Power Pumping To Increase Milk Supply

What is power pumping, and how can it help you increase your milk supply? How to power pump, and what to keep in mind before you start? We break down all the answers for moms.

If you’re trying to increase your milk supply, but other methods aren’t working, power pumping may do the trick. 

Power pumping is different from standard pumping patterns, as it mimics baby’s most  active feeding patterns to encourage your body to produce more milk. It consists of short pumping sessions and rest periods, timed one after the other. 

How to power pump, and what to keep in mind before you start? We break down all the answers for moms.

What is power pumping?

Power pumping involves pumping breastmilk in a pattern that mimics cluster feeding – baby’s most active feeding patterns. 

Baby naturally starts cluster feeding when they’re going through a growth spurt, to stimulate your milk production when they need more nourishment. It’s all about supply and demand! 

When they cluster feed, they’ll feed more frequently – in “clusters” of several shorter feeds concentrated over a 2-3 hour span. And as they feed more often, you’ll produce more breastmilk because your breasts are emptied more frequently.

Pumping in a similar pattern to cluster feeding – several shorter, more frequent pumping sessions "clustered" together within a given timeframe – will have similar effects. 

Your body will notice the breasts are emptied more often, and will think that baby needs more milk.

So, the demand that power pumping creates will cause you to produce more breastmilk.

There’s a reason why power pumping is also called “cluster pumping!” 

Since it mimics a natural feeding pattern, power pumping can increase your milk supply fairly quickly, and without the need for supplements.

When to power pump? When not to?

Only power pump if you're having trouble maintaining milk supply.

If you already have a good supply, power pumping could lead your breasts to become too full. This could lead to swelling and engorgement, and cause baby to have trouble breastfeeding. 

And if baby is currently cluster feeding, you probably won't need to power pump. The cluster feed works the same way and should increase the supply by itself. So, it's better to take advantage of baby's natural desire to cluster feed.

If your milk supply is low, power pumping is one way to help remedy the low supply. But you might decide to try other methods to increase supply first --- it's up to you.

How to power pump?

Power pumping simply means alternating several shorter pumping times with several short rest intervals, one directly after the other. 

This means: pump, then rest for a bit, then pump again, then rest again for a bit, then pump one last time, then stop.

For best results, you'll need to power pump 1-2 hours daily for at least a week. 

But that doesn't necessarily mean power pumping for the whole hour or two at once.

How long each individual power pumping session lasts is up to you, as long as it includes 3-4 pumping intervals with rest times in between.

The most common power pumping session looks like this:

  • 20 minutes pumping
  • 10 minutes resting
  • 10 minutes pumping
  • 10 minutes resting
  • 10 minutes pumping 
  • End the power pumping session

(Once or twice per day )

Or, for a shorter power pumping schedule that you'll repeat more often, you could try:

  • 5 minutes pumping 
  • 5 minutes resting 
  • 5 minutes pumping
  • 5 minutes resting
  • 5 minutes pumping
  • End the power pumping session 

(Up to 5 times per day)

Certified lactation consultant Andrea Tran, RN, BSN, MA, IBCLC, shares other types of power pumping schedules, plus more tips:

One power pumping session replaces one "standard" pump time, if you've already been pumping. Stay consistent with your pumping schedule, and pump normally during any sessions that don't get replaced by power pumping. And of course, keep nursing (or bottle-feeding pumped breastmilk) as often as baby needs.

Tips for power pumping 

    • You can power pump anytime that works for you. But many moms say they have the best results in the morning, when their natural let-down is stronger and they have the highest supply.
      • Try power pumping abut an hour after baby's earliest morning feed, with at least an hour between that and the next feed or pumping session.
    • When power pumping, taking short breaks between the pump times is crucial. 
      • This way, your nipples and breasts won't get sore, since power pumping sessions tend to be longer (and harder on the breasts) than standard pump sessions.
    • A double electric pump is the most efficient type of pump for power pumping, since it empties both breasts at once and doesn't require repeated squeezing. 
      • If you don't already have one, you can get this type of pump for free under most health insurance plans.
    • It's best to power pump when you won't be interrupted. So, pump when baby is napping, or when your partner or a caregiver is watching your little one.
    • Power pumping can be tiring, so be sure to eat well and drink plenty of water. Having healthy snacks and water within reach when you power pump is very helpful!
    • If you can, try to rest for a bit before you start to power pump.
    • Use power pumping times to enjoy something you love: watch a show or movie, read, listen to your favorite music, or turn on your favorite podcast. Make things fun and enjoy the "me time!"
    • Right before power pumping, try techniques to encourage let-down:
      • Use heat: Take a hot shower, or put a warm compress on your breasts for a few minutes.
      • Massage your breasts.
      • Think about holding baby close, or look at pictures of them.
    • If you've power pumped for an hour per day and that doesn't seem to increase your supply after a week, try increasing your power pumping to 2 hours per day.
    • If you're too tired to power pump on a given day, don't push yourself.
      •  It's also okay to stop if power pumping is overwhelming. 
      • You don't want to burn yourself out by power pumping when your body isn't rested. 
      • There are plenty of other techniques you can try to increase your supply, so don't be discouraged.
    • And if it is working, you don't need to keep up the power pumping routine forever.
      • Once your supply has increased to the volume you need, you can drop the power pumping sessions (and switch back to all normal pumping sessions, if you are pumping regularly).

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