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Return to: Breast Pumping Issues

I'm Trying To Pump, But It Just Isn't Working


Successfully expressing milk with a breast pump requires skill and dedication, but some mothers often think that it will be easier to master. Since they feel this way, these mothers may jump to the conclusion that pumping isn’t for them or that the pump is broken whenever they are unable to meet their pumping expectations.

There are a few ways to determine whether there is a problem with your pump or if an outside factor is affecting the situation. To find the root of the problem, ask yourself a few questions.

Was the pump working well before? Is this a new problem?

If the pump has worked well in the past and the problem is new, check to make sure that all pump parts that come in contain with your milk are clean, dry and free of cracks. A small crack in a part can adversely affect your pump’s performance. Be sure to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure everything is set up correctly before jumping to the conclusion that the pump broken.

If pumping seems to be progressively getting worse, you may need to reconsider your pump choice.

Are you using the best pump for your situation? Is it possible that you are using a weak or lower quality pump?

Since new moms are often given breast pumps as shower gifts, many feel that it will work for them, but this is not always the case. The type of breast pump that you need to use is dependent on your pumping situation.

Lower end manual pumps are good for moms that only need to pump occasionally whereas those who need to pump on a daily basis will need a quality, electric pump. The article What Type of Pump Do I Need can help you determine if you are using the right type of breast pump.

Other factors that make pumping difficult

  • Breast shields are too small for your nipples. If the shields are too small, your nipples may swell and this can reduce the amount of milk that you are able to express.
  • Speed or suction settings are not right for you. Adjust the speed and/or suction to see if it makes a difference. Even though the setting may have worked well for you in the past, your body may not be reacting to it any more.
  • Pumping too soon. You may be pumping too soon after nursing or your last pumping session. If you are trying to pump after breastfeeding your baby, try waiting an hour or pump one side and feed on the other.
  • Pumping sessions are too short. If you are not pumping long enough during each session to effectively express milk and empty the breast, then your body is receiving signals to slow down production.
  • Your lifestyle may have affected your supply. Have you recently made any changes that could be affecting your supply like taking birth control pills or other medications? Certain medications can negatively affect your body’s ability to produce milk.

If you continue to have problems using your pump and are unable to supply your baby with an adequate amount of milk for his or her feedings, then you should seek the help of a lactation consultant in your area.

Return to: Breast Pumping Issues