Power pumping is the quick-fire solution for Moms who are looking to spike their breast milk production and achieve near immediate results.
Many women love this method as it negates the need for a change in diet, supplementation, or any longer-term changes to their lifestyle.
It is quite extraordinary how quickly your body can respond when challenged in the correct way.
In this post we will give you all you need to know to understand how and when to power pump, what tools you will need, and what risks are involved.
What is Power Pumping?
Power pumping is a short term means of increasing breast milk production by just using a normal breast pump. As the name implies, this method is more intense than regular pumping.
Rather than pumping periodically throughout the day, you will set aside one hour to pump intensely for about 30 to 40 minutes in order to drain your breasts quickly and trick your body into thinking it needs to produce more milk quickly.
Why It Works
Breast milk is produced on a supply and demand basis; this is how your body knows exactly how much to make for your baby.
As your little one drains your breasts, the amount of milk they drink is replaced in relatively the same volume and at the same pace.
If your breasts are not drained efficiently or just not often enough, your body may start sending signals to your mammary glands, telling them they don’t need to produce as much milk.
This can lead to a drop in supply or delays in milk letdown.
Power pumping will push you to the brink of emptiness and continue to red line your supply, creating those opposing signals that more milk is needed.
Why Power Pump?
Power pumping is one of the most effective and convenient methods of increasing milk supply quickly.
One of the main reasons is because it replicates cluster feeding. This is when your baby is frequently on and off the breast, typically for shorter and more intense feeding times than normal.
These periods of cluster feeding typically occur around the time of a growth spurt.
Mothers who feed on demand – putting their babies to the breast whenever they show signs of hunger – often find that their milk supply increases when they go through phases of cluster feeding.
This is because the breast is drained on a more frequent basis, signaling the body to produce more milk quickly.
While cluster feeding is baby-led, power pumping is prompted by the mother as a more purposeful means of draining the breast quickly in order to trigger the rapid and increased production of milk.
Power pumping is also convenient for most mothers since it doesn’t take a long-term commitment and does not need to replace an already established routine.
You only need to set aside an hour of your day for a few days in order to power pump and increase your supply; it is easy enough to fit that into your already established breastfeeding or pumping schedule.
What Kind of Pump Do You Need?
For the best results, you will want to use an electric pump when power pumping, ideally one that allows you to pump both sides at once.
If you are power pumping due to a lopsided supply, you may only need to pump one side at a time; however, it is still nice to have the option to do both if you ever need it.
Pump strength is not a big concern with power pumping.
Though power pumping is defined as the rapid draining of the breasts in order to increase milk supply, that simply refers to the frequency between pumping sessions, not necessarily the amount of time you are spending with the pump on the breast.
You are going to be focusing on pumping at a steady pace, simulating the way your baby feeds naturally.
If you are trying to up the strength thinking you will get more out quickly (draining in 5 minutes rather than 10), you will likely just end up causing damage to your nipples and not draining your breasts efficiently.
Manual pumps can be used, but they are not ideal.
During your power pumping sessions, you will be pumping on both sides for 10 to 20 minutes at a time.
That’s a long time to use a manual pump, most likely leading to fatigue and reluctance to continue the power pumping process.
If you already have a pump at home, you will want to make sure that pump and all of its parts are up to date. Just like any other machine, motor parts can wear out.
Infrequent or improper cleaning can also lead to buildup of milk in the pump or tubing, which will in turn limit the suction.
Breast pumps should have their parts inspected regularly; ideally, valves, membranes, and tubing should be replaced every 3 to 6 months.
It may be a good idea to just replace your pump altogether if it is over a year old.
How to Do It and for How Long
For the best results, you will need to set aside a full hour to dedicate to a power pumping session.
While this may sound exhausting and somewhat boring, the good news is that power pumping is typically only a short term means to increasing milk supply.
If you incorporate these power pumping methods into your regular breastfeeding routine, it is likely that one session per day for two or three days will generate results. However, some mothers may choose to incorporate more depending on the pumping schedule they choose to use.
There are a couple of different schedules most mothers go by when they start to power pump.
- Pump for 20 minutes
- Rest for 10 minutes
- Pump for 10 minutes
- Rest for 10 minutes
- Pump for 10 minutes
- Total: 60-minute session (40 minutes on, 20 minutes off)
This is the most commonly used power pumping method. It can be repeated once or twice daily.
