Plenty of new moms struggle with breastmilk supply.
When the baby is first born, most moms will see their milk supply come in vigorously. Many have shared the experience of waking up in the middle of the night with a wet shirt, as your breast freely leaked excess milk while you slept.
After the first few months, though, maybe you noticed that the leaking has stopped. Which in itself isn’t a cause for concern. However, a few weeks later, you are finding that your milk supply just isn’t enough to satisfy your little one anymore. Now you have a fussy baby, anxiety that you are somehow responsible, and the growing feeling that you are utterly failing as a mother.
First off, you ARE a good mother! Milk supply anxiety is proof that you care about your baby, and you’re here right now trying to do something about it!
Second, you are not alone. Up to one in twenty mom’s are not able to make enough breast milk to keep their baby fed without support or supplement.
And finally, there are techniques you can try to improve the situation. This is where power pumping comes in; the strategy that tricks your body into increasing your milk supply.
Using the power pump strategy does not require any extra supplements or medication. Any breastfeeding mother can do it. If you are desperate to increase your natural breast milk supply, then I would recommend you read on to learn all about power pumping.
What is power pumping?
Power pumping, also known as cluster pumping, is designed to imitate natural cluster feeding by using a breast pump.
Cluster nursing differs from your baby’s regularly scheduled feedings, and usually happens in the evening. When your baby cluster nurses, they are staying at your breast, trying to get more milk from you than they would usually consume.
Your baby does this for multiple reasons. One of which, is to increase the amount of milk that you are currently producing. Another reason is that your baby may be preparing for a growth spurt, and so they are trying to squeeze some extra calories out of their mommy to help them grow.
Breast milk works on a supply-and-demand system. The more the baby spends time on the breast, the more milk will be produced. When the baby continuously remains on the breast, suckling on empty, the breasts will react by producing more milk for future feedings.
Power pumping works to trick your body into responding the same way. You use your breast pump more frequently, and thus your body will realize that the baby needs more milk, and respond by increasing your supply. Power pumping will help you increase your daily milk supply whether you are exclusively nursing, pumping, or both.
Why do women power pump?
Mothers will turn to power-pumping when they notice a sustained decrease in their milk supply. Nursing on-demand with your little one is the best way to increase the breast milk supply naturally, but there are plenty of reasons that this doesn’t always work out.
As an example; your baby could be struggling with latching, resulting in less milk being produced per feeding. This leads to a vicious cycle, where less milk is produced for each feeding because your baby is struggling to drink all of it, adding hunger to frustration.
Otherwise, sometimes moms’ busy schedule just doesn’t allow that to happen. If you’re already back to work, then it’s possible that you won’t be expressing as much milk during work hours, leading to reduced supply and a very hangry baby at home.
Additionally, as your baby grows older and you start to mix in baby foods, they may even start to lose interest in constant nursing throughout the day. Or perhaps, you are already juggling responsibilities for your other children and their busy schedules. We understand – it can just be A LOT sometimes.
We recommend you forgo power pumping if you already have a consistent milk supply, enough to keep your baby fed and happy. Using power pumping without good cause could lead to the overproduction of milk in the mammary glands. This can be a frustrating and painful experience, and leads to mom spending more time pumping than necessary, and less time with her baby.
When should you power pump?
Any time you can dedicate one full uninterrupted power pumping hour is fine. Most women prefer to power pump in the evening when they have put the baby to sleep. This works because the baby is asleep, so you are free, and partly because babies frequently cluster feed in the evening.
Moreover, research indicates that milk volume is always high in the morning hours compared to the evening times. So if you can manage power pumping in the early morning hours, that will be a plus for you. If you have difficulties waking up early, an alarm could serve you best at this time.
Also during these sessions, ensure you do something you enjoy like watching or reading a book. Additionally, viewing photos of your child while power pumping can increase milk production tremendously.
How to power pump
When you decide to power pump, you need to set aside a full uninterrupted hour for a successful session. This should be done in a suitable location where you are comfortable and well relaxed.
Most women start their power pump right after nursing the baby. Morning sessions are usually the perfect time, because in the morning your milk supply is typically much higher than at any other time throughout the day.
However, this is not a restriction; power pumping can be done at any time. Remember, you alone know your schedule and what time(s) will work for you.
During your power pumping session, you will not be pumping for the entire hour. You need to pump in short intervals, taking breaks between sprints. You should pump from both breasts at the same time if possible.
Here is a visual to help you understand what the hour session might look like:
Remember, the pump is imitating the baby. Surely, no baby can feed for a whole hour, right? This is designed to imitate the baby feeding, falling asleep unsatisfied, and waking up to feed again.
