Does your Pump Suck: How to Make a Gauge to Test it's Strength


Do you often wonder if your breast pump is working? In this blog, I want to show you how to make a gauge that you can use to test your breast pump for less than $20.

Lots of people have momentary drops in their supply at some point along their pumping and feeding relationship.  And a lot of times that drop in supply can make us panic because it can feel like our milk supply is going away.

It’s easy to take that drop and then get into a doom spiral about what that means about our milk supply our ability to feed our baby, and all the bad things that come along with that. The very first thing we should always do when our pump isn't working as well as we think it should is to check the pump because pumps sometimes fail.

You want to make sure you check the tubing, make sure the vacuum is seated correctly and make sure everything is connected like it should, and you can test to make sure ALL of that is working by testing the vacuum power of your breast pump.


What you specifically need is a vacuum gauge that tells how strong the pull from your pump is, and a way to fit that vacuum gauge securely into the pump itself so that no air can escape around it. To make it work for a breast pump you just need these 3 simple things: 


Here is a link to a pump that I use.
Here is a link to an adapter. You want a lead free 1/4" female to 1/4" barbed male.
Here is a link to a #4 stopper.

If you have a few friends who are currently pumping, buying the adapters and stoppers as a set and dividing them out can reduce your cost by half. The picture below is what each of the individual parts looks like and what your completed testing gauge will look like.


Once you have the gauge set up, it's simple to use. You just insert the stopper with the gauge attached into your flange, make sure it has a good seal, like in the picture at the top of the blog post, and then turn it your pump on as normal, and then measure the highest vacuum setting.

Next, you just compare what you see to the manufacturer-stated vacuum power for your pump, which you can find on a chart I made for you right here (which I'll update) or in the picture below (which I will not update). I converted the numbers to work with the pump listed above, so make sure you compare the red kPa readings on the last column with the red numbers on the gauge.  If you don't see your pump listed in my chart and would like me to add it, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]

Since you are single-pumping, your pump strength should be at or above the stated strength.


If your pump isn't pulling as high as it should, you have a pump problem. If you aren't getting a suction at all, make sure you have closed off the other tube for your second pump flange. If you are pumping only one side and the other side isn't sealed off, it can't make a suction.

Make sure all of the membranes are seated correctly, including the backflow protectors. Make sure your batteries are fully charged. If everything is put together like it should, then the next thing to do is to replace your membranes and tubing. If you have done all of those things, and it's still pulling less than it's supposed to, then reach out to your pump company and ask about the warranty or replace the pump itself.

If the pump is working fine, but your output is still low, then you should reach out to a lactation consultant so they can help you troubleshoot the “you” side of things.  If you don't see your pump listed in my chart and would like me to add it, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]


And want step-by-step instructions to about how to make a kit for your practice then, click here to grab my free download where I'll walk you through exactly what you need to make an inexpensive kit to fit a wide variety of flange sizes so you can quickly help your families troubleshoot their pumping problems. 


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