When you’ve finally got the breastfeeding rhythm, suddenly you are no longer producing much milk or getting late-night leaks. You might have tried incorporating lactation cookies into your diet, but nothing seems to be working. Enter power pumping! Read on and learn how to increase breast milk supply with this smart alternative.
How Will I Know if My Milk Supply is Low?
Before discussing the ways how to increase breast milk supply, you should first identify if your milk output is indeed low. Try to keep track of your feeding schedule and your baby’s nappy changes. Then take note of these signs to know whether your little one is having an adequate supply of milk:
- Wet nappies. On the second day after birth, your baby should wet about two nappies over 24 hours. This amount should increase to five nappies on day 5.
- Poo habit. At eight weeks old or less, your baby should poo every day about three to four times. Older babies will have fewer, softer poos.
- Weight gain. Your baby should gain around 155g to 240g every week until his fourth month.
- Baby’s mood. Your little bub should be happy and alert after and in between regular feedings.
If you’re observing problems with any of these indicators, it’s best to consult your paediatrician or healthcare provider. Your doctor can help identify whether or not you have a milk supply problem.
Why Is My Breast Milk Supply Low?
Once you’ve determined that your milk output is low, the next phase is to identify the reason why. Here are some possible causes:
- Emotional factors. Hormonal swings and feelings of stress, anxiety or embarrassment can hinder milk flow. Counter these by finding a comfortable place for breastfeeding, getting enough sleep, eating regularly and staying hydrated.
- Smoking and alcohol. Moderate to heavy alcohol drinking can interfere with milk production.
- Medical conditions. Certain health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may affect milk output. Previous breast surgery or nipple piercings can potentially damage nerves for milk production as well. Medications for sinus or allergies and some hormonal birth controls are also factors.
Make sure to talk about these causes with your doctor to get the specific help you need. Before applying strategies that will improve breast milk supply, address them first for best results.
Is Power Pumping Helpful and Safe?
At the end of your breastfeeding consultation, your doctor may suggest power pumping to increase milk supply. This strategy, also known as cluster pumping, aims to mimic your baby’s cluster feeding tendency or on and off suckling. Mimicking this through power or cluster pumping sends your body the signal to boost milk production.
It’s a perfectly safe technique as it does not require mums to take in any supplement or medication. However, you need to allocate an hour or two every day, throughout your power pumping boot camp. Also, when you do this technique, make sure not to skip regular breastfeeding. Power pumping may help stimulate milk flow, but there’s no better stimulant than your baby nursing at the breast.
Should All Breastfeeding Mothers Do It?
No, not all mums have to do power pumping. Breastfeeding mums who have regular milk output, in particular, should not do it as it can lead to oversupply. Some mums that have babies with latching issues may benefit from this technique, though. Power pumping can also benefit older babies who do not want constant breastfeeding but need more milk during their growth spurt. Also, working mums may need to get back to the office, and power pumping makes up for the lack of constant skin contact.
How is Power Pumping Done?
To make your pumping session more organised and relaxed, consider these handy notes when planning:
- Schedule. You can power pump up to two times a day. The best time would be either early in the morning or late at night when the milk-producing hormone prolactin is high. Here’s a pumping pattern you can use.
10:00pm to 10:20pm: pump for 20 minutes
10:20pm to 10:30pm: rest for 10 minutes
10:30pm to 10:40pm: pump for 10 minutes
10:40pm to 10:50pm: rest for 10 minutes
10:50pm to 11:00pm: pump for 10 minutes
Alternatively, you can allocate 10-minute intervals for the entire duration of your pumping session and follow a similar schedule the following morning. No matter your pumping schedule, try to commit to it for the next 2 to 3 days. Doing so will help your body get used to your pattern, enhance milk volume and allow you to keep track of your progress.
- Breast pump type. Studies concluded that using a double electric breast pump allows better stimulation for more milk supply. Using a double pump helps in increasing prolactin levels. More importantly, compared to a single pump, a double pump can shorten pumping time by half.
- Preparation. Power pumping may take several minutes, so have your essentials within reach before starting. Have your water, healthy snacks, towel and milk collection kits ready. Make sure your pump battery is fully charged as well (or bring out your power adaptor if needed). Then ask your partner or other family members to help you manage things around the house while you’re pumping.
When Can I Stop Power Pumping?
It all depends on how your body responds to power pumping. Some breastfeeding mums observe improved supply after power pumping for 2 to 3 days. However, others may need a week or more before they see results. Try it for a couple of days before switching back to routine pumping and see how it works. Give your body time, and don’t get discouraged. Make sure you are also taking care of yourself.
Any Other Useful Tips I Should Know?
- Stay relaxed and happy when pumping. Being in a cosy pumping station, listening to soothing music, reading a book or watching TV enhances your power pumping experience.
- Use a hands-free pumping bra. Putting on your nursing bra should keep the arms relaxed when power pumping. With free hands, you can move around with ease or multitask, too.
- Stick to your pumping routine. Overdoing your pumping session may only result in breast chafing or sore nipples. But in case this happens, applying coconut oil or nipple cream helps a lot.
- Avoid stressful distractions. Worrying about many things can interfere with the natural let-down reflex and pumping output. Stay calm and use power pumping as your opportunity to wind down. Also, try to time your pumping session when your baby is still asleep to lessen your worries. If this is not possible, have someone look after your baby for the meantime.
- Create your support circle. Aside from family members and friends, seek help from professionals when needed. Qualified lactation consultants are experts on finding ways how to increase breast milk supply. They can help keep track of your milk production or suggest feeding strategies that will work for you and your baby.
- Store extra milk. If you’re coupling your pumping session with your breast milk freezer stash, make sure to follow proper storage guidelines. Keep expressed milk in the right containers and temperature.
Are There Other Ways How to Increase Breast Milk Supply?
Power pumping to increase milk supply is a foolproof, helpful tool. However, you may want to try these other techniques first for increasing supply:
- Enhance skin-to-skin contact. Holding and gazing at your baby promotes oxytocin hormone production. The feel-good oxytocin hormone helps in enhancing milk flow.
- Practice responsive feeding. Be more alert when your baby begins sending out hunger cues and nurse as often as possible. Direct breastfeeding is still the best for your baby. So, try to avoid bottles or dummies when you can.
- Breastfeed on both sides. This tip is similar to the double electric pump technique, where increased stimulation results in more milk. Also, doing breast compression or breast massage can help, too.
- Pump while you’re nursing. This one is a time-saving alternative: let your baby latch on one side, while you fit the other with a pump.
- Switch to a healthier lifestyle. Eat healthy meals, drink lots of fluids and get sufficient rest. Remember: a healthy mummy is also a healthy baby!