Many women face challenges with producing enough breastmilk and this becomes quite a concern if your baby is not putting on weight.  In medical terms this is called ‘failure to thrive’ and it can be quite upsetting to see your little one hungry and unsettled.

Many women are told to simply give up breastfeeding and to place their baby on formula.  This is definitely a viable option, however there are methods you can use to increase your breastmilk supply and reintroduce your little one to exclusive or mixed breastfeeding.

What is Power Pumping?

Power pumping mimicks a baby that is cluster feeding and going through a growth spurt. The increased demand created by your breast pump repeatedly empties the breastmilk from your breast.  Your body responds to this demand and begins to produce more milk.  Power Pumping can be incredibly good if your little one is premature, has latching difficulties, can’t breastfeed efficiently or for very long or you are initially not producing enough milk to sustain your baby or you would like to increase your breastmilk supply.

Joanna, Sydney mum to 10-month-old Elias, describes her struggles with feeding and how she was able to use power pumping to increase Elias’ weight gain and reintroduce exclusive breastfeeding.

Elias was born 51cm and 3.2kgs. I left hospital two days after he was born. I was struggling to feed him, but he was sleeping well - or so I thought.

We discovered that he had lost 25% of his birth weight. Looking back with hindsight I can see it so clearly. But back then I was so upset, a failure as a mother. Elias was so exhausted and dehydrated that he could not cry. His lowest weight was 2.8kg and he fitted into the premature baby clothes at Target.

With guidance, I was able to breastfeed along with 8 (eventually decreasing to 0) 30ml top ups of formula daily after feeds. I expressed to stimulate and would usually get about 20-30mls daily, so one of the top ups was breast milk.

After the first four days of doing this he put on over 300gms. His prior small gains were 20gms. The nurse had to visit until he was 6 weeks old and just on 4kgs.

At the four month mark Elias had jumped from under the 3rd percentile to the 50th percentile. At six months old he was in the 85-90th percentile for weight.

I have always fed on demand and never used a dummy. Because Elias had been so small I was encouraged to pop him on the breast for comfort instead. All the extra calories were needed.

Currently Elias eats three meals, plus has his boobie 4-6 times a day. At his last weigh-in at almost 10 months, he was 11.5kgs and 75cm long.

So how can you Power Pump to increase your supply?

  • Express after breastfeeds so that you are stimulating your milk supply even further.
  • Make sure each breast is soft and well drained after every feed and pumping session.
  • Keep pumping for a further 2 -5 minutes after you think the breast is drained.
  • Before pumping, use a warm compress for a few minutes (I use a face washer) and gently massage your breasts to help empty all the milk ducts and assist with milk flow.
  • It can often take an hour to feed and express so make sure you rest in between feeding and pumping sessions.
  • If your baby is not gaining weight, then you should aim to nurse or express every 1.5 - 2 hours and every 3 hours at night.
  • You will be absolutely exhausted so make sure you have support and help from your partner, family or friends.
  • You will get so hungry! Consider munching on lactation cookies to further increase your supply and keep your energy levels up.
  • See a lactation consultant who can further advise you on increasing supply for your situation.

Example of a Power Pumping Plan

  • Pump for 20 minutes. Rest for 10 minutues.
  • Pump for 10 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes.
  • Pump for 10 minutes.

Finally, many mums talk about feeling like a ‘failure’ when they struggle to feed or settle their little ones.  Please remember that you are not alone and you don’t have to suffer in silence.  Connect to a supportive mothers group or online forum where you can talk openly and be supported. Being a mum has been the hardest and most wonderful experience of my life and having support has made all the difference.

If you have any concerns about your baby’s health or weight then please see your health care provider immediately.