Breasts Not Responding to Pump Anymore – Why & What To Do

Although pumping can be an effective way to boost and maintain milk supply, some mothers may go through phases where they do not have a strong reaction to pumping.

What to do when you stop responding to breast pump? When you stop responding to the breast pump, figure out the root cause. You may not be responding to the breast pump because of stress, clogged ducts, or hormonal changes. Start by managing your stress and diet and doing hand compressions to stimulate letdown.

Read on for more information about what to do when your breasts aren’t responding to the pump anymore.

Breasts Not Responding to Pump Anymore – 8 Possible Reasons

Check out these eight possible reasons your breasts aren’t responding to the pump.

1. No Letdown

When breastfeeding, letdown happens when your baby starts suckling on the breasts to stimulate milk production. Pumping similarly stimulates your breasts, but sometimes the letdown reflex isn’t activated enough from pumping.

Likely Causes

Causes of challenges with letdown include:

  • Consuming too much caffeine
  • Mild or serious stress
  • Illness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Pain
  • Anxiety

What To Do

Here are some remedies to stimulate a letdown during pumping:

  • Snuggle with your baby to relieve stress
  • Watch a video of your baby when you’re away while pumping
  • Take a bath or warm shower before pumping
  • Choose a relaxing, distraction-free environment to pump
  • Play peaceful music before or while pumping
  • Gently massage your nipples and breasts to stimulate the letdown reflex
  • Stay hydrated, especially before a nursing session

2. Milk Supply Issues

Sometimes, nursing or pumping mothers have a low milk supply that affects their pumping experience. Milk supply issues are most common during the first few weeks of the baby’s life.

Likely Causes

Some causes of low milk supply include:

  • Improper latching
  • Serious illness or medical conditions
  • Improper fitting of flange
  • Infrequent pumping

What To Do

If you struggle with low milk supply, try these tips to increase milk production:

  • Eat meals rich in protein, whole grains, and vegetables
  • Drink lots of water throughout the day
  • Add a few power pumping sessions to your schedule until your supply increases
  • Massage your breasts with your hands to release oxytocin and clear clogged ducts
  • Take a warm shower or place a heating pad on your breasts

3. Breast Pump Parts Need To Be Replaced

Over time, your breast pump parts may wear out. New and working pieces increase the efficiency of your pump.

Troubleshooting

Check the valves or valve membranes if your breast pump has lost its suction. If you don’t feel like your breast pump is taking as much milk from the breast, you may need to replace your breast shields.

What To Do

Replace any worn-out parts of your pump for maximum effectiveness, depending on how often you pump:

  • Valves: If you pump three or more times a day, replace the valves every month. Otherwise, replace every two to three months.
  • Valve membranes: Replace membranes every two to four weeks if you pump three or more times a day. Otherwise, replace them every two months.
  • Flanges: Replace breast shields or flanges every six months. Get new ones right away if you notice any cracks or tears.

4. May Need Different Flange Size

Besides worn-out pump parts, you may have the wrong size flange if your breast isn’t responding to the pump.

How To Measure Flange Size

Measure the base of your nipple, not including the areola around it, to get your flange size. Then, use a sizing chart to get the product that fits you best.

5. Clogged Ducts or Mastitis

Clogged ducts can lead to a breast infection, or mastitis, making pumping painful. Besides tenderness and pain, you can also develop a fever.

Likely Causes

Mastitis is caused by milk trapped in the breast when your baby or the pump doesn’t completely empty the breast during a feeding. Stagnant milk in the breast can cause infection from bacteria on a dirty pump, your skin, or the baby’s mouth.

What To Do

Avoid infection by emptying your breasts during each nursing or pumping session. Change feeding positions to keep from putting continuous pressure in the same areas of your breast, and make sure your baby latches properly.

6. Stressed About Pumping

With all the different parts and scheduling involved, pumping can be stressful. Any level of stress or anxiety can mess with milk supply.

Likely Causes

Any stress can affect supply. Some common causes include:

  • Postpartum depression or anxiety
  • Financial stress
  • Going back to work
  • Family expectations
  • Taking care of the house

What To Do

Ask for help and support where you can get it. Your loved ones may not be able to breastfeed your baby or pump for you, but they can help with your chores, errands, or keep you company. That way, you can have more time for self-care.

7. Period Is Imminent

Some nursing mothers notice a change in milk supply during their menstrual cycles. Hormonal fluctuations can influence your milk production, but it supply should return to normal after your period.

What To Do

Follow these tips to maintain your supply during your period:

  • Take a calcium/magnesium supplement.
  • Eat oatmeal, which has iron and boosts milk production.
  • Lengthen your pumping session to stimulate another letdown.
  • Massage your breast with your hand to activate the letdown reflex.
  • Drink nursing teas filled with ingredients that boost milk production.

8. Breast Engorgement

Breast engorgement can make pumping more challenging.

Likely Causes

Your breasts may become engorged from not nursing or pumping frequently enough. You also might not be emptying your breasts during a nursing or pumping session.

What To Do

If your breasts are engorged, hand compressions or frequent nursing or pumping can help relieve discomfort. Pump as often as you can until your breasts feel normal again.

Prevent breast engorgement by feeding your baby regularly during the day and gradually weaning when it’s time.

Signs Your Milk Supply Is Decreasing

If you’re not pumping often, look for these signs that your milk supply is decreasing:

  • Signs of dehydration: Watch out for a sunken spot on your baby’s head, low energy, and excessive sleepiness. Call the pediatrician immediately if your baby hasn’t produced urine in several hours and doesn’t make tears when crying.
  • Not enough dirty or wet diapers: A baby makes six to eight dirty or wet diapers daily.
  • Weight gain issues in your baby: After they’ve made it back to their birth weight, they should gradually gain weight throughout the first year of their life. Attend regular wellness visits at the pediatrician so their weight gain can be monitored. 

Pumping To Increase Supply

Since your supply depends on your baby’s needs, pumping more often can help boost milk production.

Pumping Schedule To Increase Supply

You may want to pump more often to increase supply. If you breastfeed and pump, you can pump between nursing sessions.

Power Pumping To Increase Supply

Power pumping mimics cluster feeding by telling your breasts to make more milk. Start by pumping for 20 minutes, and then rest for 10 minutes. Then pump for 10 minutes, rest, and pump for 10 minutes.

Supplements To Increase Milk Supply

Eating nutritious foods and some supplements boost milk supply, including:

  • Fenugreek: Fenugreek can be taken in tea or as a capsule.
  • Blessed thistle: Some mothers take blessed thistle with fenugreek. Take the recommended dose to avoid stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Fennel: Beneficial for both menstruating and breastfeeding mothers, fennel goes with salads and soups.
  • Brewer’s yeast: Brewer’s yeast has many nutrients that can help nursing mothers, including iron, B vitamins, and protein.
  • Stinging nettle: As a green, leafy plant, stinging nettle contains iron and other vitamins and minerals that support postpartum health.

Related Questions:

Does Flange Size Affect Milk Output?

Yes, flange size affects milk output from your pump. The flange size of your pump should fit snugly on your breast or else the pump won’t work as effectively.

You’d know if your flange has the proper fit if milk drains completely out of the breast and you’re not experiencing pain during pumping.

Can Emotions Affect Breast Milk?

No, emotions cannot affect the composition or taste of your breast milk, but stress and anger can affect milk flow and supply.

Stress can decrease your breast milk supply, especially in the first few weeks postpartum when you’re trying to establish supply. 

Closing Thoughts

If your breasts aren’t responding to the pump anymore, try some of these troubleshooting tips to boost your milk supply again.

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