- Pump for 5 minutes
- Rest for 5 minutes
- Pump for 5 minutes
- Rest for 5 minutes
- Pump for 5 minutes
- Total: 25-minute session
This method doesn’t require as much time at each sitting, but you will need to commit to multiple sessions per day. You can do as many as 5 or 6 within a 24-hour period.
These schedules are merely guidelines (though the first one tends to yield the best results for most mothers).
As long as you are committing to at least 50% of your power pumping session spent in active pumping, you can choose an interval that works best for you.
As previously stated, it’s usually best to pump both breasts at the same time unless you are pumping due to a lopsided supply.
Once you notice an increase in supply, return to your normal schedule of breastfeeding or pumping. If you start to notice a drop in your supply, you can start to power pump again.
How to Stay Comfortable
An hour of breast pumping can really drag by; it’s easy to get antsy, bored, or uncomfortable before you are finished.
You will want to be prepared for your power pumping sessions in order to make things a bit easier on yourself, leaving little room for unwanted interruptions.
Set Up Your Pumping Station
First and foremost, have a specific place in your home that you pump. If you are pumping regularly, you may already have this set up.
It should be somewhat isolated, away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the house, where you can relax without distractions.
Keep your pumping station well stocked.
This means having a picture of your baby nearby to stir up those motherly hormones, nipple cream to soothe any discomforts due to dry pumping, nursing cover if you want to stay covered for any unexpected guests, snacks, water, and maybe a book or magazine.
You can even keep a pair of headphones or even a Bluetooth speaker nearby to listen to relaxing music.
Dress for Convenience
A hands-free bra is a great investment for any pumping mother, especially one who is considering power pumping.
Holding your pump on both breasts for 10 to 20 minutes straight can be exhausting.
Plus, you want to have your hands free to hold your reading material, phone, snack, water, or anything else that will keep you occupied.
Choosing the right wardrobe can also make a difference.
You don’t want to be fighting with a tight-fitting shirt or lifting your dress up to your shoulders just so you can get your pump attached.
Instead, choose your outfits with power pumping in mind.
There are some great clothing lines that offer tops specifically designed for pumping and breastfeeding mothers.
These usually have some sort of hidden flaps that move aside to expose the breast so that you don’t have to lift your shirt.
Some mothers may not want to buy a special wardrobe that only works while they are breastfeeding.
For these women, there are also some practical, everyday pieces you likely already have in your closet that will work.
Button down blouses allow you to expose just enough to pump while remaining covered.
Flowy tunic tops or loose dresses worn with leggings may also give you enough room to pump underneath your clothes.
Of course, if you don’t want to think about what you have to wear in order to pump, a nursing cover up is always a good fallback option.
If your lifestyle doesn’t allow for a designated block of time to dedicate to power pumping, you can achieve similar results by exploring a few other options.
You can try to get your little one to nurse more frequently, manually stimulate your breasts to improve let down, or incorporate different foods and supplements into your diet.
Increase Nursing Frequency
There is no better pump for your milk than your baby. They naturally suck with just the right amount of strength and speed to drain your breasts completely every time.
So, naturally your best option is to nurse more frequently with your baby.
Your milk supply will see the best results when you nurse your baby on demand. As soon as you notice your baby’s hunger signals, put them on the breast.
You may be surprised by how often they are wanting to feed if you ignore the schedule and just focus on their cues.
If they aren’t exhibiting hunger cues very often (some babies are satisfied longer than others), you can allow to suckle at the breast anyways.
They likely won’t refuse, and your body’s hormones should start to react when your baby latches, signaling your milk letdown.
As always, be sure to offer both sides to your baby to keep your production even and drain your breasts completely.
There are a couple ways you can stimulate different areas of your breast in order to increase milk production and promote better flow and drainage.
The first is through hand expression. Breast massage or compressions can help to get the flow started and/or push all of your milk out.
Massage your breasts by starting at the top and moving your hand down with gentle pressure toward your nipple; just imagine that you are physically pushing your milk toward the exit.
You can also try nipple stimulation.
Part of what signals your hormones to release milk (let-down reflex) is the physical latching of your baby. By manually stimulating your nipples before pumping, you can achieve similar results.
Diets and Supplements
You can always try to change up your diet a little bit, especially if you know you aren’t getting enough water or if you are eating unhealthily.
