Power Pumping 101: Can It Save Your Milk Supply?
Power pumping 101: how this pumping schedule can increase your low milk supply fast. Learn how to power pump, what it is, and why it works in this ultimate guide!
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Almost every breastfeeding woman has searched for ways to increase her milk supply at least once. These days, there are tons of resources available on the internet. From support groups and affordable e-courses, to supplement recommendations, you can find a ton of information to help you on your breastfeeding journey.
No one said breastfeeding would be easy. In fact, you’ve probably heard women talking about how difficult it is, and how much dedication and will it takes to breastfeed.
But no one can truly prepare you for just how hard it really is.
If you think you’re experiencing signs that your milk supply is decreasing and you want to increase your supply fast, power pumping may just be your saving grace!
There have been several times where power pumping saved my milk supply, taking me from the point of barely producing enough milk for my son, to creating more than I knew what to do with. If you’re interested in learning the ins and outs of power pumping, this full guide will walk you through everything you need to know about why power pumping works, and how to do it.
Power Pumping 101: How To Increase Your Milk Supply
What Is Power Pumping?
Power pumping, (also known as cluster pumping) is the method of pumping breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, in the attempt of mimicking cluster feeding. This is done to increase milk supply in lactating mothers.
Breastfeeding moms, whether they exclusively pump or put the baby to the breast, have found this method to be beneficial in providing a boost in their milk supply, much like what they would experience if their baby were cluster feeding.
Power pumping sends signals to your body that tell it to produce more breast milk ASAP. Often times it triggers multiple letdowns as well!
When To Power Pump
Most moms resort to power pumping when they notice a dip in their supply.
You can power pump any time, day or night.
While many lactation consultants may tell you not to pump before 6 weeks postpartum, there are exceptions to every rule. This is generally recommended for moms with babies who are breastfeeding normally and frequently. When your baby is around 6 weeks old, your milk supply typically regulates, and it’s said that pumping before 6 weeks (on top of breastfeeding a baby with a perfect latch) may create an oversupply.
I pumped the day my son was born because he wasn’t latching often enough, and kept falling asleep at the breast. I power pumped to mimic the cluster feeding he should have been doing during this time, in an effort to help my milk come in and establish a great supply right off the bat. I also power pumped any time I noticed a dip in my supply, or I wanted to give myself a boost, especially during my periods, which sadly returned at 4 months postpartum.
In short, it doesn’t matter what time of day you power pump. If your baby exclusively breastfeeds, you might consider power pumping immediately after a nursing session, so the baby gets full first. Alternatively, you could pump during your baby’s nap or a longer stretch of sleep at night.
Depending on your situation, you may or may not want to wait until your baby is 6 weeks old to pump, but aside from that, you can power pump whenever. I personally found it helpful to power pump during the time of day where I knew I typically produced less breast milk, to send signals to my body to produce more around that time in the days to come.
Many women produce the most breast milk early in the morning, and less milk during the evening, and babies do tend to cluster feed during the evening more, perhaps to prepare for longer stretches of sleep at night. For this reason, you may find it most helpful to power pump in the evening, but again, it’s not a big deal. Other moms will recommend that you power pump in the morning, when your supply is the highest. It depends on who you ask.
How To Power Pump
Power Pumping Schedule:
- Pump for 20 minutes
- Rest for 10 minutes
- Pump for 10 minutes
- Rest for 10 minutes
- Pump for 10 minutes
Done! Total time needed for a power pumping session: one hour/60 minutes.
There are a few variations of the power pumping schedule, but this is the most commonly recommended schedule, and it’s the one I’ve found to be the most effective.
When you’re struggling to produce enough breast milk, or you simply want to give yourself a boost in milk production, it’s usually recommended that you power pump once a day for 3 days, keeping a close eye on your production. If you don’t see enough of a boost, or you want to produce even more, power pump up to twice a day for another few days. By then you should most certainly see results, unless your pump is not effective. (More on that below.)
