What is Power Pumping Breast Milk?
Power pumping is now quite popular with mothers who suffer from low milk supply, but it’s not something that every breastfeeding mother should attempt. The method is only used to stimulate greater milk supply and could make you uncomfortable if your milk supply is already adequate to meet the needs of your baby. This guide will introduce you to the concept of power pumping milk while pointing out some critical tips that are important to power pumping success.
How Power Pumping Works
Milk production is a supply and demand process. The more demand placed on your breasts, the more milk you should naturally produce. If your body isn’t getting the message and you need to produce more milk, the easiest trick is to get your body to understand that there is a greater demand for milk. This is commonly accomplished by pumping or hand expressing milk at regular intervals throughout the day in addition to routine breastfeeding sessions. Those extra pumping sessions increase demand, stimulating greater supply.
Power pumping does exactly that, but you complete the extra pumping sessions in one hour each day rather than spreading them out. Many busy women find it easier to fit this pumping schedule into their daily routines, but it takes commitment and patience.
Some women see results within a couple days while others may take up to four or five days. Some women don’t see results from this method at all, but it’s important to give it at least five days before giving up. If you’re working with a medical professional or lactation consultant, they can help you troubleshoot problems and come up with alternative methods if power pumping doesn’t work for you.
When is the Best Time to Power Pump?
The biggest problem many women have with power pumping is determining when to complete their power hour of pumping. You still need to provide an adequate flow of milk for your baby when he or she is ready for a breastfeeding session, so it’s important not to do the extra pumping too close to your baby’s natural feeding session.
Many women do the pumping right after feeding their baby, ensuring that they have enough time to produce more milk before the next feeding. Other women have more success when they do their power pumping in the morning because that is the time of day when most women naturally produce the most milk. You may combine these methods by breastfeeding your baby in the morning and then completing your power pumping.
Power Pumping Schedules
There are different schedules for how you pump, but they’re all based on the fact that a breast is typically emptied after 10-15 minutes of pumping or breastfeeding. When power pumping, you want to completely empty the breasts. That is what sends the signal to your body that more milk is needed. Here are a couple popular pumping schedules that you may want to try out:
- Pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes. This is the simplest pumping schedule, and it’s repeated for one hour. That’s three pumping sessions of 10 minutes in one hour. If you don’t have time to pump for a full hour, you may break it into two 30-minute sessions at different times of the day. So, you would pump 10 minutes, rest 10 minutes, and then pump 10 minutes.
- One longer pumping session followed by two shorter sessions. Pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, and then pump for 10 minutes. This is a little more complicated, but it gives you more time to empty your breast at the beginning of the pumping session.
That may seem like a lot of pumping in a short period of time, but remember that you’re mimicking the actions of a hungry baby demanding more food. A baby in need of nourishment would go to the breast and try to feed until they receive the milk needed for survival. This added pumping will work with your baby’s natural feeding schedule to tell your body that more milk is in demand.
Power Pumping Intervals
Generally you do not want to be be power pumping breast milk all the time. Pick one hour a day to do it when you are trying to increase production. More than that could cause other issues like milk blisters, exhaustion and mastitis.
When to Stop Power Pumping
This isn’t a long-term breastfeeding strategy. Once your milk supply increases, you should stop the power sessions. You may still need to do a day or two of power pumping occasionally to keep your supply strong, but this isn’t a permanent addition to your daily schedule. Power pump until your supply is adequate, and then go back to your normal breastfeeding schedule.
Is Power Pumping Safe?
This is a safe method for improving your milk supply as long as you work around your baby’s natural feeding schedule. (Becker, 2015) If you do run out of milk for your little one, you can use the milk that you’ve expressed to cover a feeding session. Some mothers don’t want to do this because they don’t want to introduce their baby to the bottle, and that requires consistent planning to ensure that breastfeeding sessions are adequate even with the added pumping session.
How to Power Pump for the First Time
The first step to power pumping is to verify that you do need to improve your milk supply. Some mothers suspect that they’re not providing enough milk for their baby when in fact their milk supply is adequate. Power pumping in that case could lead to excessive milk production (Kabiri, MD, 2017,) which may leave you engorged and uncomfortable. You may also talk to a lactation consultant to make sure that power pumping is the best method of breast stimulation for your lifestyle and your baby’s needs.
If you’re certain that you need to increase your milk supply and believe that this method may work for you, start by designating one hour to use as your power session each day. Select a method or work with your lactation professional to come up with an individualized pumping plan, and then commit to your schedule. It can take several days to see results, so don’t give up too soon.