Using Power Pumping to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply
If you’ve struggled with trying to pump more breast milk, power pumping (aka cluster pumping) just might be the perfect answer for you!
There’s a good chance that in only a few days, you can increase your breast milk supply.
Do I have you intrigued yet?
Why I Needed To Start Power Pumping To Boost Milk Supply
As a working mom, I had to pump while I was away from my baby.
While I really didn’t mind pumping, I constantly was wondering if I was going to pump enough breast milk to keep up with my baby.
And you know what? I wasn’t.
Daycare called and told me that my baby was drinking more and more milk and they wanted to increase the amount they were giving him.
I was devastated.
I was previously just making the cut and making the exact amount of breast milk my baby needed while he was at daycare.
I knew I couldn’t magically start making more!
And it sucked.
But I was determined to try anything to pump more breast milk.
Related: #1 Free Way to Pump More Milk
Pumping Isn’t As Efficient As Breastfeeding
Did you know that many moms struggle with pumping enough milk?
And it actually makes total sense why!
Chances are good that if you were previously breastfeeding your baby, you won’t be pumping the exact same amount your baby was eating.
So what’s the deal?
Your baby is the most effective “pump” there is.
That means that if your baby has a good latch, and has breastfeeding all figured out, no breast pump out there is going to compare and be able to extract milk as well as your baby.
While this is an amazing ability, it totally stinks when you’re trying to keep up with your milk guzzling mini me.
So if you have low milk supply, how can you keep up?
One great answer is power pumping.
What Is Power Pumping/Cluster Pumping?
Power pumping is the process of pumping breast milk very frequently in a short amount of time.
The idea behind power pumping is that by pumping more often, you’ll be simulating the process of a baby cluster feeding.
Hence the common name “cluster pumping”.
Except this time, you get to control when and for how long the nursing session lasts.
How Does Power Pumping Work?
A common question regarding power pumping, is how does it work to increase your milk supply?
When you power pump, you’re telling your body that it needs to produce more breast milk.
Since breast milk production is based on supply and demand, this increase in demand will send signals to your hormones to create more breast milk.
If you’ve been good at emptying your breasts at each pumping session, you will probably not see an increase in your supply for a few days.
Your body needs to receive the signals to make more breast milk before it automatically does it.
When your baby, or in this case your pump, is continually nursing, it’s telling your body to make more milk.
This is also why it’s so important to never skip a pumping session! A skipped session can result in a decrease in your milk supply.
Supply and demand is an extremely important concept for new moms hoping to increase their milk supply naturally to understand.
These breastfeeding basics will help you learn the ins and outs of how breastfeeding works in no time!
How Long Should I Pump to Increase Milk Supply?
Figuring out how long to pump to increase milk supply can be tricky.
Every person is different.
What you can do to figure it out is determine when your breasts are fully empty. For most women this will take about 20 minutes.
Cluster Pumping builds on this idea by allowing your body to have made a small amount of breast milk, before pumping again 10 minutes later.
Some women may find that they don’t need to complete the entire power pumping cycle, but instead can simply add 10 minutes to their regular pumping session to signal to their body to make more milk.
How Do You Power Pump?
Power pumping can sound intimidating. But with the right mindset, a comfortable chair, and an easy to follow flowchart, you’ll be power pumping in no time!
Power Pumping Schedule
1. Set aside 1 hour of time just for pumping. Don’t forget to give yourself a little extra time to clean up the bottles and properly store your breast milk.
2. Get comfortable and set up your breast pump.
3. Begin by pumping simultaneously on both sides for 20 minutes.
4. Take a 10 minute break.
5. Pump for 10 minutes.
6. Take a 10 minute break.
7. Pump for 10 minutes.
Power Pumping Boot Camp
Don’t be afraid to put yourself on a power pumping boot camp.
Remember that many women need to power pump for 2-7 days before they start seeing results!
For more on Power Pumping and other pumping tips – check out Pumping 101!
How Long Does Power Pumping Take?
While power pumping takes just over an hour to complete, most women will need to have one power pumping session every day for 2-7 days.
When you reach your desired level of breast milk supply, you can stop your daily power pumping sessions.
It’s important to remember that you need to empty your breasts completely each time you pump to maintain your current breast milk supply.
If you don’t, your supply may drop or return to your pre-power pumping amount as your body doesn’t think it needs to be making as much milk.
Keep in mind that for some women, power pumping will drastically increase their milk supply. However, for others it simply may not work.