While there is no solid proof that certain foods will increase milk supply, there is a lot to be said for a balanced diet, rich in vegetables, healthy fats, and protein, when it comes to milk production.
A galactagogue like fenugreek may also help.
There is little scientific evidence behind its usefulness, but countless mothers swear by it after noticing an increase in their milk supply by adding these herbs to their diet.
The first thing to be aware of is that power pumping is only for mothers who truly have low milk supply or are looking to only temporarily increase their supply with the intention to drain and store it quickly.
Power pumping when you already have a good milk supply can lead to oversupply, which comes with its own risks.
Engorgement and swelling can be very painful for you, possibly even leading to breast infection (mastitis).
It can also make it more difficult to pump or get your baby to latch due to the shape of your breast(s).
Improper pumping can cause a lot of wear and tear on your nipples, particularly when you are pumping for longer periods of time during a power pumping session.
Suction strength can be a big factor when it comes to nipple damage associated with breast pumping.
You can minimize the risk by moderating the suction level to a more sustainable setting that can be maintained for longer periods of time without damaging your skin.
Be sure you keep your nipples lubricated as well. Unlike with breastfeeding, when you have your baby’s saliva and milk backwash keeping your nipples moist, frequent and/or intense breast pumping can leave them very dry and prone to cracking as they are stretched during your pumping sessions.
Nipple balm and lanolin cream before and after pumping can help minimize dryness.
You can also hand express and massage a little bit of milk onto your nipples before and after, or you can apply a cool, moist cloth after your pumping session.
Power Pumping vs Cluster Pumping
You may hear the terms “power pumping” and “cluster pumping” used interchangeably, but there is a slight difference between the two.
Power pumping is kind of the equivalent of getting the best bang for your buck.
You pump intensely for longer periods of time in one sitting (10-20 minutes on, 10 minutes off, one hour per day), but it’s only one sitting per day.
Cluster pumping is an alternative method for increasing your breast milk supply that is easier on your body, but more time consuming.
It requires that you pump for 5 to 10 minutes every half an hour over the course of 3 hours.
The longer breaks gives your body more recovery time and reduces the intense pressure on your skin.
It also allows more time for your body to produce milk in between sessions.
The downside being that it will require a much more significant time commitment.
Both methods yield similar results; ultimately, it is up to you to decide which works better with your usual routine.
Power pumping may be a good choice for mothers who are also breastfeeding while cluster pumping could be better for exclusive pumpers.
Finding the time to do either while you are working full time may be difficult, but it is not impossible.
Power pumping can be a great solution for working mothers looking to increase their supply since they can usually commit to an hour in the morning or evening outside of their work schedule.
Of course, if you have your own private office at work, you can easily do either.
Otherwise, if you want to try to use one of these methods during your normal working hours, you may be able to find flexibility in your schedule to cluster pump for 5-10 minutes every half hour.
Power Pumping FAQs
What if I have no milk?
While it is highly unlikely that you will have no milk at all, there are certain factors that can cause delays in your breast milk coming in shortly after your baby is born.
It may have something to do with the conditions of your birth experience or with underlying medical problems.
In most cases, your milk will eventually come in on its own, but if you want to try to help it along, hand expressing may be a good option for you.
Starting a pumping routine or just latching your baby can also be helpful in stimulating milk letdown.
Keep in mind, many mothers think they have little or no milk at times when in reality this is not the case.
It can be very hard to tell when you are exclusively breastfeeding; your baby may constantly seem hungry but that doesn’t mean they aren’t getting enough milk.
If you are pumping, it is easier to tell right away how much milk you are producing and what you need to do to change it (if anything).
Talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant about any concerns you may have about your breast milk supply.
Can I use a manual pump?
Yes, you can use a manual pump as pump strength is not the main thing you need to worry about with power pumping.
However, since you are pumping both breasts continually for 10-20 minutes as a time, it can become very tiring for you to continuing pumping in this pattern for an hour.
It’s best that you invest in an electric pump is you are looking at power pumping occasionally. But if you are on a budget then we have reviewed the top performing manual breast pumps for you.
Power pumping can be a great solution for any mother who is looking to increaser her supply quickly.
It doesn’t matter if she’s an exclusive breastfeeder, exclusive pumper, or supplementing with both; it doesn’t require a long commitment, which can be ideal for those who are juggling the many responsibilities of motherhood.