Remember never to skip a feeding to power pump. Work you power pumping to fit in around your baby’s feeding schedule. Provided your baby has a good latch, breastfeeding is much more effective at removing milk and increasing your milk supply than pumping is.
The Best Breast Pump For Power Pumping
The best breast pump for power pumping is a double electric pump. If you’re using a single electric pump, you basically have to eliminate the rest periods, because during those times you’ll be pumping the other breast.
La Leche League recommends using a double pump over a single electric pump for several reasons. Beyond the fact that it saves you time, La Leche League claims,
“Double pumping also provides very strong stimulation to keep a good milk supply. Prolactin, which is an important hormone for making milk, becomes very elevated when mothers double pump.”
How To Power Pump with a Manual Pump or Single Electric Pump
Though it’s usually not as effective or preferred, you can power pump with a manual pump or a single electric pump if it’s all you have! Instead of following the schedule above, you should do the following.
Power Pumping Schedule for Single Electric or Manual Pump:
- Pump left breast for 10 minutes
- Pump right breast for 10 minutes
- Pump left breast for 10 minutes
- Pump right breast for 10 minutes
- Pump left breast for 10 minutes
- Pump right breast for 10 minutes
Essentially you’re still power pumping for one hour, and allowing each breast “rest time.” But because you’re using a manual or single electric pump, you have to continuously pump the entire 60 minutes, switching sides every 10 minutes.
Power Pumping Results
Why Power Pumping Works
The number one way to increase and maintain a healthy milk supply is to consistently stimulate and remove milk from the breasts, whether through pumping, breastfeeding, or hand expression.
Drops, supplements, nutrition, and water intake all play an important role in maintaining milk supply as well, but removing milk is the absolute, number one best way to increase and maintain your supply.
This is why women experience issues with low milk supply when their baby isn’t latching correctly, when their pump parts don’t fit their breasts, or when they skip out on feedings. All of these things mean that milk is not being removed efficiently, which lowers your supply and leaves you feeling defeated. Once you start falling down the rabbit hole, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of not producing enough.
Trust me, I’ve been there.
When you pump, breastfeed, or hand express, you’re telling your body that it needs to produce more milk to keep up with your baby’s needs, but it must be done efficiently. Your baby may latch for hours on end and you’ll still notice your supply tanking if their latch is bad. You may pump for hours and hours each day to no avail if your pump is not effectively removing milk day after day.
When Will Your Milk Increase After Power Pumping
Some women see results from power pumping in as little as one day, and others need a week or more of consistent power pumping sessions to notice an increase in their milk supply.
Power pumping may not yield results during the initial hour of pumping, but it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll see an increase at some point if you stay consistent and you’re pumping effectively.
Don’t expect to produce more milk during your first power pumping hour, though it can certainly happen! The main reasoning behind power pumping is that you’re telling your body it needs to pick up the pace and produce more in the upcoming days.
What To Do If It’s Not Working
First you’ll need to assess whether or not power pumping truly isn’t working for you. I wouldn’t pass it off as a failure until you’ve been power pumping twice a day for at least a week. Of course, if your supply is tanking horribly, and getting worse every day, you’ll need to take action faster than that.
If you’re still not seeing results after a week of consistent power pumping, it’s time to take a look at some possible reasons why.
1. Make sure your pump parts are in working order, and that they fit correctly.
When was the last time you replaced your pump parts? They need to be swapped out every few months! As they get worn down, they naturally become less effective at pumping milk!
I used the Medela pump with my first born, and I was able to easily order new pump parts through Amazon Prime, and have them within a day or two! I imagine you can order replacement pump parts for just about any pump through Amazon.
Parts that sound be replaced include the tubing, and more importantly, the valves and membranes.
Some women also notice a huge increase in milk output by switching to duckbill valves! It worked for me! Just make sure the ones you order are compatible with your pump. The ones I linked to above are compatible with several different brands.
If your pump itself is over a year old and new parts aren’t cutting it, you may consider getting a new pump altogether.
My top two electric pump recommendations are the Medela Pump in Style, and the Spectra s2. I’ve also heard great things about the Medela Sonata, though I haven’t personally used one.
