Milksta Blog

All About Power Pumping: 14 Questions Answered by a Lactation Specialist

A power pumping momma using electric breast pumps

Just as our preggy journeys aren’t the same, you can expect breastfeeding stories and struggles to look different from mom to mom.

Caffeine and breastfeeding

I should know because I have my own share of struggles, and power pumping became one of the techniques that saved me from resorting to formula feeding.  You see, when I had my firstborn, my postpartum recovery and breastfeeding journey was a breeze. But, with my second child, my story became totally different. Not only did I have a hard time during my pregnancy, but my baby was also diagnosed with lip tie and tongue tie—which made breastfeeding almost impossible. Thankfully, power pumping was a lifesaver. And now, as a Certified Lactation Specialist, I’d love to help you understand what this pumping method means and whether or not it’s ideal for your situation. I’ll be answering 14 frequently asked questions, including:  
  1. What is power pumping?
  2. What’s the difference between power pumping and cluster feeding?
  3. Is power pumping the same as cluster pumping?
  4. Why should I power pump?
  5. Does power pumping really work?
  6. How will I know if I need to power pump?
  7. How do I learn how to power pump?
  8. What does a power pumping schedule look like?
  9. Which schedule and method should I use?
  10. What kind of breast pump is best for power pumping?
  11. How will I know if I’m pumping the right way?
  12. When is power pumping not a good idea?
  13. Should I stop power pumping if I don’t see an increase in my milk supply?
  14. How to make power pumping more effective?
 

What is power pumping?

Power pumping is a breastmilk pumping method that helps encourage your body to produce more milk. It mimics cluster feeding (more on this later), giving your breasts the “demand” signal and triggering its “supply” or milk ejection reflex. As you may already know, your breast milk follows the supply-and-demand system. And with power pumping, you are manually letting the system run its course. [bctt tweet="#Powerpumping mimics #clusterfeeding—giving your breasts the “demand” signal and triggering its “supply” or milk ejection reflex." username="getmilksta"]   Power pumping generally looks like this:
  • You pump your breasts for 20 minutes to 1 hour straight
  • You stop to rest for 10 minutes (it’s advisable to drink a glass of water during this rest period)
  • Pump for 10 minutes
  • Rest for another 10 minutes and hydrate while you wait
  • Pump again for another 10 minutes
  RELATED: Breast Pumping Tips to Increase Your Milk Supply  

What’s the difference between power pumping and cluster feeding?

Power pumping is done with a breast pump, while cluster feeding is done by your baby.  Cluster feeding is normal behavior; it’s a stage babies go through during their first few weeks of breastfeeding and when they’re experiencing growth spurts. Basically, it’s when they breastfeed more frequently over an extended period and with minimal breaksresulting in elevated prolactin levels and increased milk production. It’s this mechanism that power pumping imitates, and it’s why this method works for many breastfeeding women.  

Is power pumping the same as cluster pumping?

These two terms are often interchangeably used, but they’re actually quite different. They differ in terms of the number of times you pump for each session, the rest periods in between each pump, and the length of time that you pump throughout an entire session. You see, in power pumping, you follow a set number of minutes for pumping and another set number of minutes for resting—usually within one hour. With cluster pumping, you randomize both while setting a shorter duration for each pump. And, the entire session takes a total of three hours. Cluster pumping usually produces more breast milk than power pumping, but it’s also seen as more intense and stressful.  

Why should I power pump?

Power pumping and supplementing with natural galactagogues is what I usually recommend to mommas with milk supply and letdown problems usually brought about by their baby’s oral anatomical issues (e.g., lip and tongue ties) or the mom’s breast physiological or anatomical issues (e.g., inverted nipple). Here are some of my reasons:  
  • Power pumping helps you secure breast milk or healthy sustenance for your baby.
  • It could save your breastfeeding journey by establishing supply while the baby is having issues with latching (due to ties or if the baby has a smaller mouth).
  • Breastfeeding helps in developing a stronger bond between you and your child.
  • There are components in human breast milk that you cannot find in formulas.
  • Power pumping may help with building a freezer stash, which reduces anxiety among breastfeeding moms who may need to be away from their baby for certain periods of time.
  • When your baby is sick and doesn’t feed as much, power pumping can help you save your milk for when the baby is ready to feed. It also keeps your milk production going.
  • For moms with preterm infants, power pumping would help a lot in expressing colostrum and breast milk (premature babies normally won't be able to latch right away).
  If you don’t have a problem with lactation and breast milk supply, power pumping isn’t really necessary for you. But, if you find that you cannot provide enough milk for your baby and want to increase your milk supply, power pumping will be worth trying! [bctt tweet="If you find that you cannot provide enough milk for your baby and want to #IncreaseYourMilkSupply, power pumping is worth trying." username="getmilksta"]  

Wanna learn more about Galactagogue-Rich Lactation Drinks?

