More Resources Why is my breast pump not suctioning?

Why is my breast pump not suctioning?

Limerick breast pumps use a vacuum to provide the gentle suction that helps moms express their milk. However, without this vacuum being maintained throughout the system the pump will suck in outside air rather than milk. This won't harm the pump itself, but it does inhibit the collection of milk because less vacuum means less suction, and less let-down and expression for mom. As a result it makes sense to ask the question "why is my breast pump not suctioning?", and understand the answers so that if it happens to you, you know what to do.

Having to ask "why is my breast pump not suctioning?" can be frustrating, but suction / vacuum issues can occur and are something many moms will face as a matter of course. However, the goal of this page is to help you become aware of the things that can affect your pump's ability to maintain a vacuum, prevent them from happening as much as possible, and troubleshoot and fix them when they do. Are you ready? Then let’s get started!

Practical breastfeeding advice: Why is my breast pump not suctioning?

Check your settings

If you have reason to wonder "why is my breast pump not suctioning?" then the first thing to check is your settings. Especially if your pump has been moved around or if someone else has been handling it, if you have other little ones where you're pumping, or if the pump is kept in a high-traffic area. In these circumstances it's all too easy for knobs to be adjusted or buttons pressed by accident, and changes made to your 'go-to' settings. If your regular settings are adjusted downwards, then it is entirely possible for a fully functional pump to seem to have a vacuum or mechanical issue - so it's always smart to check here first.

Practical breastfeeding advice: Why is my breast pump not suctioning?

Check that your system is airtight

A vacuum has to be maintained from one end of the system to the other. Any gap that isn't airtight, whether that's a crack or break of some sort, misaligned seal, poorly fitting connection etc. will suck air in at that point, and there will be no vacuum beyond that point. This is one of the more common answers to the question of "why is my breast pump not suctioning?", and as a result, one of the first things to check if you're experiencing low suction is that all of the connections (all the way from the collection bottle, to the tubing, to the port on the pump) are properly made and that air isn't leaking in at one of the joins. You should also check the cups for damage, and for a proper fit between the flange and mom's breast, as things need to be airtight here too.

Check your filters and gaskets

If the suction becomes weak you should check if there is milk/fluid in the filter. It also helps to know when the filter was last replaced. To perform this check you should unscrew the storage containers from the storage container caps, check inside the caps to insure that the gaskets are seated well (the outer ridge of gasket should be facing you as you place it in the storage cap), then screw the storage container back onto the bottle cap.

Next, connect the tubes back into the storage caps, then - with the pump running - place both of the breast cups together OR on top of a hard smooth surface, such as a table top. Both cups should be compressing and releasing - if they aren't, you should call Limerick Customer service.

Check for kinks / pinching in your tubing

As well as preventing outside air from leaking into the system, you also need to make sure that the flow of air or milk within the system is not blocked. Common causes of such blockages are sharp-angled bends or kinks in the tubing, or some kind of outside force pinching the sides of the tubing together (such as something heavy resting on a tube, or someone standing on it, for example. If this is the cause of your suction issue then simply removing whatever is causing the kink or pinching the tube should resolve the problem and restore suction.

Check for liquid residue in your tubing

The last answer to today's core question of "why is my breast pump not suctioning?" that's related to the creating and maintaining a vacuum, is the presence of liquid inside the tubing. Any liquid residue left in your tubing (for example milk residue, water residue from cleaning, or condensation) can block the tube from the inside and prevent the vacuum from reaching beyond it, again causing a lack of suction. To resolve issues of this nature you simply need to remove the blockage, either by unhooking the tubing and having the residue flow out, or by air drying the tubing.

Practical breastfeeding advice: Why is my breast pump not suctioning?

Power supply issues

If your system is airtight and you're still experiencing vacuum issues, the answer to the question "why is my breast pump not suctioning?" could be the power supply. This is likely less of a concern if you're using mains electricity, but well worth investigating if you're using some sort of battery or power cell to run your pump. If that battery is running low on charge then it could affect the amount of power the pump itself receives, and hence the amount of suction it can provide.

Practical breastfeeding advice: Why is my breast pump not suctioning?

A fault with the pump

If you've verified that your system is airtight and that power is being supplied as it should be, but you're still experiencing issues with suction, then the problem may be the pump itself. If you suspect that this is the issue then we'd strongly advise against trying to fix it yourself - at this point the pump really needs to go back to the manufacturer for repair by a qualified technician, and/or replacement. Anything else will void your 3-year warranty with Limerick, and is likely to do the same with other manufacturers too.

Practical breastfeeding advice: Why is my breast pump not suctioning?

What to do if you need some extra support

If you're wondering "why is my breast pump not suctioning?" then we hope that this blog has helped you understand some of the potential reasons. However, if you'd like some extra support investigating suction issues with your pump, or if you're a Limerick customer and you feel like your pump needs to be investigated by our team then don't hesitate to let us know by using the details that you'll find on our contact page. If you want to buy some spare parts for your pump then you'll find all the perishable components such as tubing, cups and so on in the Limerick shop. For support with all sorts of other breastfeeding issues and topics, our resource center is a great place to start looking for support, and you'll also find a full instruction manual for each of our pumps here too. Lastly, don't forget that our Instagram page is also a great place to interact with the Limerick team, or to get and share tips with other Limerick moms just like you!