2. Eliminate any habits that may be negatively affecting your supply.
Take a closer look at your habits. Are you drinking enough water? Are your drinking alcohol too frequently? Are you smoking?
Smoking and drinking alcohol can lower your supply. Some women notice an increase in their supply when they drink dark beer, while others notice no difference, or even a negative impact. Not drinking enough water can kill your supply as well. Make sure you’re fueling your body with plenty of nutrients and fluids, and avoid things that you suspect may be hurting your supply.
3. Take a closer look at any supplements you’re taking, and try something else instead.
What works for increasing one woman’s milk supply may cause another woman’s supply to tank. We all react differently to supplements. For a very long time it was assumed that Fenugreek increases and supports milk supply, like that found in Mother’s Milk tea.
Now it’s recommended with a disclaimer by lactation consultants, because they’re well aware that it can actually impact some women’s supplies negatively.
If you’re taking supplements, talk with a lactation consultant, or discontinue use for a few days to see if your supply goes up! Or, try a different supplement, like these drops that I swear by.
4. Are you following all the pumping golden rules?
- Try a warm compress
- Massage your breasts while pumping
- Make sure your flanges are the correct size and fit
- Don’t skip pumping sessions
5. Stick it out and try pumping longer for a second or third letdon
Even if you’re sure your breasts are emptied, just give it a try. Sometimes you’ll surprise yourself by having another letdown, or even two!
6. Try hand expressing after your power pumping session
If you want to be a real go-getter, you can even try hand expressing for 10 minutes after your power pumping session. It can be messy and difficult to get the hang of at first, but once you know how to hand express breast milk, you might be able to get another letdown that you may have otherwise missed.
Many women have found hand expression after pumping sessions increases their milk production even more because it’s a different kind of stimulation. In fact, some prefer hand expression over pumping altogether!
7. When all else fails, talk to a lactation consultant
Remember, some women simply don’t respond well to pumps, or to certain brands and flange shapes. As if breastfeeding wasn’t hard enough, right?
A lactation consultant will be able to tell you if your flanges are the right size and shape, if you’re using the pump correctly, and what steps you need to take to get your milk supply back on track.
Tips For Power Pumping
1. Get comfortable
Set up a comfortable spot where you plan on having your power pumping sessions. If you’re using a manual pump, your hands are going to be tied up for an hour straight, and if you’re using an electric pump, you’ll be stuck to the outlet for 60 minutes.
So go ahead and make yourself comfortable! Grab a snack and a big glass of water, and make sure you have the tv remote nearby. Watch an episode of your favorite show and try to not stress about how much milk you produce. You’ll be more likely to have a letdown if your stress levels stay low.
2. Create a pumping basket
I always recommend putting together a breastfeeding or pumping basket. It’s convenient, it’s a great way to stay organized, and it’s nice to have everything within arm’s reach!
Here are the things I usually recommend for a nursing/pumping basket:
- A basket (preferably one with different compartments, like this one)
- Nursing Pads
- Nipple Balm
- Haakaa (This will only be necessary if you’re using a manual or single electric pump. Don’t waste any milk!)
- Reusable Water Bottle
- Lactation Support Drops (always be aware that different people respond differently to fenugreek and blessed thistle.)
- A Book or Magazine
- Burp Cloths
- Phone Charger
- Pump Parts
3. Get a hands-free bra
Hands-free bras are a lifesaver! To be honest with you, I’ve never bought one. I’ve only made my own out of old sports bras by snipping little holes for the pump parts to fit into.
If you’d rather have a legit pumping bra, I’ve heard great things about this one.
But think about it. Wouldn’t you rather have your hands free to look through your phone or read a book during that grueling hour of pumping? Heck yeah! Plus, if you try to prop your pump on your knee or something, you may push into your breast too much, blocking the way for more milk to make its way out.
4. Stay hydrated
Hydration is key! Make sure you drink plenty of water. Most people don’t drink enough water for the average person, and when you’re breastfeeding, you need even more! So invest in a reusable water bottle, or make sure you have plenty of filtered water around throughout the day.
