What is power pumping and how will it help my milk supply?

power pumping

by Mother & Baby |

Breastfeeding has short- and long-term health benefits for both mother and child. In the UK almost 3/4 (72 per cent) of all mothers breastfeed their babies for their first feed, however, according to recent research by The Nuffield Trust, this number drops to around 45 per cent at six to eight weeks and mums move on to bottle feeding.

There can be a number of reasons why new mums might decide to move on from breastfeeding, one of which is a drop in breastmilk supply. But a drop in milk supply doesn't have to be the end of your breastfeeding journey, when you can increase your milk supply with power pumping.

Here is everything you need to know about power pumping...

What is power pumping?

Power pumping is basically a manual version of cluster feeding - something babies start to do naturally to stimulate more milk production, and is often done in preparation for a growth spurt. Cluster feeding is when your baby feeds more, often every 20 minutes, and even more frequently in-between his normal feeding times.

Power pumping is also sometimes referred to as cluster pumping. Using a routine of power pumping sessions encourages your body to produce more breast milk by rapidly emptying the breasts. Think of it as a supply and demand technique - if there's more demand the supply will increase. It is not meant to replace your normal pumping routine, but rather to enhance it by encouraging your body into producing more milk. Power pumping is particulaly useful if you're exclusively pumping, as it replicates cluster feeding.

How often should you power pump to increase milk supply?

There are a few different power pumping patterns you can follow, we've listed a few examples below. Make sure that you free up an hour of your day in which you can pump uninterrupted - perhaps aligning it with your baby's usual nap time, when they're in bed, or when your partner or parent can take over baby duties for a bit. Once a day is plenty, but you can power pump two times a day if it works better for you.

It also gives you a chance for a well deserved bit of me-time, so set a timer on your phone (to remind you when to rest and when to pump) and catch up on that Netflix show you've been dying to watch, or read a book!

Power pumping chart 1:

Best for those with a hands-free electric pump.

Full time: 1 hour

  • Pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes

  • Pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes

  • Pump for 10 minutes.

Power pumping chart 2:

Best for those with a shorter amount of time to power pump.

Full time: 25 minutes

  • Pump for 5 minutes, rest for 5 minutes

  • Pump for 5 minutes, rest for 5 minutes

  • Pump for 5 minutes

Power pumping chart 3:

Power pumping is easiest to do with a hands free double electric breast pump, but you can do it with a single pump or a single manual pump too. If you have a single pump you could always follow the charts above, feeding your baby on the other breast at the same time.

Here's an example of a power pumping schedule for a single pump or a manual pump:

Full time: 1 hour 12 minutes

  • Left side – 12 minutes

  • Right side – 12 minutes

  • Left side – 8 minutes

  • Right side – 8 minutes

  • Left side – 8 minutes

  • Right side – 8 minutes

  • Left side – 8 minutes

  • Right side – 8 minutes

You can repeat this schedule once or twice daily. Also remember that the pumping times don't have to be exact - just listen to your body and make sure to give your breasts a few breaks rather than pumping continuously for the whole hour.

Throughout the rest of the day, pump the normal length of time when you would typically pump/feed, ideally replicating baby’s feeding schedule or the usual times that you would be pumping (for example, pump for 15 minutes every 3 hours).

How long does it take for power pumping to work?

You can expect power pumping to take anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks to truly increase your breastmilk supply, but you should notice a difference after 2 or 3 days.

Remain consistent with sticking to a power pumping routine - i.e short bursts, like in the power pumping charts suggested above. If you try to pump consistently for an hour, you're more likely to cause damage than improve your milk supply.

Is power pumping safe? - when not to power pump

Before power pumping, consider the possibility that your pump may not be working properly. Is your baby able to get enough milk when feeding, or does he still seem hungry straight after? If your baby seems to still be getting enough milk chances are your pump isn't functioning correctly.

Also talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP before trying power pumping - they'll be able to advise you on your pumping routine and even your technique, which may help baby latch on better.

Women who don’t have a problem with milk supply should not power pump, as this can cause an oversupply of breast milk, breast engorgement and painful swelling that makes it difficult for a baby to breastfeed.

Also avoid power pumping if your baby is already cluster feeding and you're able to breastfeed during those times. This natural process will increase your milk production without power pumping being necessary.

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