Heads up, this post may contain affiliate links and any sales made through such links will reward me a small commission – check my Disclosure Policy to learn more. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
If you are a breastfeeding mom who pumps, then you have probably heard the term power pumping. It is a technique that gets a lot of buzz when the conversation turns to the best ways to increase milk supply.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Power pumping is useful for situations other than the mom who is looking for how to increase milk supply when pumping.
You probably have many questions about what it is and what exactly are the benefits of power pumping. It is also critical to know when not to do it.
Find out if you can benefit from this method of pumping. Read on and discover all the power pumping tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your power pumping sessions.
WHAT IS POWER PUMPING?
Simply put, power pumping is a pumping schedule where a mom pumps her breasts frequently during a designated period of time.
Power pumping came about because it is known that cluster feeding stimulates increased milk production. Power pumping is an effective way to simulate a cluster feeding session.
This type of pumping schedule utilizes the concept of supply and demand when it comes to making milk. The more milk that you remove, the more milk your breasts should make.
A baby typically will leave about 20% of the available milk in the breast during an average feeding. The milk that is left behind tells a woman’s body she is making the right amount.
If the breast is completely drained, it sends the message to make more milk. Alternatively, if more than 20% of milk is left in the breast, it tells the body to produce less milk.
There are other factors at play with power pumping. When a woman’s breasts are stimulated either from breastfeeding or by using a breast pump, the result is a surge of her prolactin levels.
Prolactin is one of the essential hormones involved in milk production. Milk is made by the alveoli in the breasts. The increased level of prolactin sends a signal to the alveoli in the breasts to produce milk. More surges should result in more milk.
Hormones and removal of milk from the breast are the two primary things that affect milk production. However, making milk is a process that can be affected by many things. So it is not always as simple as saying increased breast stimulation will result in more milk produced.
Many moms who want to produce more milk have found that power pumping can be an effective way to boost milk supply. In my opinion, it is definitely worth trying.
Some people will refer to this popular pumping scheduling technique by a couple of different names.
- Cluster pumping
- Power hour pumping
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM USING THE POWER PUMP METHOD?
The most popular reason is to employ power pumping to increase your milk supply.
Exclusively pumping moms are big fans of this benefit of power pumping.
Mamas who are exclusively pumping do not naturally experience cluster feeding sessions. This group of breastfeeding moms has found using this pumping technique to be especially useful in helping to increase their milk production.
I regularly recommend power pumping to the moms I work with when their baby is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The mamas whose babies are in the NICU may not be able to breastfeed directly. It is also very possible that their baby’s medical condition may result in restrictions on how often they can do skin to skin.
The reality is that a lot of moms experience a temporary decrease in their milk supply. Power pumping can be a quick and effective way to get back on track.
Power pumping is not only helpful for a mom with a low milk supply. There are other reasons for using this pumping routine.
Another benefit of power pumping is that it can also help a nursing mother who is trying to build a freezer stash.
- The mom who is going to be separated from her baby for a couple of days
- The working mom whose breast milk stash is getting low
- A mama who unexpectedly has an opportunity for date night and doesn’t have a breast milk stash (Hint: I recommend every mom have a breast milk stash in her freezer)
Full-time working moms often complain that their milk supply starts to decrease as the week goes on. If this is happening to you, it may be helpful to do some power pumping to get your production back up.
If you have a private space, you can use a hands-free pump like the Willow to get your power pumping session in while you go about your work duties. Not as discreet but also helpful is to use a hands-free pumping bra with a nursing cover.
POWER PUMP RESULTS
While every mom is different most women will see results from the more frequent pumping within 24 to 48 hours.
I encourage you to be patient, though. I would commit to trying to get one power pumping session a day for at least a week before making a decision about whether or not it is effective.
How much of an increase in your milk production you should expect is impossible to predict. It may be a dramatic increase, or it may be a more modest increase.
Don’t compare your results to other mothers. Some women can use all the tricks and hacks to increase supply, and nothing will work. Other moms can practically just look at their pump, and they’ll start producing more milk.
How much you can pump after a feeding does not necessarily mean you don’t have an adequate milk production. If your baby is gaining weight at a normal rate, then you make enough milk.
SAMPLE POWER PUMP SCHEDULE
The reason that it is sometimes called power hour breast pumping is that pumping several times during an hour is one of the most common methods of this pumping technique.
There are, however, a variety of ways to power pump.
- Pump for ten to fifteen minutes every hour for about four hours. If you are directly breastfeeding your baby, you probably will not want to pick this option unless you are not with your baby for several hours.
