Mothers who breastfeed will often lament that this so-called "natural" process can feel anything but natural. There are cracked nipples to contend with, battery-operated this, hands-free that, and then the dreaded supply issues. There are several things women can try to increase their milk supply, but one that really stands out as the surefire booster is power pumping. There is a lot of success with power pumping and, if done right, it's touted as a supply savior. If it's not working, it could be because you're making some power pumping mistakes that are having the opposite effect on your supply.
Power pumping is a technique used by nursing mothers to increase their milk supply for a baby going through a growth spurt, or for a baby who seemingly wants to cluster feed through a fussy time (this happens to a lot of babies during dinnertime). In both situations, the baby may feed every hour or constantly, according to Kelly Mom. If you can't physically be there to respond to those cues via a non-stop feeding session, you'll need to find another way to cluster feed. The general idea with power pumping is to mimic the experience of cluster feeding and stimulate the extra production of milk. After all, it's widely known that human milk follows the supply and demand cycle. By practicing power pumping you're essentially "demanding" more from your breasts and hopefully they respond with the supply you need or want.
Whether you've been at the power pump thing for a while or you're just getting started, there are some common mistakes to look out for. Here are nine things to keep in mind if you're currently power pumping or plan on trying soon.
1. You Might Not Be Doing It Enough
To effectively increase your supply, you'd have to power pump at least once a day, along with keeping your regular pumping schedule). According to the Pregnancy, Birth, and Beyond website, many power pumping women see results in just 48 hours. For others, it may take seven consecutive days of power pumping to see an increase in supply. If you don't power pump consistently and keep at it, you might not be producing the optimal power pumping results.
2. You May Not Be Pumping For Long Enough
As mentioned above, power pumping mimics cluster feeding, which means you'll want to do it in a very similar fashion. This includes doing it for the recommended frequency (which was just explained above) and duration of time.
According to the aforementioned Pregnancy, Birth, and Beyond post you do 20 minutes of pumping, followed by 10 minutes of resting. Then it's another 10 minutes of pumping, followed by another 10 minute rest period. Finally, you pump again for 10 more minutes, then rest, which all adds up to an hour. If you power pump for a time that's shorter than an hour, you risk messing up the process and being stuck with the same supply issues as when you started.
3. Your Pump Suction Could Be Too High
If your pump is set to high of a suction, you're going to produce the opposite of your intended results. When your suction setting is too high you risk damaging your nipples, according to La Leche League International (LLLI). If you damage your nipples, how motivated are you going to be to power pump, or even pump on your regular schedule? Not very.
4. You Haven't Replaced Parts In Awhile
You can pump all you want — power pump even — but if your parts are worn and needing to be replaced you won't see an increase in your supply. Worn breast pump parts can cause your breasts to not empty fully, which will have the opposite effect on your milk-boosting endeavors, according to Kelly Mom.
5. You're Not Relaxed
Not having adequate supply can be stressful. Additionally, the term "power pumping" gives off this high octane energy vibe, which can feel counterproductive. The key to power pumping is to be relaxed. As explained on the Pregnancy, Birth, and Beyond website, mothers who are power pumping might find it nice to read a book, listen to music, or watch TV while they're pumping.
6. You're Not Trying Other Things In Tandem
Power pumping alone isn't going to save you from supply woes. As explained on Kelly Mom, you'll need to make sure you're eating a healthy diet, getting as much rest as you can, and putting the baby directly to your breast (if possible) as often as you can.
7. You're Dehydrated
The literature is mixed on this, but according to Web MD, if you're dehydrated while breastfeeding or pumping you'll make less milk. Other experts claim that human milk is pretty resilient insofar as volume won't go down if you're dehydrated. Regardless, being dehydrated is a bad thing for anyone, but especially nursing mothers. Not consuming enough water a day can really make mothers fatigued. During a power pumping session the last thing you want to be is tired.
8. You're Skipping Other Pump Sessions Throughout The Day
You probably already have a pumping routine based off your lifestyle and the schedule of your baby. Choosing to do power pump sessions to increase supply means you are power pumping in addition to the already established pumping schedule. If you start to slack off on the other regular pumping times, even though you're power pumping, you may not see the supply increase that you want, according to Kelly Mom.
9. You Don't Have A Support System While Power Pumping
If you add an additional session of pumping, that means you might need some additional help. This could be in the form of a partner helping you with the baby or taking over some more household duties. You may even have a friend of family member that can come and wash dishes or something for you while you power pump. The point is, reach out for help because you could be power pumping for days, but stressed about the million other things you need to be doing. Stress won't be good for your supply no matter how many power pump sessions you do.
Power pumping in tandem with a few other nursing hacks is a start. If you feel like you've truly tried everything and nothing is working it may be time to call in a licensed lactation consultant. Even though breastfeeding is touted as natural, no one said it was easy. Be generous to yourself, forgive yourself, and be kind to yourself. Rest assured that every breastfeeding journey is unique and however yours ends up will be the best thing for you and your baby.