Common Breast Pumping Problems and How to Fix Them

Breastfeeding is an amazing time for you and your baby. You develop an unbreakable bond while passing on key nutrients. While it would be amazing to breastfeed for every feeding, it isn’t feasible for most new mothers. In order for dad to help with nightly feedings or your nanny to take care of feedings when you work, you’re going to need to start pumping.

Pumping offers busy moms some well deserved time off, but it doesn’t always come easily. There are problems that arise during pumping, but solutions are out there. Read on to learn how to take action when you run into a speed bump.

Blocked Ducts

A lot of women who breastfeed experience blocked (or clogged) ducts, regardless of if they pump or not. They develop when milk that hasn’t been fully expelled from your breast gets clogged and infected. It causes your breasts to increase in soreness and become painful to the touch. They also bring on feverish temperatures and nausea.

While it can happen to any new mother, it’s more common for pumping moms to experience blocked ducts. This is because pumps aren’t as efficient as expelling all of the milk from your breasts as your baby is. To help ensure that your breasts are emptied completely during a pumping session, squeeze your breasts throughout the process.

The solution to a blocked duct is easily taken care of at home. First, begin applying warm towels to your breasts throughout the day to loosen the clogged milk in your ducts. Then, gently massage your breast while your nursing or pumping to try and release the blockage.

If the problem persists, talk to your doctor immediately. Blocked ducts will lead to other infections if they’re not taken care of.


Another common problem with breast pumping is the general anxiety that accompanies breastfeeding. Yes, it happens, read more about it here. Mix that with the loud, foreign noises of a breast pump and it is often hard to handle.

Pumping in general is stressful. If you experience anxiety from breastfeeding, the sound of the pump or a mixture of both, just try to relax. There are a lot of ways to take action and decrease your anxiety. If your pump sounds way too intense for you, switching to a different one will make all the difference.

If you find that your anxiety is severely crippling, talk to your doctor. It is difficult to live with and your doctor will suggest certain lifestyle changes or medications to foster a stress-free environment.

Low Milk Supply

A lot of women expect to have a strong, flowing supply of milk from the moment their babies are born. This isn’t usually how it works. In reality, it takes most mothers a few weeks, or even months, to develop a stable supply. At times you won’t have enough to put away in storage, but that’s okay.

In order to address your supply problem, first make sure that your baby is getting enough milk through breastfeeding. Once your baby is fed, try pumping to stimulate your milk ducts. If your body senses that it needs to increase supply to meet the demand, it will adjust. Give it a few days and you’ll be good to go!

Soreness and Dryness

When there’s a constant sucking pressure applied to your nipples, you’re going to experience discomfort. This is from both breastfeeding and pumping and will cause your nipples to dry, crack and become sore to the touch.

To combat these unpleasant side effects, first look at your pump’s settings. Adjust the settings so that it’s at the lowest power and gradually work your way up. Another savior is the use of nipple shields. Trust us, they help.

If that doesn’t work, talk to your doctor about nipple cream that is safe for you to use and alleviates your pain. There are a ton of different options on the market, but make sure the one you buy is safe and doesn’t have any harsh chemicals or ingredients.


Breast pumping is exhausting. You need to do it multiple times a day and it will take a toll on you. In the beginning, you may feel completely overwhelmed and start to go crazy from the sound and pressure alone, but it gets better.

About 4-6 weeks into breast pumping, you will decrease your pumping sessions without losing any milk supply. This means less exhaustion for you and more milk for your baby.

Over time, you’ll also get better at setting up, pumping and cleaning. It will become second nature and you’ll be able to incorporate it into your daily schedule with ease. If after a while you still dread pumping, it’s okay to stop.

Hand Pain

When you use a manual breast pump, it’s common to experience some pain. The motion that you need to operate a hand pump is unique and easily causes soreness, pain and cramping. This is especially true for mom’s who experienced swelling or carpal tunnel syndrome in the past.

If you’re experiencing hand or arm pain, make sure that you’re pumping in a comfortable position that doesn’t awkwardly strain your body. Switch hands frequently throughout pumping sessions and try stretches to help ease the pain. If all else fails, switch to an electric pump.

Pumping at Work

For working mothers, it’s important to remember that pumping and feeding at regular times will help to keep your milk production regular. That means, inevitably, pumping at work. However, pumping at work will bring about an entirely new set of problems. Check out our suggestions for the most common problems and solutions.

Finding a Place

The first step is finding a place to pump in peace. A lot of workplaces are getting better at supplying private areas for working mothers to pump, but not all of them are there yet. Before you return to work have a conversation with management to discuss an area that could be rep-purposed as a lactation room1.

If all else fails, show them Mamava Suite and see what they think.

Finding the Time

The next struggle is finding the time. Returning to work means catching up on everything that happened while you were out. Create a schedule, put it on your calendar and stick to it. Try getting a hands-free pump and start multi-tasking while pumping.

Unsupportive Workplaces

For some reason, certain employers are unsupportive to working moms. It’s completely unfair and will make you feel like there’s nothing you can do. If you find yourself in this situation, speak up.

Educate yourself on your rights and clearly discuss them with your employer1. There are federal and state regulations that require organizations to offer space and time for pumping.

Finding the Right Pump

Finally, with all of the different options available it will be overwhelming to find the right breast pump for you. Take the time to research and shop around. Find one that is high quality and has a lot of good reviews. There’s a huge difference in good and bad pumps and getting a good one right off the bat will make your life a lot easier.

The most efficient pumps are double electric ones2. These allow you to get twice of the pumping done in half the time. You’ll want to find a pump that has adjustable settings for both speed and suction that comes with different sizes of flanges. This way, you can program the pump to fit your needs comfortably.

To avoid bacterial build up, get a closed system pump. This prevents the milk from seeping into the tubes and other parts where it will easily spoil and breed bad bacterial.


While breastfeeding is the perfect way to boost your bond with your baby, there’s no way that you will realistically do it for every feeding. Getting yourself a breast pump is the best way to ensure that your baby is still getting the nutrients from your milk while you’re away. We hope this list will help you combat any problems that may arise, but if you have specific questions please contact your primary care doctor. Also, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you’re eligible to receive an electric breast pump covered by your insurance provider! It’s easier than ever to find your perfect breast pump in our large selection at Byram Healthcare.

If you have any other tips to offer or remedies for breast pumping problems, head on over to our Facebook page and leave a comment!