Power Pumping (PP)

power pumping

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Before using any of the PP tips below, read “Is my baby getting enough milk while breastfeeding?" This page will help you determine whether you really do have a low milk supply problem. Many mothers think they do when they actually don't. As long as your baby is nursing on demand, your supply should typically be enough to satisfy your baby’s needs. But, if you determine that you, indeed, do have a low milk supply...


Does Power Pumping Work?

Using a breast pump to increase breast milk supply is often recommended when a mother has a low milk supply. Your breast milk output depends on the principle of supply and demand. Regular removal of milk from the breasts will result in more milk. Some mothers may not see the results they are looking for when adding only a few pumping sessions into the mix. If this is you, you might want to consider power pumping.


What is Power Pumping?

Power pumping (also referred to as cluster pumping) mimics the sporadic, frequent feeding of an infant who is going through a growth spurt. During a growth spurt, a baby will feed more often and for longer periods. PP tricks the body into producing more milk by replicating “cluster feeding." The increased removal of milk increases the release of prolactin. This is the hormone that increases milk production. Read more about how breast milk is produced and lactation hormones.

Always opt for breastfeeding over pumping when possible!

Power pumping should never replace the time that your baby spends on the breast, and it should also not replace your regular pumping schedule (the recommended 15 min every 3 hours). Instead, it should be used as a boost and to use in addition to everything you are already implementing to increase supply.

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How to Power Pump

Pick an hour each day and use the following pumping plan. The best time to do this is in the mornings, as most women have more milk in their breasts during the mornings. Pump immediately after a breastfeeding session.

For best results use a double-action pump (pumping both breasts at the same time)

Double-action PP schedule

  • Pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for 10 minutes, finish (during the last few minutes of pumping you may notice that no milk is coming out, this is fine, just continue to pump)
  • Total of 40 minutes of pumping in one hour.
paced bottle feeding

Power pumping with a single pump

  • Pump for 10 minutes on the right breast,
  • Pump 10 minutes of the left breast,
  • Pump 10 minutes on the right breast,
  • Pump 10 minutes on the left breast,
  • Pump 10 minutes on the right breast,
  • Pump 10 minutes on the left breast.

How long does it take before you see results? You may see results within 48 hours. Some ladies have found that doing this once per day for three days is enough to increase supply. Others might need to do this for a week before seeing an increase in production.

Remember, you don't have to follow a strict pumping schedule, find something that fits in with your life, and that is ideal for you.

If all else fails, have yourself a power pumping boot camp!

A Power Pumping boot camp involves a weekend of power pumping at each and every pumping session. This is done only during the day, usually 4 times per day. It is not necessary to wake at night for this; your sleep is important too. Pump immediately after a breastfeeding session. 

Other recommended reads:

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A few Power Pumping Tips

  • Instead of keeping an eye on the clock, pump while listening to music. Pump during 4 songs, rest for two songs, pump for two songs, rest for two songs, pump for two songs and finish. This should make pumping less stressful. The timing does not have to be exact and is only a guideline.
  • There will be times when you can only pump 5 minutes at a time, this is also okay. Any extra milk removed from the breast will help increase supply.
  • Ensure that you are physically comfortable while pumping with pillows and blankets if necessary. Keep a few snacks and water handy.
  • Electric double-action breast pumps are more effective than hand-held, single pumps. Pumping both your breasts at the same time has been found more effective than pumping one at a time.
  • Stimulate the flow of Oxytocin (the love hormone) while pumping to stimulate an increased flow of milk. Watch a few beautiful videos of babies or watch your baby while he/she sleeps. We have a few suggested videos below. Studies show that pumping output is increased when mothers listen to soothing music while looking at baby pictures.
  • Use a good nipple cream after each pumping session to prevent blisters.
  • Breast compression while pumping is a great way to get more milk to flow while pumping. This method is called “hands-on pumping."
  • You do not need to wash your pump parts every time you use them. You can use them and keep the parts in the fridge. It's only necessary to wash them once in the evening.
  • Use the time while you pump to relax. Paint your nails or watch your favorite series. Pamper yourself.
  • Make your own hands free pumping bra.
  • Rinse your pump flanges under warm running water. When the warm flanges are places on the breast they stimulate the flow of milk. Alternatively, a warm facecloth placed on the breast just before pumping will work just as well.