We recommend that you start with 20 minutes on the pump, then take a 10 minute break. Then continue alternating between pumping and breaks every 10 minutes until your one-hour session is achieved. The timing does not have to be exact, since babies do not nurse for an exact time.
You should aim to get through your first milk letdown before you decide to rest. And if you find nursing and pumping time colliding, ensure you nurse the baby first, then proceed to power-pumping after you have rested.
One power pumping session may be enough for you, but some women may feel the need to do power pumping twice a day. To be sure, doing more than one cluster pumping session per day can be very draining, both mentally as well as physically.
That being said, not all women’s bodies are the same. Some will respond rapidly to power-pumping, while others will take more time to experience a change.
Some women start seeing positive results after two to three days of successive pumping. Others take four to seven days to notice results, while others claim not to see any change at all. Nevertheless, you should be patient and persistent if you do not see results right away.
What kind of breast pump do you need?
There are two types of pumps you can use. A manual power pump and an electric power pump.
A manual pump is way cheaper than an electric one, very quiet, and handy for random pumping. However, using a manual pump is very repetitive work, as it requires a lot of time and excessive pumping of the handle to create a vacuum. Using a manual pump will eliminate your resting period, and you have to switch to the other breast instead of pumping both at the same time.
For this reason, it is in your best interest to use an electric power pump, even if it is more expensive. It is easier and more convenient to use since the motor does all the pumping, while you can sit and watch a TV show, or catch up on some work.
Additionally, when choosing an electric pump, you will find two types: single breast and double breast. A single electric pump is the best option if you are going to express milk from time to time, but a double breast pump (it draws milk from both breasts concurrently) is convenient for drawing milk regularly.
Furthermore, a double electric pump delivers 18% more milk on average than having to pump each breast separately. Thus, if you are a busy mommy, a double electric pump might be your best option.
Lastly, research has found out that milk expressed from double pumping is higher in calorie and fat contents, as well as the hormone prolactin. The prolactin hormone is responsible for increased milk production – scientific evidence that pumping more from both breasts can help with supply issues!
A pump can be annoying to carry around. Check out our article Best Affordable Breast Pump Bags on how to pick the right bag for your breast pump!
Increasing your breast pumping efficiency
Just like all machines, the pump also becomes worn out if not taken care of rightly. So, it is very important to ensure that the pump and all its accessories are in a good state before you begin pumping.
All moving parts wear out after months and months of continuous use. You might think that your breast milk supply is decreasing, while it could be an aging electric pump that is worn out. Thus, if your pump is older than a year, it is time to consider replacing it with a new one.
Additionally, the valves, membranes, and tubing should also be replaced after about 6 months of use. Replacing a worn-out pump may seem like a big expense and a hassle, but it can be a cheap fix compared to the time you’ll waste otherwise.
Also, when you purchase a pump, you must ensure that the nipple flanges are a good fit for your breasts.
To ensure they all fit:
- Read the size guide. All manufacturers always provide a size guide, so it should not be hard to check.
- Measure the nipples. Take a ruler and measure the diameter of your nipples before deciding the flange size.
- Ensure the nipple is positioned in the flange. Consider purchasing angled flanges, as they tend to fit more ergonomically.
- Lastly, ensure that the tissue of your areola is not in the tunnel of the flange.
Tips and Tricks to pumping
Here are a few tips that will make power pumping easier and comfortable
- Use a hands-free bra
- Have a designated spot and make it comfortable. You can use pillows and blankets to make the spot cozy enough.
- Drink a lot of water to keep you hydrated. We don’t recommend sodas of coffee, as the caffeine in these drinks leads to dehydration. If you are dehydrated, you will not produce milk
- Play soothing music in the background. Soothing music is helpful at calming down after a stressful day. Your body will produce less milk if you are overly stress.
- Eat a healthy snack to fuel your extra milk production.
See also: Best Mini Fridges for Breast Milk
Before you embark on power-pumping, you should remember that power pumping does not work for all women.
I would recommend that any new mom with milk supply issues consider talking to a lactation consultant. They can really help you to understand if your milk supply is low, or whether your baby just has an issue with their latching and feeding. A lactation consultant can help get your milk production on track, or suggest other feeding strategies that will work for both you and your baby.
At the end of the day, many moms with chronic supply issues come to accept adding baby formula into their baby’s diet. It may not be what you want to hear, but in some cases it’s what is best for your baby.
Have you tried power pumping, did it work for you?
Tell us your story in the comments!
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