If you’re really struggling to increase your milk supply, more options are discussed at the end of this article. It’s also a great idea to talk with your doctor or lactation consultant.
When Is The Best Time to Do Power Pumping?
Choosing when to power pump is extremely important.
You want to be sure that you don’t run out of breast milk for when your baby is hungry and ready to nurse again.
You’ll find the best time to do power pumping is right after your baby finishes nursing. This way your body will have time to build up a supply for the next time your baby is ready to eat – typically a couple hours later.
Just in case your baby does decide he wants to eat after you’ve just finished pumping, don’t worry! You have a few options.
You can give him some of the fresh milk that you’ve just pumped, some from a freezer stash, or formula if you use both formula and breast milk.
**Don’t forget though, now you’re missing out on an added nursing session that could be helping increase your milk supply!
Tips to Have A Good Power Pumping Session
While the process of power pumping is pretty straightforward, there are a few great tips you can use to have more success with your power pumping session.
1. Relax and get comfortable at your lactation station
A huge part of having a good breast milk supply is being relaxed. If you’re stressed and worried, your body responds to that and actually produces less breast milk.
Instead, listen to some relaxing music, watch videos or look at pictures of your baby, and just take it easy.
Your milk will start to flow faster with a quicker let down and you’ll be more likely to have a more successful pumping session.
2. Be well hydrated
You’re about to put your body through some extra hard work.
Make sure you’re well hydrated and have a water bottle nearby for your pumping session.
I remember getting SO thirsty every time I pumped, I almost couldn’t take it if I didn’t have my water bottle.
If you’re looking for a great water bottle to use to increase your water intake, look for large ones that you don’t have to fill as often.
This helps you easily keep track of how much water you’ve had and you can worry about refilling less often.
If water isn’t your thing, look for a water bottle that infuses fresh fruit to help you find a flavor you actually enjoy!
3. Make sure you eat enough calories to keep up with breastfeeding
It’s a well known fact that breastfeeding and pumping burns some major calories. However, your body NEEDS those calories to be able to make more breast milk.
If you’re dieting and not taking in enough calories power pumping may not work for you.
You need to have a good balance of calories in to be able to produce the amount of breast milk that you may be looking for.
For more info on losing weight, but not losing your milk supply – find out why you’re not losing weight while breastfeeding.
4. Opt for a morning pumping session if possible
If you’ve ever woken up with sore breasts you know this to be true – you feel like you have more breast milk in the morning.
And it’s not just your imagination!
The time most women have the most abundant breast milk supply is in the morning.
While it may not be possible due to you and your baby’s busy schedule, opt to do your power pumping session in the morning if you can.
You’ll be more likely to pump more breast milk and may feel more confident in the process of power pumping.
5. Make sure your breast pump fits you and you know how to use your pump
Learning how to properly use your breast pump is key to pumping more breast milk and increasing your milk supply, especially when it comes to power pumping.
Most pumps have options to speed up the suction and adjust the pattern at which your pump pulls out breast milk.
Many women wrongly assume that if you want the best pumping session, you should put your settings on the fastest suction.
Instead, the best setting is the one that mimics your baby’s eating habits.
If your baby is a fast nurser, the fastest setting may be right for you. But if your baby nurses and sucks more slowly, a less vigorous setting may be best.
It takes a little trial and error, but feel free to experiment with your pump to find out what settings are going to give you the best results!
Remember that breastfeeding and pumping shouldn’t hurt. If you have more questions about how to use your breast pump, consult your manual or look at Medela’s guide on how to use your pump online.
Do Your Pump Parts Fit YOU?
You’ll also want to be sure that your pump parts actually fit you.
Believe it or not a pump does not come with parts that are one size fits all. Instead, it comes with pump parts that fit most women.
Don’t feel bad if the flange on your pump is not the right size for your nipples, it’s common for many women to have to buy replacement pump parts.
Look at some sizing charts for your breast pump’s brand and order the right size.
You’ll be surprised to find out how much more breast milk you can pump when your breast pump fits you!
To find out if your pump is fitting you correctly, check out this guide to a proper fitting breast pump.
Tips to Increase Your Milk Supply
While power pumping is just one way to help increase your breast milk supply, there are several others.
If you ever feel like your baby isn’t getting enough breast milk, talk with your doctor or lactation consultant. Remember that a fed baby is best, whether that means formula or breast milk.
If you are struggling with low milk supply and are worried your baby is not getting enough breast milk, contact your doctor or lactation consultant.
For more on Power Pumping and other pumping tips – check out Pumping 101!