17 answers

Medela Pump in Style Doesn't Seem to Work! HELP, Losing My Milk Supply!

When I first started pumping, I used a hospital grade pump that I rented from a place near Prentice. Then I went on a trip to visit family and asked them to pick me up a pump there so I wouldn't have to deal with the HUGE hospital one on the plane. They got me a Medela Pump in Style and I loved the look of it. I was SO EXCITED to be able to have something so discreet at work (I left maternity leave a few weeks early to start a new job). Unfortunately, I hooked it up and pumped for 15 mins at full power and barely filled the bottom of the bottle!!!! Before I was getting 2-3 ounces on either side! I had to use the manual pump that they give you with the pump (and they provide one free from Prentice when you leavE) and at first I loved it because it seemed to have a lot more suction and was so small, I could put it in my purse. The upside is my arms are getting really toned (we took the hospital grade one back because I thought this one was so good). BUT...now I get tired, it takes long, and it appears that my milk supply is hurting. I am pumping every 3 or 4 hours and only getting 1.5-2 ounces from BOTH together! Since I have a nanny and need to provide her with milk, I haven't been breastfeeding at all because I have to mix the milk I do manage to eek out with formula. I haven't breastfed in weeks, but I thought if I keep pumping it would take care of supply? Has anyone else had an issue similar? I don't know why the Medela pump doesn't work, but I am wondering if it is because I have very large breasts? Has anyone with very large breasts had trouble with their pumps?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Hi M.!
You ahve gotten some great advice. I used my PIS for 14 months -my son was a preemie and never latched on. What I DID find was that the car adapter for the medela made the pump MUCH stronger.

Just a tip if you travel. I became a pro at pumping in the car while I drove (*blushing*).

More Answers

Hi-- I also experienced this with my first child. The hospital grade pumps are much stronger and more successful in simulating a baby's sucking. I think it is critical for you to get some actual nursing in... the pump will never make up for actual nursing. Actual nursing will help sustain your supply (even if its just in the morning and at night). I also have the pump in style... try adjusting the speed somewhere in the middle. I actually get the best results with the speed dial right in the center and the pressure dial on "5". It may take longer to get a little more milk than the hospital grade. Give it about 20 mins. at least for one let down and then possibly another. Also drink lots of water (pumping depletes fluids). I work full-time and managed to supply my daughter with only breast milk for the whole first year... and now am doing the same thing with my son who is 10 months. It does take commitment to do this... and you may need to pump at least 3 times in an 8 hour day to get the milk you need. To this day my left side only gives me about 1.5 to 2 ounces at a pumping session. My right side usually gets me about 3 ounces. So multiply that by 3 and that will equal about 13 ounces for a work day... which may well be enough for your little guy (as long as you feed him when you walk in the door, and in the morning, and at night too (breastfed baby's often need to eat in the middle of the night...mine still does at 10months). Good luck! Know that you are doing a great thing for your son. My son hasn't gotten sick at all this year and he is in daycare! I have to imagine my breast milk has served him well. His name is also Jacob! I give you lots of credit for trying to make this work.

I have large breasts too, which you'd think would be great for breastfeeding, but also has it's own problems. I started out with the manual Avent Isis for 5 months then my supply started going down. I bought the Medela Lactina (the rental model) and pumping was more productive and faster (and hands free). I did breastfeed when I could, and she got formula once or twice a day. Instead of pumping exclusively, try breastfeeding, then formula when you're pumping at work. Soon you'll have enough to go back to only breastmilk.
To get milk supply back up, breastfeed exclusively on days off, if your baby doesn't eat off both breasts in one sitting, nurse on one side and pump the other at the same time. Apparently, the baby stimulates let down way better. I also used Fenugreek tablets. I took two tabs three times a day for 3 days and my supply went up. Then I just took it twice a day to maintain it and drank Mother's Milk tea. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest. Make sure the horns on your pump are large enough that none of your ducts are blocked. medela sells larger sizes, check on the web. and don't give up! Even if you only breastfeed in the morning and before bed, it's better than not at all. You're doing great.

