The first time I pumped my breasts, I had just delivered my baby. It’s ideal for your infant to latch directly to your breast after birth, but sometimes circumstances don’t allow for that. In my case, my son had been given a feeding tube because he had respiratory issues, and the nurses were concerned that he would aspirate breast milk.
Those first few drops of colostrum that I expressed using a hospital-grade breast pump were at once pride-inducing and disappointing. As I half-filled a medicine syringe to store the few milliliters of liquid gold, I wished that pumping didn’t have to be so hard.
Pumping doesn’t have to be difficult, but it is challenging for some women. You may only be able to pump an ounce or two at a time. Your body might not perform as well when you’re pumping as it does when your baby is latched on. You might shove lactation cookies and supplements into your mouth in hopes that you can boost your supply only to get more worried with every tiny plop of milk that drips into the collection cup.
When you’re a busy mom who is trying to balance breastfeeding with work, home life and everything else, pumping can seem like a hassle. It can be especially frustrating when you’re not expressing much milk with every session.
How to Increase Milk Supply By Power Pumping
Fortunately, you can use your pump to help boost your supply.
Before we get into the details of power pumping, however, there are a few things that you should know about your milk supply:
• Your supply naturally varies throughout the day, month and year.
• The fact that you can measure how much milk you express may bring your attention to a completely normal fluctuation.
• Pumps do not remove milk from the breast as well as a nursing child.
The power pump method is a way to stimulate your breast to encourage your body to produce more milk.
To comprehend this, you have to understand that milk production happens on a supply-and-demand basis.
The frequency and length of nursing sessions signal the amount of milk that your infant needs. In other words, your baby tells your body how much milk to make. You’ll typically produce milk for as long as your infant breastfeeds.
If your little one doesn’t empty the breasts completely or reduces his nursing frequency, your supply will start to die down. This is what happens when a child weans. The baby eventually stops nursing, and your body stops producing milk.
However, if you intend to keep breastfeeding, skipping nursing sessions or reducing their duration can be a problem because it could cause you to make less milk for your baby.
Other factors can also reduce your supply. A poor latch or ineffective suckling can cause your baby to look like she’s nursing even if she isn’t getting enough milk.
Talk to a lactation professional if you’re concerned about how much milk your baby is removing from the breast. An expert can assess the latch, weigh the baby before and after a feed and help you determine if your infant is eating enough.
When infants are about to go through a growth spurt, they’ll cluster feed. This means that they’ll nurse more often. You’ll produce more milk to support their growth.
You can use the pump to simulate your child’s needs. If an infant isn’t latching properly, pumping after nursing sessions allows you to empty your breasts completely. Pumping an hour after your baby has nursed and at least an hour before he is expected to feed again is another way to encourage your body to produce more milk.
A power pump session is similar to cluster feeding, except that you use the pump instead of putting your baby to your breast. This tricks your body into boosting the milk supply by mimicking your infant’s increased demand.
How Much Milk Should I Be Pumping?
According to Kellymom, most mothers pump a total of 0.5 to 2.0 ounces during a regular pumping session. That means that getting only 0.25 ounces from each breast is totally normal.
If you’re providing bottles for a full day of child care, though, you might be stressed about pumping enough for the next day.
Guess what? That stress can further reduce your milk supply, creating a cycle that seems to suck you dry.
Stockpiling milk can prevent the panic that sets in when you’ve handed your last frozen milk bag to the babysitter. Breast pumping for an hour can help you establish a stronger supply so that you can ultimately remove extra milk from your breasts even when you don’t need it for the next day. Pop it in the freezer and start a stash that can give you a breather on those days when your body doesn’t seem to respond to the pump.
Why Would I Want to Power Pump?
Women typically use this pumping method when they want to enhance their supply. This could happen for a number of reasons:
• You might notice that you’re producing less milk, and your freezer stash is dwindling.
• You might be getting ready to go back to work and want to hoard some milk ahead of time.
• Your pediatrician may ask you to supplement with expressed breastmilk if your baby isn’t growing according to the guidelines.
• You may be working with a lactation professional on your baby’s latch and have to use an alternate feeding method until nursing goes a little more smoothly.
• You could have taken a decongestant or other medication that diminished your supply.
• You might want to stock up on milk because you’re planning to go out of town or have surgery.
• You may not normally pump, but your older baby gets fidgety at the breast and doesn’t nurse as often as she used to, causing your supply to suffer.
• You have returned to work, and being away from your baby has affected your supply.
• Your period has returned or you have been sick, and your supply has dipped temporarily.
In an ideal situation, mothers would be able to nurse their babies on demand. As long as the child has a proper latch and is removing milk adequately, you wouldn’t need to increase your supply.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Life happens, and there are many factors that could make your supply tank. In those situations, having a pump around can be a lifesaver.
