Written by: Wendy, IBCLC
If you’ve started to see a drop in your pumping output, the first thing to do is to take a deep breath. It’s common for pumping moms to see their milk supply go up and down during the day or even from week to week. Depending on how often you pump, getting anywhere from 2-5 ounces each time (sometimes even less) if totally normal.
There are times, though, when it seems like your supply takes a steep nosedive and you want to do everything in your power to increase your milk supply. During those times, power pumping might be just the thing that gets you back on track.
WHEN IS POWER PUMPING HELPFUL?
There are many reasons why your pumping output may have deceased, and most of them are temporary. Generally, if your supply decreases for a day or two and then goes back to normal, there is nothing you need to do.
However, if your supply dip seems to be sustained over a few days, you might want to consider power pumping to increase your supply.
Here are some situations that might cause a supply drop, and when power pumping may be helpful:
- If you have been pumping since your baby was born, you will likely see a drop in your pumping output after the first month or two, as your supply regulates itself.
- Extreme stress can play a role in decreasing your supply.
- Illnesses like stomach viruses and flu may cause your supply to drop.
- Anytime you decrease your nursing or pumping time, you will likely see a drop in supply. This might happen when your baby starts sleeping longer at night, or if you aren’t getting enough time to pump at work.
WHAT IS POWER PUMPING?
Power pumping is simply pumping more frequently during a concentrated period of time. The single best way to increase your milk supply is to breastfeed or pump more frequently. When combined with increased nursing/pumping, many moms find that eating oatmeal or taking an herbal lactation supplement, such as one of Motherlove’s, can also be helpful. If those things alone aren’t doing the trick, many moms find that power pumping is just the thing that gives their milk supply that extra boost.
Power pumping is meant to mimic the cluster feeding that babies do during growth spurts. During a growth spurt, your baby may spend several hours in a row nursing. Often during this time your baby will be on and off the breast, nursing for a handful of minutes, possibly crying and fussing in between, and then nursing again.
It’s this short, frequent stimulation of the breast that helps increase your supply in a short period of time so that your baby can take in more milk and grow. Like cluster feeding, power pumping can give your milk supply a boost and you will generally see results in a handful of days.
HOW TO POWER PUMP?
There is no one formula for how to make power pumping work. Here are some general guidelines to help you figure out what works best for you.
Power Pumping Set-Up
- You want to set aside at least an hour to power pump.
- It’s best if you dedicate yourself to power-pumping for at least two days in a row.
- You should keep up your normal nursing or pumping routine even on the days when you power pump.
- If you nurse and pump, you can plan to pump around times that your baby will be sleeping or separated from you.
- Get yourself comfortable and set up a “power pumping station” with snacks, drinks, and something to keep you relaxed and occupied like your favorite Netflix show or a good book.
- Make sure your pump is in good order (replace any older tubing or worn out flanges).
- It’s best to use a double electric pump for power-pumping, if possible.
Power Pumping Steps
- Over the course of 1-3 hours, pump for about 10 minutes at a time, with approximately a 10-minute break in between. You can feel out what works best for you.
- Don’t worry if you don’t always see a lot of milk coming out; you are stimulating your supply and you should see the milk increase in a few days.
- Combine massage and hand expression to your routine. A 2009 study published by Jane Morton and her research team found that moms who used their hands during pumping produced 48% more milk than women who pumped alone.
- Check out this video demonstrating the Morton Protocol for hand expression and massage.
WHEN WILL I SEE AN INCREASE?
At first, you will likely not see much more milk. In fact, there may be times when little to no milk is coming out of the pump, which can be frustrating. No worries -- just keep pumping.
It usually takes about 2-3 days to see results after power pumping. For some mothers, it can take up to a week to see results. If you are power pumping and don’t see your supply increase after a week, get in touch with a lactation consultant or a volunteer breastfeeding counselor who can help you figure out what is happening and come up with an individualized plan to increase your supply.
Most importantly, don’t give up. Pumping can be super stressful, and although it’s common to encounter challenges with milk supply, it can be really difficult and demoralizing when it happens to you. Remember that there is almost always a way to increase your supply, that supply dips are usually temporary — and that whatever happens, you are one amazing mama.