your breast pump from The Lactation Network. If you’ve troubleshot your machine and replaced parts but pumping issues persist, get in touch with a lactation consultant who can assess your lactation situation and make recommendations for next steps. We also offer in-home lactation consultations with an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) at no cost to you.