Breast Pump Not Working? Here’s 5 Troubleshooting Tips to Try.

Breast pumps are essential tools for feeding babies with breast milk. Accordingly, a breast pump not working can be frustrating and stressful. Your baby’s life literally depends on your breast pump! Several factors can cause a breast pump to malfunction. In this article, we will explore some of the reasons why your breast pump may not be powering on and provide some tips to help you troubleshoot the issue. Many of these are common sense. However, when you are on the verge of a panic attack from your breast pump not working, your common sense probably quit working, too!

Why is my Breast Pump Not Working?

Dead Batteries

One of the most common reasons why a breast pump may not power on is dead batteries. If your breast pump is battery-operated (such as the Spectra S1, Willow, Elvie, Momcozy, etc.), check to ensure that the batteries are not depleted. Try replacing the batteries with new ones, plugging in your pump, or charging your pump for 30 minutes. If your breast pump powers on, the batteries were likely the issue.

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If your battery will not stay charged, contact your pump’s manufacturer. While this is rare, your batteries may have gone bad and need replacing.

Power Cord Issues – Most Common Reason Why Your Breast Pump is Not Working

If your breast pump is not battery-operated, then the power cord may be the issue. Ensure that the power cord is securely plugged into the breast pump and the electrical outlet. If the cord is frayed or damaged, it may need to be replaced. You can try using another power cord that fits your breast pump to see if that solves the problem.

You may be able to find breast pump power cords at your local Target or Walmart, or you can purchase a replacement power cord (and a back up!) on Amazon. If you replace your power cord, make sure to buy the appropriate voltage for your pump. Check the front of your existing power cord to see if it’s a 9V (Medela pumps) or 12V (Spectra pumps) and purchase accordingly.

Related article: Accidentally Went 6 Hours Without Breastfeeding? Don’t Panic.

Motor Issues

The motor is an essential part of a breast pump, and if it is damaged, your breast pump may not power on. Check to see if the motor is making any sounds or vibrating when you turn on the pump. If it’s not, the motor may be faulty, and you may need to contact the manufacturer for repairs or a replacement. Most breast pumps do have a one year warranty covering pump mechanisms. Many of our moms who have experienced this with Medela pumps were able to get a replacement pump shipped to them overnight at no cost to them.

Related article: How to Scald Breast Milk Quickly & Properly

Vacuum Issues

The vacuum pressure is what creates suction to draw milk from the breast into the pump. If there are any issues with this, it can prevent the breast pump from powering on. Ensure that the tubing is correctly attached and that there are no cracks or holes in the tubing. Also make sure to check the flange or breast shield to ensure that it is correctly positioned and sealed against your breast. If your pump includes membranes, check to see if those are torn or worn out. If you haven’t replaced them in a while, it may be time to do so. See our article How Often to Replace Pump Parts – Everything You Need to Know for more help.

Related article: Does Flange Size Affect Milk Output? Yes, Here’s How.

Control Panel Issues

If your breast pump has a digital control panel (like the Spectra pumps), it may be the issue. Check to ensure that the control panel is not damaged or cracked. This can occur when the breast pump is dropped. Try resetting the control panel by unplugging the breast pump, waiting a few minutes, and then plugging it back in. Check the instruction manual to see if there are steps to do a hard reset for the control panel. If the control panel still does not work, the breast pump may need to be repaired or replaced. Contact the pump manufacturer for next steps. If you purchased it within the past year, it is likely still under warranty.

Related article: Can I Mix Breast Milk and Formula? Yes, Here’s How.

How Do I Pump if my Breast Pump is Not Working?

It’s incredibly distressing when your breast pump isn’t working. If you are able to figure out the cause using the tips above and/or are awaiting replacement parts or a new breast pump, you still need to pump milk. Baby still has to eat!

You can use a manual breast pump to express milk. It’s slower, but it gets the job done. We always recommend having one on hand for situations like this. They are available on Amazon (and are HSA eligible) if you live in an area with quick same day shipping. If you need one immediately–and you probably do–you should be able to find one at your local Target or Walmart.

Related article: No Letdown When Pumping? Here’s 5 Helpful Tips.

You can also try hand expressing breast milk. This will likely take longer than pumping, but with the correct technique it will allow you to express milk for your baby. This video is very helpful (and who doesn’t like getting tips from a British lactation counselor?):

A breast pump that is not working is incredibly frustrating, but often fixable. By checking the batteries, power cord, motor, vacuum, and control panel, you can likely identify the issue and find a solution. If you are unable to troubleshoot the issue yourself, contact the manufacturer for assistance. It may be under warranty. Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper care and maintenance of your breast pump to keep it working correctly. If you do receive a replacement pump, here’s info on what to do with your old pump: How to Dispose of Your Old Breast Pump.

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Shannon founded Work Breastfeed Mom in 2019 during her second round of pumping at work. She was tired of googling the same pumping questions over and over again, and discouraged at the lack of websites aimed at working breastfeeding moms. So, she created one herself. Shannon lives, works, and doles out Puffs to her little people in sunny Florida. She has her MBA and works as a strategic planner for a large healthcare system. She is passionate about coffee, memoirs, paddle boarding, and skincare routines. Shannon is mom to Scarlett and Ivy, and hopes to have more babies if her career allows.