February 16, 2010

Best Breastfeeding Tip EVER: Power Pumping

PumpEase Hands-Free Pumping Supports The past week has been rife with life lessons for me.  1.) When you plan a romantic weekend away whilst breastfeeding, make darn sure your pump is working well and that you're working well with your pump.  2.) Having not heeded lesson one, when you get home on the brink of mastitis (romantic, I know) and your milk supply is demolished, power pump.  3.) When your toddler, who has a pernicious stomach virus, mentions poop even in passing right before a bath, save the suds for later.

I think lessons one and three are pretty self-explanatory, but I have to share the best breastfeeding/pumping tip I have ever heard during my 20-month (over two babes) breastfeeding tenure.  Let me repeat: ever. 

Three days after returning from said romantic getaway (during which I lost most of my milk because I just couldn't seem to let down for the pump), I called the lactation consultant at the hospital where both my boys were born to see if there was any hope–my poor little guy was hungry and my milk seemed to be dwindling further!  With precipitously plummeting prolactin levels and on the brink of tears (Rants aside, I'm a breastfeeder.  I don't ween until my kids can talk and walk.  Period.), I nodded through all the advice–pump after every feeding, fenugreek supplements, etc., and then she hit on a tidbit so priceless I can't even believe I'd never heard about it before: power pumping.

It's difficult and super time consuming to essentially double your nursing time by pumping after every feeding, particularly if you have an active or sick toddler on your hands in addition to an infant, so when the lc told me about power pumping, I saw light at the end of tunnel and got straight to work.  She told me to pump for ten minutes, rest for ten minutes, on and off, for a total of one hour (of course I did two), to simulate a growth spurt.  The best part: you can do it whenever you have time, so I was able to rebuild my milk supply after my guys were already in bed for the night. 

I power pumped and took fenugreek three nights in a row and saw a huge increase in my milk that I hadn't seen with the fenugreek + sporadic pumping regimen I'd been futilely practicing for most of the week. For three days,Little Lou had been taking full 8 oz bottles at bedtime after 20 frustrating minutes of succor-less suckling.  After the first power pumping session, he nursed for 20 minutes and took 4 ounces.  The second night, he nursed for 20 minutes again and took a 2 ounce top up.  The third night, he nursed 20 minutes and fell fast asleep, milk drunk.

Power pumping would not only be great for re-gaining a lost milk supply, but would also be a stellar way to stockpile milk if you're going back to a paid job or on a trip away from the kiddos.

Power to the pump, mamas!  Let it set you free. (And thanks much to the fab lc at St. Joes!)

– M


  • Tegan and Tage
    February 16, 2010

    Awesome suggestion. I wish I had known that a year ago!

  • Kate
    February 16, 2010

    funny – i’m at work and pumping while i read this. gee, can you tell i’m typing one handed?

  • jayme
    February 16, 2010

    wow, love the pic you chose for this one!

  • Shana
    February 16, 2010

    Mol, this is the best tip ever. WHY hadn’t we heard this before??? Will keep it in mind for #2. Great pic. Just so very scary.

  • Amy
    February 17, 2010

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. The info is in my hip pocket to be taken out when needed…

  • Maria
    February 25, 2010

    You might want to consider the Hygiea pump in future. It has a recording button that plays your baby crying, or cooing helps much with letdown. Might have helped your problem with pump letdown,

  • Andrea
    June 28, 2010

    Awesome advice, thank you so much. So many women have quit breast feeding because their supplies were dwindling. . . I wonder if this would helped them?

  • Shana
    June 30, 2010

    Andrea – I agree! We had latch issues initially, so I spent quite a bit of time at a breast-feeding support group….but power pumping was never mentioned. So strange. Spread the word!!

  • Elizabeth
    October 2, 2010

    I just tried this! I remembered reading it when you posted and my baby was born a week ago. She had jaundice and I had to supplement with formula to try to flush out the bilirubin and trying to nurse, feed THEN pump was just too much. My milk was fast drying out and I remembered this tip. I only did it one time and we are back in business :-)
    Thank you so much!

