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What Is Power Pumping Breastfeeding?

Power Pumping Is the Hack Every Breastfeeding Mom Should Know

Any breastfeeding mom can attest that pumping is a drag. Even if you spend half the day attached to a breast pump, you still might find you're not generating enough milk, which is a real dilemma for moms who hope to exclusively breastfeed. Having a quality pump is essential (a double electric pump works best for moms looking to express several times a day), but power pumping might also give your milk supply the boost it needs to alleviate at least some of the stress from the pumping process.

Before considering power pumping, breastfeeding mothers should first get in touch with a trained breastfeeding counselor or a board-certified lactation consultant to make sure they even have reason to be concerned about their milk supply (because you just might be more normal than you think!).

Just like the economic model of price determination in a market, lactation operates according to the principle of supply and demand. Regular pumping sends a signal to your body to produce more milk. The idea behind power pumping (a technique developed by international board-certified lactation consultant Catherine Watson Genna, who specializes in breastfeeding with medical challenges) is to empty your milk supply in rapid concentrated intervals so that your body compensates by creating more milk than usual.

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Power pumping simulates "cluster feeding," when feeding is spaced closer together at certain times of the day and longer at other times, but without bringing any potential harm to your baby in the process. According to Genna, "Pumping doesn't have to be spaced out evenly to be effective." Instead of using regularly spaced intervals of pump stimulation to help stimulate your milk supply, power pumping suggests taking that regular pumping pattern and concentrating it into an intense one-hour removal process to send your mammary glands into overdrive.

Power pumping works best when done immediately after a breastfeeding session or, for pump-dependent mothers, in lieu of a feeding session. As Jody Segrave-Daly (IBCLC and cofounder of The Fed Is Best Foundation) says, pick a time for an uninterrupted hour-long pumping session and follow a pattern of pumping and resting in 10-minute intervals:

  • Pump for 10 minutes
  • Rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for 10 minutes
  • Rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for 10 minutes
  • Rest for 10 minutes

Milk supply is highest in the morning, so that's the best time to do it if your schedule allows. If you don't have a full hour to commit, Segrave-Daly suggests that you split your pumping into 30-minute session two times a day instead, following a pattern of pump, rest, pump, and then later, pump, rest, pump.

After you finish a power pumping cycle and resume your normal pumping schedule, you'll probably still need to wait at least two days before you see results. Power pumping can be done as often as every seven days, though some moms prefer to power pump for a few days at a time before returning to a regular schedule. Some moms find that they can increase their supply by as much as 50 percent by power pumping, but as there can be several explanations for a low milk supply, it's important to remember that power pumping may not work for every mom.

Breastfeeding is every mother's personal choice, so how and when you pump (or if you even pump at all!) totally depends on what works best for your body and your baby.

Image Source: Pixabay / StockSnap
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