I don't have large breasts, but did find I pumped less milk with the Medela pump in style than the hospital rented pump- Medela Symphony. Unfortunately, they do sell the Symphony except to hospitals. Pumping was always a challenge for me, but you just have to get used to being hooked to a machine, which is a pain. I learned to pump from one side and feed my daughter off the other at the same time. The more you pump, the more you will produce. Also, every chance you get, breastfeed your baby cause that will increase your supply, because their sucking is more than the pump. I know some people who pumped every 2 hours in the beginning to increase their supply. I never found the time or patience to do that. You will find your supply will decrease regardless once you are away from your baby and back at work. When I went back to work, I was lucky to get 2 oz/time so I used to mix 1/2 breast milk and 1/2 formula on those days. At least I knew my daughter was getting some breastmilk. It will take time to get a routine, so good luck.

I have used that pump for over 2 years with both of my children and have had wonderful luck with it. Do you have the arrow on the pump set to max, for the max suction? If you bring it to any hospital they will test the sucking power for you. They just did that to my pump when I had my daugther 3 months ago. Don't give up... have you called the Medula company for advice?

I've used both the hospital grade and the Pump in Style and had the same results with both. I too pumped exclusively (my daughter was in the NICU for 8 weeks) and it seemed to work fine. The only advice I can give you is to be very diligent about pumping every 2-3 hours, even during the night. I found that when I returned to work and pumped less frequently my milk supply dropped dramatically. I agree with the other ladies to have your pump tested as the PIS should work almost as well as the hospital grade one. Good luck!


Many mothers find the hospital grade pump more effective. The Symphony ( hospital grade rental pump) is relatively light and portable.

Some mothers use the hospital grade for a bit and can change back... you need to experiment and see what works best for you.

For some mothers it is necessary to change flanges to a better fit and that helps increase milk production.

Pres. Lactation Support Group, Inc

Are you using the battery pack or the adapter? If you are using the battery pack the batteries are probably shot. If you are using the adapter and it isn't working well it maybe the cord. You could also try a higher setting. Not sure if any of this is helpful but good luck!!!!

I just re-read your post and I am confused. Are you concerned with the actual pump or that you haven't breastfed in weeks? If so that is why your supply has decreased. The baby will always take more milk than a pump. I am interested to hear what others say. Again good luck!

Hi M.,

I used the pump in style to pump at work for several months and it always worked great. One thing I noticed early on, though, is that the little white circles that are attached to the piece that hangs into the bottle must be on just right or you won't get good suction. One of mine was loose once and it took me forever to figure out why it wasn't working. I just pushed it in all the way and it worked great after that. So, I would suggest just going over the assembly and making sure everything is tight and there are no holes.

Good luck!

Try increasing your supply by eating oatmeal and drinking Mother's Milk Tea.
Nursing your baby will increase your supply naturally- the more you actually nurse, the more supply you will have.

I, too, have rather large breasts and did get more with manual Avent Isis, but also used the Pump-in-style with car adapter. I listened to low relaxing music, smelled an article of my baby's clothes (or blankey) and looked at a photo of her or closed my eyes while pumping.

While you are pumping at home you can try nursing on one side and pumping on the other.

You might try calling a lactation consultant, your hospital about renting a pump from them, contacting Medela (like some of the others have already metioned!) and joining La Leche League (yes, some of the moms pump A LOT and have lots of knowledge!!)

It CAN be done! I worked 60+ hours/week and breastfed my baby til she was 3.5 yrs and pumped til she was about 16 months.

Hope this helps!

I use the Pump in Style too and have found I get better suction putting the suction knob in the middle. I don't know why this works better, but it does.

You have gotten some great advice here, but I wanted to reinforce what some of the women said about the importance of actually nursing a few times a day to help your supply.
In the beginning, it can be easy to get lots of milk with the pump because your body is just beginning its production and overproduces. After a few weeks, however, this tapers off, and production is in response to demand. The pump can easily take off a few ounces in the beginning when there is so much milk available, but pumps are not able to replicate the motions of all the muscles in a nursing babe's mouth to stimulate your supply. Take some time to nurse your babe when you are with him. Switch nursing can help to build your supply. Let him nurse one side for 5-10 minutes, then switch to the other for 5-10, then back to the first, and switch again. Allow him to nurse as often as he would like, even if he has just recently fed. The more time he spends at the breast, the more he will stimulate your supply.
There are also teas and supplements such as fenugreek that can help to increase production. Does Prentice have lactation consultants available to you? That might be a good resource to touch base with. The stress of worrying about having enough milk can negatively affect your production too.
Best of luck to you! Nursing can be challenging but it is very rewarding. Congratulations on the birth of your son and the wonderful decision to breastfeed.