How To Power Pump
You might wonder how to increase milk supply with this method. There are a few different ways to power pump. With the most popular method, you would:
• Pump for 20 minutes.
• Rest for 10 minutes.
• Pump for 10 minutes.
• Rest for 10 minutes.
• Pump for 10 minutes.
Some other guidelines suggest the following:
• Pump for 12 minutes.
• Rest for 8 minutes.
• Repeat this sequence three times.
Both of these techniques require you to sit with the pump for 60 minutes. If you can’t manage that, you can cut a power pump session short. You can also try adding a pumping session to your day or pumping for 10 minutes immediately following each nursing session can help increase your supply.
What Kind of Breast Pump Should You Use?
No matter what guidelines you follow, you should use a double-electric breast pump. Removing milk from both breasts at once is the most effective way to boost your supply, according to Medela.
La Leche League Internationa explains that double pumping significantly increases your prolactin levels, which are important for establishing and maintaining your milk supply.
It’s possible to increase your supply using a single breast pump. If you do, you can eliminate the rest period. You would switch to the other breast during that time.
When Is the Best Time to Power Pump?
You’ll need to be able to devote an hour of time to your pump. The best time to do this is usually right after you have nursed your baby. Hopefully, your child won’t need to eat again for another few hours.
Try to have a caregiver available to help you with the baby while you’re pumping. If that’s not possible, you can try to pump while your infant is sleeping.
Figure out a pumping schedule that works for you and your baby, as everyone’s situation is different. Here is a great example from MomLovesBest:
- 10-12 weeks: 6am, 10am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, 10pm.
- 3-6 months: 6am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 10pm.
- 6-11 months: 6am, 10am, 2pm, 10pm.
- 11-12 months: 6am, 12pm, 1pm.
- 12-14 months: 6am, 7pm.
The goal of a power pump session is not to remove large volumes of milk right away. That’s why it’s ok to pump immediately after feeding your child even though you won’t express much additional milk.
Instead, you’re sending your body signals to begin producing more milk. It can take some time for this communication to go through.
You probably don’t want to pump just before you’re supposed to nurse your baby. If you do, you might not have enough milk in your breasts for the feeding.
How Long Does It Take To Increase Milk Supply?
Every mother is different. Most women power pump once or twice a day for four to seven days before they see results. Once you notice an increase in your supply, you can ease off of the power pump sessions.
This method doesn’t work for every woman. It might be especially ineffective for mothers who don’t respond well to the pump.
To get the most out of a pumping session, make sure that you’re in a place where you won’t be interrupted. Take the time to relax.
Smelling your baby’s blanket or looking at a photo of your child can help you produce more milk while pumping. So can listening to your infant cry.
Hand expressing some milk before you attach the pump may help you relax. It can also give you the skin-to-skin feeling that can help encourage a letdown. Applying warm compresses to your breasts before pumping can also be relaxing and encourage you to produce more milk.
The best way to get results from a power pump is to do it consistently. Don’t skimp on other pumping or nursing sessions either.
Are There Any Reasons To Avoid Power Pumping?
You shouldn’t try this breast pumping method unless you’ve talked it over with a lactation consultant. If you don’t have a problem with a low milk supply, you could end up with an oversupply, which can be just as problematic.
An oversupply can:
• Cause the baby to turn away from the breast during letdown.
• Make your baby gulp air, causing gas and tummy troubles.
• Lead to painful engorgement.
• Interfere with your baby’s latch.
• Give your baby explosive stools.
• Make your baby spit up frequently.
Breastfeeding is emotional. You want to make sure that you’re providing for your baby as well as you can. For some reason, many women don’t believe that their body is making the right amount of milk for their infants. In most cases, there is nothing wrong with your supply.
If your bottles aren’t getting filled up during each nursing session, that’s completely normal. It’s not unusual for your supply to vary from day to day.
Some other factors that can make you think that you have a low supply:
• Your breast pump may be old or malfunctioning.
• You aren’t relaxed during your pumping sessions.
• You’re mistakenly assuming that the amount that you pump is the same amount that your child gets when she nurses.
• Your breast pump flange is too small.
• You’re not eating or drinking enough.
If you’re concerned that you aren’t making the ideal amount of milk for your baby, don’t fret. It’s rare for a woman to have a medical issue that seriously affects her supply. Most supply issues can be remedied with the guidance of a lactation professional.
But don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Having a strong support system and getting frequent opportunities to put your feet up and relax can go a long way in reducing your stress levels and allowing your body to do what it needs to do.
It can be devastating if you feel like you can’t provide enough milk for your baby. But many women are able to continue breastfeeding even if they have to supplement.