What Is Power Pumping And What Does It Do For You?
Power pumping is a method used by breastfeeding moms to boost their milk supply. With this method, you are emptying out your breasts by pumping breast milk very frequently in a short amount of time.
Basically, you are simulating the process of a baby cluster feeding. This is why power pumping is also known as cluster pumping.
Why is cluster pumping an effective method to increase your milk supply?
Breastfeeding is entirely based on supply and demand. The more milk that is sucked out of your breast, (either by your baby or a breast pump), the more milk your body will produce. By emptying out your breasts frequently in a short amount of time, you are telling your body that it has to produce more. Your power pumping results – an increased breast milk supply.
The increased demand placed on your breasts tricks your body into producing more breastmilk. This is done by pumping or hand expressing milk during a 1-hour power pump session. Do keep in mind that cluster pumping happens in addition to your regular breastfeeding sessions.
Power Pumping To Increase Milk Supply
The power pumping sessions increase demand, thereby stimulating greater supply.
During the days and weeks after you give birth, it is normal to have an oversupply of milk. You will likely have episodes of engorgement. However, as you and your baby get into the breastfeeding routine, your supply regulates itself. In fact, your milk supply will probably decrease. However, the decrease is only relative to the oversupply you once had.
Other factors will also play a role in lower milk supply, like hormones. Ovulation and menstruation can also cause a brief drop in your milk supply. There are also several other things like stress, lack of sleep, certain medications, etc that can cause a dip in your milk supply.
But there are several easy ways to boost your milk supply once it has taken a drop. Cluster pumping is just one.
How To Power Pump
- You will need a breast pump and commitment. A breast pump bra is not compulsory, but it would make your life a lot easier!
- You will need at least 1 hour a day, for approximately 3-7 days (depending on your power pumping results). Power pumping is done in addition to your regular feedings and/or pumping.
- Plan your cluster pumping schedule ahead of time. For best results, try to power pump in the morning since most women’s milk supplies are higher in the morning.
- Try to plan your power pump right after feeding your baby. Most moms find this effective because you will have enough time to produce more milk before your baby’s next feeding.
The Power Pumping Schedule
Your goal with power pumping breast milk is to trick your body into producing more milk. That being the case, you will want to completely empty out your breasts every time you are pumping and nursing.
Your power pumping schedule is based on the theory that a breast is typically emptied after 10-20 minutes of pumping or breastfeeding. (Incidentally–a baby can empty out a breast much more efficiently than a breast pump can.)
Below are two options. Regardless of the schedule you choose, you will follow your normal pumping and nursing routine. To boost or at least maintain your milk supply, its important to breastfeed on demand.
Power Pumping Schedule – Optimal Method
Set aside one uninterrupted hour.
If you’re nursing, try to plan your power pump session after you have nursed your baby, allowing your body enough time to produce milk for his/her next feeding.
- Pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes.
- Pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes.
- Pump for 10 minutes.
Some moms can expect results within 3 days from starting. Other moms may need to keep it up for 4-7 days.
Power Pumping Schedule – Low On Time Method
If an uninterrupted hour is too much of a commitment for you, you can try the following:
- simply add 10 minutes to your regular pumping session, or;
- try to squeeze in an additional pumping session or two into your day.
By adding the extra pumping sessions, this may be enough to signal to your body that it needs to produce more milk.
Please keep in mind – every person is different. If you find that the “low on time method” is not giving you the milk supply boost you needed, you may need to go with the “optimal method.”
Once you have reached your desired level of breast milk supply, you can stop your daily power pumping sessions.
Relactation is also known as induced lactation. Essentially, it is the process of developing (or redeveloping) a milk supply. Relactation usually applies to:
- moms who did not give birth to their baby – adopted babies; or
- moms who are trying to rebuild their milk supply after weaning their babies.
Developing a milk supply requires nipple stimulation. This can be done through a combination of nursing your baby, hand expression, and of course – pumping. However, a relactation schedule is different from a power pumping schedule.
How To Relactate?
Whether you are the mom of an adopted baby or you are relactating after weaning, you will want to pump as often as you would nurse a newborn baby.
According to Breastfeeding Support, you need to “pump or hand express at least eight to twelve times per day for 20-30 minutes so that you’re pumping every two to three hours during the day and once or twice at night.” (Breastfeeding Support is a resource provided by Philippa Pearson-Glaze – An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).
The more often you can pump, nurse or express, the quicker your milk supply will respond.
Does Power Pumping Work?
It is a big commitment, especially for a tired mom with a baby. However, if you are diligent, power pumping is effective. Many moms swear by it.
On rare occasions, there are some moms who don’t see results at all. You have to give it at least seven days before throwing in the towel.
Think You Have A Low Supply? Questions To Ask Before You Start Power Pumping
If your baby is drinking directly from your breasts, you can’t tell how much milk he/she is actually drinking. This being the case, it can be tempting to use the size of your own breasts as a measurement tool in determining if your milk supply is adequate. Don’t do that.
In the first week or so after your baby was born, your breasts may have felt extremely full, especially if you were engorged. However, your breasts will typically soften and become less full over time. Softer breasts do not mean you have a low milk supply. It simply means your breasts have naturally adjusted to your baby’s feeding needs.
Instead of worrying about whether you have enough milk, look to your baby to determine if you’re making enough milk. Your baby’s health, not your breast, will be your number one indicator on whether he/she is getting enough milk.
Is Your Baby Gaining Weight As Expected?
Be careful not to look at weight in the first few weeks of your baby’s life as a measure of nutrition. Most babies will typically lose around 7% of their body weight in those first few days of life. This is normal. They will gain it back within two weeks. Your baby will not lose weight again after that.
Your baby should be gaining around 6-8 ounces per week over the first 4 months. They will typically gain 4-6 ounces per week between 4-7 months.
Your pediatrician will closely monitor your infant’s weight at their well-visits and sick-baby appointments. If the pediatrician is concerned about your baby’s weight gain, this may be a reason for you to worry about your milk supply.
Is Your Baby Wetting Diapers?
Wet diapers are a daily indication of hydration. If you are concerned about your milk supply, check how many dirty diapers your baby makes and the color of the urine.
Babies typically only make a couple of wet diapers in the first few days of drinking thick colostrum, but they’ll start wetting at least six diapers a day as breastfeeding regulates over that first week. Your baby’s urine should be clear or pale yellow. Darker urine may be a sign of dehydration that you should definitely discuss with your baby’s pediatrician.
Is Your Baby Fussy?
If your baby always needs to be pacified or swaddled to fall asleep, or it is not easy to calm him/her down, your baby may not be getting enough milk. Do check with your doctor.
Chart Your Breastfeeding Journey
For your peace of mind, keep a journal of your baby’s feeds. Your doctor or lactation specialist will be better able to assist you if they have a detailed log of how often and how long your baby feeds, any supplementation with formula/baby foods, and your medication and nutrition history while breastfeeding.
Note From The Author
Cluster pumping is just one method to help increase your milk supply. You have lots of options.
You could change your diet. There are lots of galactagogues available from your local supermarket. Galactagogues are foods and supplements that help to boost your milk supply.
There are also lots of other easy things you can do that are less of a commitment than power pumping.