I am not entirely sure what to tell you about the pump, besides maybe contacting Medela (they are located very close here in McHenry). I know they do make the cone part that fits on your breast in a larger size.....maybe that would help since you have larger breasts....more stimulation. Also, it tends to work better when you pump if you start off with the lower suction. Then I would close my eyes and take deep breaths and try very hard to relax. The hormone that helps you relax also aids in letdown. It never failed that after I would relax, I would feel the milk coming. Then I would increase the suction to near max and it would keep the milk coming for a longer time. Make sure you are drinking lots of water. You can also eat oatmeal and take an herb called Fenugreek (usually found at health stores). You have to take it until your sweat starts to smell like maple sytrup, then you have hit the right dosage.

I have heard really good things about the Avent Isis manual pump, maybe it would be easier for you? I used a PIS, always plugged in to a power outlet, and I struggled a bit off and on with supply but we managed. But you HAVE to nurse as well. A pump doesn't stimulate you to produce milk as much as a baby does.

Any time you are pumping, you really have to nurse as well. I was able to pump for my son for 14 months, but I also nursed him at least twice a day in addition. Once I went down to once a day plus two pumping sessions, my milk supply started to decrease. But it was a good time for us anyway and I just stopped pumping and we just did the one nursing a day until he decided he was done.

I also had problems with the Medela pump in style. It didn't work well from the start compared to the hospital grade one I had started with at the hospital (my son was in the NICU for 6 days). Also, I found out some of the cords are poor quality (mostly older models) and you should not wind up the cord after using because that wears the flimsy cord out more quickly. I was working full time and pumping at work and I would highly recommend either buying or renting a hospital grade pump (depending on how long you will be nursing). Sorry I can't recall the name of the one I used but the Pump in Style is definitely not hospital grade. Try to nurse as often as you can and bring your baby to bed with you to help increase your supply. Congratulations on the baby and hang in there!

M. et al,
The Pump In Style is not as effective as a hospital grade pump such as the Symphony. Even according to price tag it makes sense. A Symphony can be purchased for around $1300, which is the reason most people rent it monthly. A Pump In Style sells for $250-$300 or so. The internal operations of these pumps are not the same. The users feel the difference in these pumps, and in my experience as a lactation consultant, it's not uncommon that women often can express more milk with a Symphony. If the Pump In Style works for you, or other types of pumps, then great! "But, one shoe doesn't fit everyone!" Mother responses to differences in pumps is quite variable. And any pump is inferior to your baby properly latched to breast, so I highly recommend mothers get help with latching babies to breast if desired to breastfeed in addition to pumping even for the benefit of helping increase your milk supply. The profession of IBCLCs can facilitate the therapy necessary to fix all of your concerns, M.. But, don't feel as though it is you. It's the type of pump. And, when working moms rent Symphony pumps from me, I provide them with a pump bag so it is as easy to carry to and from work as the purchased pumps.

C. Chamblin, RN, APN, IBCLC
Breast 'N Baby Lactation Services, Inc.
525 Tyler Rd., Ste. L-2
St. Charles, IL 60174
###-###-#### www.breastbabyproducts.com

You might want to look into buying larger shields. I was exclusively pumping for the first 2 months as my son was having difficulty latching. I was getting extremely sore and switched to the size large breast shields and it was much more comfortable. I think they also have extra large. I got mine at babys r us but I think Target has them too. I used the Medela pump in style as well. As someone said, the battery power is much lower than the outlet too. Also, I was weighing him for awhile once he was able to nurse so I know I always got more when he was nursing than pumping.

Good luck!

I currently pump at work, and nurse at home. This is my second child that I pump with. The first child I mixed formula with the milk, and I lost my milk supply. This child loves to nurse, and I'm able to pump enough for him. He has only had formula once (I was late at work) and he is 4.5 mo old. I also have large breast and I noticed that the first pump I used the shields were tight, and I didn't get as much milk. With this pump I have larger shields so I pump more smooth, also I use a first years brand, this pump was only $60, it's not a hospital grade at all, but I get enough milk. If you try to nurse, the baby probably will increase your milk supply, then you will pump more.

Hi M.!
You ahve gotten some great advice. I used my PIS for 14 months -my son was a preemie and never latched on. What I DID find was that the car adapter for the medela made the pump MUCH stronger.

Just a tip if you travel. I became a pro at pumping in the car while I drove (*blushing*).

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.