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EP Moms

For those mothers who are exclusively pumping it could be very stressful when a specific amount of milk needed is not reached.


“Normal" Pumping Output

What is a “normal" pumping output for a mother who is breastfeeding exclusively?

Between ½ and 2 ounces in total per pumping session. Most mothers need to pump three times before they have enough milk for one feeding. It is normal for pumping output to decrease a few weeks after your baby’s birth. Milk supply is always higher during the first few weeks following birth, and then your body regulates the amount of milk needed, therefore, your supply decreases.

Pumping output can also differ from day to day and hour of the day. To have an occasional low day or low hour during the day is normal.

Things that may decrease pumping output:

  • During menstruation or ovulation, a drop in milk production is common. 
  • Taking any kind of hormonal birth control can also influence milk supply levels.
  • During a growth spurt, your baby may drink more expressed milk than usual. During these times a mother can offer the breast more frequently as well as use power pumping.

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Further reading about Increasing Milk Supply


NB - Remember: An empty breast promotes faster milk production, a full breast will result in slow milk production. If your breast is not drained well after pumping, you'll have less chance of success.

It is vital that you consult with a lactation consultant to determine why you have a low supply. It may be something that can be easily remedied.


Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

If you choose to express milk, then it is imperative that you store the milk correctly. Below are some breast milk storage guidelines for breast milk expression and storage.

Equipment needed for power pumping:

  • A breast pump (optional).
  • Bottles and teats.
  • Sterilizing fluid or tablets for cleaning the equipment.
  • A sterilizing unit.
  • Storage bags, such as lansinoh breast milk storage bags, or breast milk storage containers. Remember to check for BPA free bags that come with leak-proof seals. 
  • Labels for dating bags or containers and a pen.

To make sure you the milk is safe to drink:

  • Always wash your hands before nursing, expressing or handling breast milk storage products.
  • Inspect all equipment, storage bags/containers, etc. before expressing to check for damage.
  • Once you are comfortable, express using your preferred method of choice, and express directly into your storage container/bottle/bags.
  • Using your fingers, squeeze all the air out of the storage bags, and seal well along the perforated line supplied.
  • Always put the date and time on your breast milk storage bags before putting them away in the deep freeze or fridge.
  • Always store your bags upright in the fridge, or freezer.
  • Make sure the breast milk is in sterilized, airtight breast milk storage containers or bags.
  • Store the breast milk at 4°C or lower.
  • Store the breast milk for no longer than five days in the refrigerator. If you haven't used the milk within five days, you need to discard the breast milk.
  • If your refrigerator has an ice compartment section, then you can store the milk there for up to two weeks.
  • Keep your breast milk away from other food items, preferably in a separate area of your fridge or freezer where they will not come into direct contact with other products.

Breast Milk Freezer Storage

  • For safety reasons, always check the date/time of the storage bag/container before thawing.
  • For frozen breast milk, put in the fridge overnight to thaw. You can then place the cold (thawed) bag in a container filled with warm water to slowly heat it up. Never microwave or put thawed/cooled breast milk bags directly into hot water. Some of the valuable properties will be lost. Remember breast milk is alive and should stay that way (avoid high temperature and harmful rays) to retain all of its benefits. 
  • Store the milk in an appropriate container that has been sterilized and is airtight.
  • Breast milk can be stored for up to six months in a freezer and thrown away if not used by this time.
  • Never leave the breast milk bags/containers on any surface to naturally thaw/cool or heat to room temperature; this may allow bacteria etc. to grow.

More detailed breast milk storage guidelines.

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