5. Look at pictures of your baby
Believe it or not, looking at pictures or videos of your baby can increase your milk output! When we see that sweet little baby face, our bodies create oxytocin, which is vital to having strong letdowns.
And as strange as it sounds, I’ve found that watching sappy videos and shows increased my milk supply a ton. I remember the first time it happened, I was totally shocked! I watched a video of a little boy being bullied and I cried my heart out. I looked down a couple of minutes later and saw that I was about to overflow my bottles, which was unusual for me at the time!
So, give that a try too. Watch some Pampers commercials, or This Is Us. That show always gets me.
6. Listen to relaxing music
A study in 2012 found that mothers that listened to relaxing music while pumping produced more milk than those that didn’t. They even had a higher fat content than their counterparts!
It’s no surprise, really. It’s why it’s so important to create a relaxing atmosphere while pumping, and to focus your attention on something else when you’re struggling to produce. Stress undoubtedly has a negative impact on a mother’s milk supply.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for power pumping to work?
Some women notice an increase in milk supply as soon as 24 hours after their first power pumping session, while others don’t see an increase for over a week. It varies from woman to woman, and also depends heavily on the effectiveness of the pump, and the consistency in which the mother is pumping.
How long should I pump to increase milk supply?
Power pumping sessions last for 60 minutes, or one hour. Go about the rest of your schedule as you usually would, whether that means exclusively breastfeeding your baby, or pumping every few hours. The number of days you’ll need to power pump will vary. Keep trying until you notice an increase in milk supply.
Can pumping decrease your milk supply?
Pumping, when done correctly, and with well-fitted parts, should not decrease your milk supply. This would only happen if the pump is not effectively removing milk due to faulty parts, or an ill-fitted flange. It’s also important to keep in mind that some women don’t respond well to certain pumps for one reason or another. If milk is not being effectively removed, your milk supply will decrease.
Can I power pump all day?
It’s usually only necessary to power pump twice a day, unless you’re experiencing a super low supply. The best thing to do is speak with a lactation consultant if you feel you need to do it more than twice a day. There isn’t really a reason to power pump all day long, unless you’re trying to re-lactate, or you’re experiencing a super low supply.
If you find that power pumping isn’t helping to increase your supply after a week, you might consider upping the daily number of power pumps.
Can milk supply drop one day?
Yes, your milk supply can drop suddenly in one day. This usually happens if you miss a pumping or nursing session the day before, or if your milk is regulating to match what it thinks you need to produce. Some women also notice a drop from stress, their period, being away from their baby, and a number of other factors. But remember, it’s all supply and demand, and your supply can be saved!
Is power pumping effective?
Yes, it can be. There is no magical method or cure for low milk supply that works for all women across the board. Everyone responds differently to certain techniques, supplements, and pumps.
Can pumping stimulate milk production?
Absolutely! The suction alone (without a letdown) can send signals to your body to produce more milk in the upcoming days, but removing milk is preferred. You’ll need to make sure that your pump is in working order, and that your flanges are the right size and shape in order for it to be most effective.
Can power pumping hurt supply?
No, there’s no reason power pumping should hurt your supply in any way, unless you’re skipping feedings. Again, make sure your pump is in working order, and that it’s the right size and fit for your breasts, and you’ll be good to go!
What is the best time to do power pumping?
You will receive different answers depending on who you ask. Some people recommend power pumping in the morning, when most women’s supplies are the highest. Others recommend power pumping in the evening or nighttime, when your supply dips.
The time of day isn’t very important. What matters more is that you power pump after feeding your baby. It should always come secondary to breastfeeding, as your baby is the best at removing milk (if their latch is good).
Did power pumping work for you? What have you found is most effective for boosting your milk supply? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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Thank you so much for this article!
I’m mom to a preemie baby, and breastfeeding was difficult at first since he couldn’t latch at all until he was one month old… until then I had to exclusively pump… there was a point in which my supply was almost drained. That’s when I started power pumping and it’s been one of the things that saved our breastfeeding relationship.