Troubleshooting your Pump
for any reason you're having trouble pumping enough milk, the
first thing to do is check your pump.
You pump creates suction with the use of valves - most of which
are attached to the flanges where the milk flows from the flange
into the bottle. These valves are NOT intended to last the life
of your pump - they are designed to be replaced every six
months. If you have been using your pump for more than four
months, or if you bought it used, the first thing to try is
replacing the valves. You can get new valves where you bought
your pump, or at many online sources (here's
another - I just did a search for "medela membrane" on
google and came up with dozens, several with free shipping).
What are the valves?
PIS: The small white flippy membranes on a PIS attach to
a yellow plastic piece - these two together make up the valve,
although the yellow plastic piece is actually called the valve,
the white flippy piece is called the membrane. .
PY: The white cone-shaped pieces that are about 1/2 inch
long and made of soft rubber - these are the valves.
Isis: The valve is the little white rubber piece about
the size of a dime that has the six-pointed star on one side. If
you're replacing the valve on an Isis, you should also replace
the soft clear piece that fits above it. If your Isis is not
working, this valve may be in upside down. The star should point
up (remember, stars are in the sky - the sky is up).
All other pumps will have a similar system.
Check for Cracks
My Isis stopped working when it got enough cracks around where
the bottle attaches to reduce the suction. With an Isis, there's
not much to do but buy a new pump, but with an electric pump,
you can replace just the flanges for minimal cost. Hold them up
to a bright light and examine them carefully for small hairline
cracks. If you consistently are cracking your flanges, don't
screw them on to the bottles so tightly. The suction in a PIS
and PY is created above the point where the bottle attaches -
the bottle is not part of the vacuum, so does not have to be
attached tightly at all.
Have your pump tested
If you've replaced the valves and found no cracks, it's a good
idea to get your pump tested. This is the advantage of buying
your pump locally from a Lactation Consultant or specialty pump
rental station - they will have the equipment to test your
pump's suction to see if it's still working correctly. Even if
you didn't buy your pump locally, you should be able to get it
checked. Look in the phone book under "Lactation", or call the
hospital maternity floor to find out who rents and sells pumps
in your area.
Most pumps are designed for one year of full-time pumping. If
you've done more than that, the motor may be conking out, and
there's really nothing you can do. One day an enterprising
person will start replacing the motors for mothers who pump for
more than one baby, but until then, they go into the landfill
and you need to buy another one. If you want to feel better
about this, go and price those big cans of DHA-added formula -
you're still saving money, even if you buy a new pump for each