  • Alisha
    December 14, 2010

    I just read about this. How many times a day is recommended to do the 1 hour power pumping?

  • Molly
    December 14, 2010

    You can do it once a day.  I liked doing it after the babies were in bed for the night so I wouldnt be interrupted.  I only had to do it for 3 or 4 days with no problems whatsoever, but a friend who did it longer had trouble and had some bleeding, so pay attention to your bodys signals : )

    • Rachel
      May 29, 2015

      Hi Molly,

      I appreciate this is an old discussion, but i was hoping to get some feedback from you regarding your power pump experience. When your milk supply tanked, did your breasts become soft and milk flow non-existent?

      I ask because my son is 2.5 months and we’ve been on Domperidone since he was 1 month due to flow issues. However, i had established a good milk supply and he was nursing off 1 breast per feed and i would pump out the rest.

      Within the last week he has started sleeping through the night. My breasts would be engorged by morning. 3 days ago my milk dropped to non-existence. It’s gone. Disappeared. He doesn’t get any satisfaction at the breast.

      My breasts are flat as pancakes now. When i squeeze them milk will squirt out; however, the flow is no longer there for him. In addition, I am not pumping out what i used to after feeds — not even .5 of an ounce whereas i was able to pump up to 4 ounces post feed.

      My questions: how many days went by after your supply diminished before you took action? When your supply tanked, did your breasts become soft, and milk flow non-existent? what time would you sit down to power pump? Did you always do 2 hours straight? Was it always the same time? Also, did you keep nursing/or pumping throughout the day, and if so, how often? Did your milk come back as plentiful as before, more, or less? I see from your post that by the third day (i assume after you power pumped on the third day?) you did not have to top up your son, but does that mean your supply ALL came back, or it was enough at that time to feed him what he needed but it didn’t come back as before.

      I know these are a lot of questions, but I’m absolutely devastated right now (can’t stop crying) and any hope based on someone’s experience would be greatly appreciated.

      Thank you.

      • Katie
        July 28, 2015

        Hey Mama – I see you posted this a couple months ago so it may not be relevant – but I wanted to just tell you you’re a great mama and I hope that you aren’t still crying! Hang in there – the mama-guilt is ridiculous – you obviously love your kiddo and breastfeeding is wonderful if you can – but it’s also wonderful that baby is growing and gaining. :)

  • Lisa
    January 22, 2011

    GREAT tip! I have never heard of this and was just perusing your new layout when I found this under New Here. I am totally going to use this. I need to build up the ol’ milk stash. Thanks!

  • Molly
    January 22, 2011

    Yeah, I couldn't believe I'd never heard of it, but please do be conscious of your body's needs–one friend had sensitivity/blood in milk after only three sessions, which did not happen to me, but it's good for
    people to be aware. Best to you!
    Sent from my iPhone

  • Bonnie
    March 17, 2011

    Thank you for this. I’ve been in tears because my supply has suddenly dropped and nothing has worked to bring it back up. I’m going to try power pumping tonight!

  • Sara
    January 24, 2012

    Molly, I just read that power pumping is futile unless you are also up pumping at night every 3 hours. Is that what you were doing? Or were you getting a good night’s sleep when you made your attempt? Just wondering if it’s actually going to work unless I’m up at night also…

  • Molly
    January 24, 2012

    I was also nursing 4+ times per day, probably once or twice a night. It worked for me! : )
    Sent from my iPhone

  • Sarah
    March 18, 2012

    Did you do 10 min per side? Or 5 min each side and then a 10 min break?

  • Molly
    March 18, 2012

    10 minutes on both sides, break, then repeat. Also check out my post on Gaia Herbs lactate support if you are looking to increase milk supply. It is really potent and works for me very quickly whereas straight fenugreek tincture doesn't seem to do a whole lot for me. http://www.aintnomomjeans.com/2012/02/best-breast-feeding-supplement-gaia-herbs-lactate-support.html
    Sent from my iPhone

  • Sarah
    March 18, 2012

    I ordered some this afternoon. Thank you so much.

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