Increasing Milk Supply With Power Pumping
Got Milk > Feed Baby. Right?
If everything is going as it should, it should really be that simple. However sometimes mothers need that little bit of help to increase their breast milk production. The good news… You have the power! What if there was a way to increase breastmilk supply in just 60 minutes? Power Pumping might just be exactly what you need! (See a qualified lactation support professional to determine if Power Pumping would be a viable and helpful option for you.)
What is Power Pumping and why does it work?
Simply explained, power pumping is a short-term method to increase breast milk supply by pumping in short, intense bursts.
This works because breast milk is produced as it is needed. A system where the milk is more frequently fully emptied from the breast means the more milk the breasts will make. The longer the milk stays in the breast, the more your breasts take this as a signal that less milk is required, and less milk will be produced. If milk is frequently emptied from the breasts, they will continue to chug away and continue to produce milk! This is generally quite an effective system which is managed by the symbiotic nature of the baby and the breasts. This method helps establish and main an adequate supply and prevents oversupply.
Why would you use power pumping?
Unfortunately, things don’t always work the way they should… Power pumping can be a great way to increase breast milk supply if you’re running low! Low supply can occur due several reasons. A few a lactating parent may experience are:
- Separation from the child
- Birth complications/interventions
- Medical complications for the baby
- Medical complications for the mother
- Baby has difficulty latching onto the mother’s breast
- The baby is unable to empty the breast (Impaired suck due to oral tethers resulting in restriction, etc)
- Breasts not emptied frequently or fully enough
- Exclusively pumping
- Incorrect Flange size
- Supplementing Breastfeeding
- Return of fertility
- Insufficient glandular tissue
- Insulin resistance
Of course, these aren’t the only reason, however they are some of the most common.
Unfortunately, breasts do not come with milliliter markers on the side. This makes it nearly impossible to tell how much milk a baby is receiving. This can bring anxiety around milk supply and since many newborn behaviours may lead some to think that their baby isn’t getting enough milk, jumping to the conclusion that there is a supply problem is very common. It is important to keep in mind that what goes in, must come out. If your baby is getting an appropriate number of wet nappies for their age, then they are more than likely getting enough milk. Nappy count along with adequate weight gain and a healthy elastic skin tone all tell you that a baby is well hydrated and fed. If you ever see notice crystals in your baby’s nappy, their soft-spot is sunken in or they become lethargic, immediately seek medical attention for your child. It is important to work with your bub’s healthcare provider and a qualified lactation consultant to determine if there is indeed a supply problem. Note that sometimes babies suddenly and sharply increase their feedings for 3-5 days with a growth spurt – This is called cluster feeding and alone is not an indication of low supply.
Sometimes there is a desire to increase supply to have more stored milk for a separation from your baby such as a trip or hospital stay, and a lactating parent has a desire to temporarily increase their milk supply. Power pumping can be an extremely helpful tool in situations such as this.
Is power pumping the only way to increase breast milk supply?
Power pumping can be very useful however it is recommended to try these things first before power pumping:
- Having Skin to Skin contact with your baby as much as possible
- Responsive feeding (Feed whenever your baby gives hunger cues – Do not wait for crying!)
- Have frequent night feedings. Prolactin levels are much higher at night!
- Avoid alternative nipple options such as Bottles and Dummies. Breast is best!
To begin your power pumping journey, use a double electric breast pump and plan for at least an hour prior to starting. The more power pumping sessions you include in your day, the more milk in a shorter period you are likely to see. A good number is 1-3 power pumping sessions with at least an hour between sessions. Note, never sacrifice a feed with your baby for a power pumping session, breast is best!
Do you have realistic expectation?
You can generally expect power pumping to take anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks to truly increase breast milk supply. Following a power pumping plan is generally far more beneficial than extended pumping sessions. Note, do NOT pump for an hour non-stop as it can damage your breasts and isn’t as helpful to increase your supply. It is quite likely that you will initially only get no more than a few drops initially, however this does not mean power pumping isn’t working. Be patient with the process and celebrate every drop. Once you reach your supply goal, you can usually stop power pumping and continue with normal pumping/feeding sessions.
Power pumping is not for everyone, some mother’s may not respond at all while other may find it very uncomfortable.
What may help?
Ensure that your double electric breast pump is in good working order. Pumps have a limited number of pumping hours and older pumps may experience reduced suction levels. Proper flange fit can be crucial and can make all the difference. Be sure to utilize your pump’s speed and suction controls to find the right setting for you! Avoid setting everything on the highest levels. Did you know that pain interferes with milk let down? Use the highest comfortable suction level and adjust as necessary. Lubricating your flanges with breast milk, lanolin or coconut oil can reduce friction and improve your milk output. Some mothers find that using a hands-free pumping support bra and a gentle hand massage improves let down and encourages your breasts to complete empty themselves. Warming your breasts before beginning can optimize let down and increase comfort. Stressful distractions inhibit your let down, find a quiet space with few distractions to allow yourself to relax. Relaxing helps let down!
Be sure to take proper caution when power pumping, too strong suction can cause breast tissue damage and reduce milk supply. Unnecessarily power pumping can cause an oversupply of breast milk which may be difficult for you and bub to manage and may lead to the development of mastitis. Power pumping may lead to burnout so work with an experienced lactation consultant to determine of power pumping is right for you.
Source: Jessica Martin-Weber, The Leaky Boob