- Sample schedule: Pump at 7 am, 8 am, 9 am, and 10 am.
- Pump for ten minutes, then rest for ten minutes and repeat for one hour.
- Sample schedule: Start pumping at 2 pm.
- 2 pm – 2:10 > pump
- 2:10 – 2:20 > rest
- 2:20 – 2:30 > pump
- 2:30 – 2:40 >rest
- 2:40 – 2:50 > pump
- 2:50 – 3:00 > rest
- 3:00 – 3:10 > pump
- Sample schedule: Start pumping at 2 pm.
- You can also multitask while power pumping. You can watch a television program for an hour and pump during the commercials. This is one of my favorite power pumping tips. It is tailored to the mom who doesn’t want to constantly be looking at the clock or setting a timer.
Power pumping can be time-consuming. And what mom is not busy? In most situations, I recommend trying to power pump no more than once a day.
The mama whose baby is in the NICU may want to try to schedule two power pumping sessions a day if she is not making enough milk.
BEST TIME TO POWER PUMP
Breast milk production is usually highest in the very early morning hours. However, most moms don’t want to spend an hour pumping in the middle of the night.
Try to take advantage of your increased prolactin levels in the morning hours at a more civilized hour. If possible, choose a time when your baby typically goes for a long stretch between feedings to do your power pumping session.
Whether you are power pumping or just pumping regularly, you always want to make sure that you don’t take food away from your baby’s next meal.
POWER PUMPING TIPS AND TRICKS
- If you suspect you have a low milk supply, I urge you to confirm that is the case before trying to power pump. In our current era of oversharing on social media, it is easy to feel like your level of milk production is inadequate because you see so many other moms post pictures of freezers that are overflowing with their pumped milk.
- One of the most important tips I want to share is to work with a lactation consultant to determine if you really have a low milk supply and what the reason for it might be.
- Using a hands-on pumping technique has been shown in research studies to result in increased milk production (Source).
- Using a LaVie Lactation Massager can help you get out more milk during your pumping session.
- You can pump into the same bottles during a power pumping session. Breast milk stays good at room temperature for at least an hour, so you don’t have to use a new bottle every time you pump.
- Power pumping means more time using your pump, which means that you will need to replace parts more often. This is incredibly important for your breast pump to function optimally.
- If you are a mother who is directly breastfeeding, you will probably want to avoid power pumping when your baby is experiencing a growth spurt.
- Don’t get locked into the times you see for pumping and resting. If you can only pump for five minutes two or three times in an hour, it will still send the message to your breasts to ramp up that milk production.
- Consider using a hands-free pump like the Willow Wearable Pump or a hands-free pumping bra like Simple Wishes.
- The Simple Wishes Sling bra is a well-made bra with hands-free pumping built right into the design.
- Don’t get hung up on rules. While power pumping will be most effective if done on consecutive days, try to remember that any increased breast stimulation should help you make more milk.
- Make sure you have a water bottle when you sit down to power pump. Having some snacks nearby is a good idea too.
- Don’t get discouraged if you see you are pumping less as you get close to the end of your power pumping session. That is pretty common.
- If you are using power pumping to increase supply I encourage you to keep a pumping log for your power pumping sessions. Sometimes milk production increase slowly, and having a chart will enable you to see progress. If you are into visuals, you can make a graph.
While power pumping to boost milk supply can be effective, combining it with other methods to increase milk supply can improve your results.
WHO SHOULD NOT USE POWER PUMPING?
Power pumping is not for everyone. Some mamas should avoid it.
- If you are experiencing sore nipples or any nipple trauma, the additional stimulation is likely to make it worse.
- A mom who has an oversupply problem because the additional stimulation will make that problem worse.
- While pumping frequently can help milk supply, the reality is that doing a lot of pumping is crazy-making for some mamas. If you are a mom who already feels very stressed by the pumping you are already doing, then power pumping may not be right for you.
- Moms who are triple feeding often express feeling overwhelmed by the routine. Asking a mother like this to do even more pumping could push her in the direction of just giving up.
- If power pumping makes you feel discouraged by the amounts that you are pumping it might be better to try other ways to increase your milk supply.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BENEFITS OF POWER PUMPING
If you find yourself struggling to make enough milk or trying to build a stash of breast milk in your freezer, power pumping could very well be the answer.
Be flexible and patient, and you hopefully will see some good results from your power pumping efforts.
Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC
Andrea has been working with new families as an RN for over 35 years and a Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.
She has her MA in Health and Wellness with a focus in Lactation.