Visit the Milksta Store

 

Does power pumping really work?

Power pumping works, but there are a few caveats to this. For starters, you need to find the power pumping schedule and method that works for you. Your health status and diet may also contribute to how well you can produce milk. If you’ve undergone breast reduction surgery in the past, it’s possible that power pumping won’t work for you due to the removal of some ducts and glandular tissues crucial to milk production and transportation to the nipples.   RELATED: How to Breastfeed (Best Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms)  

How will I know if I need to power pump?

Before you begin power pumping, you should first investigate why your milk supply is dropping. You should also consider visiting a lactation specialist to get to the bottom of the problem. A lactation consultant will help you determine whether you do have breast milk production issues or you’re simply breastfeeding or pumping in nonoptimal ways. You should also pay attention to the telltale signs that may indicate low breastmilk supply. These include your baby not gaining weight, your baby being very fussy, and the low number of dirty or wet diapers. If you observe these signs, you can try increasing your breastmilk supply with power pumping or you can ask a lactation consultant for help.  

How do I learn how to power pump?

The best way really is to personally (or virtually) ask the help of a certified lactation specialist—someone who can listen to your stories and give you advice based on your unique situation instead of generic stuff that’s meant for the general momma population. But, if you choose to learn on your own, then you should start by choosing the pump you’re most comfortable with (I personally recommend using a double pump since it could increase your prolactin levels by at least 30%). Next, find someplace where you cannot be disturbed and start trying one power pumping schedule (see next section). Find a schedule that suits you, and then keep at it for a couple of days or so.  

What does a power pumping schedule look like?

A commonly used power pumping schedule looks like this:
  • Pump for 20 minutes
  • Rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for 10 minutes
  • Rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for another 10 minutes
  This may work for some moms but not for others, which is why there are a few different schedules and styles you can choose from. For some moms, a slight variation of the mentioned schedule works better. This is what they do:
  • Pump for 20 minutes
  • Rest for half an hour
  • Pump for 2 to 3 minutes (or until milk runs out)
  • Rest for another half hour
  • Pump again for another 2 to 3 minutes (or until the breasts are drained)
  This second schedule has longer rest times in between pumps and is usually dependent on how much milk can be drained during the second and third pumps. The longer rest periods allow for your breasts to have more time to produce milk, while the pumping sessions are dependent on how much milk your breasts still have. Now, here are a few other styles you may want to try:
  • Pumping breasts for 45 to 120 minutes a few times in a day (whenever they can)
  • Pumping breasts for 15 minutes instead of 10 minutes, two or three times in a session
  • Pumping until MER (milk ejection reflex) happens, continue pumping until drained, then resting for 15 minutes before pumping again
  • Pumping every time a momma has access to the breast pump
  You should also note that what pump you use can alter your power pumping schedule, so you will need to adjust accordingly. To show you what I mean, here’s a diagram that shows the difference between using a single pump and a double pump.  

Which schedule and method should I use?

Choose based on what seems suitable for your schedule, your baby’s feeding habits, and what type of breast pump you have on hand. Also, remember that you can only power pump while the baby isn’t feeding directly from your breasts, so opt for a schedule that’s doable while your baby is sleeping or while another caregiver can look after your little one. [bctt tweet="Choose a #pumpingschedule that suits your own sched, your baby’s #feedinghabits, and the type of #breastpump you have." username="getmilksta"]  

What kind of breast pump is best for power pumping?

This depends on which breast pump you’re most comfortable with. An electric pump for both breasts and hands-free bras are what I personally used since they allowed me to express both breasts at the same time and with minimal effort. It’s also good to a try pump with different suction levels and cycle counts, so you could experiment and see what works best for you.  

How will I know if I’m pumping the right way?

The only way you can determine if you’re power pumping the right way is to measure the changes in milk supply that you experience during such a process. Measure how much you produce daily for about a week before you start power pumping. Then, measure how much you produce after you’ve tried power pumping. If you find that your supply increased by a couple of ounces of breast milk in a day, then your efforts are paying off! Power pumping with a double breast pump  

When is power pumping not a good idea?

If you have an abundance of milk, there is no need to power pump. If your baby is developing normally and is getting enough milk from you, you don’t need to power pump. If your baby is cluster feeding, you will also find your breastmilk increasing naturally, so power pumping isn’t necessary at this point either. If you have enough milk for your baby but you still try to power pump, you may just find yourself with engorged breasts, which you don’t want (trust me, they’re painful). Power pump only when there’s a need to do this and only for a few daysand only until your breast milk supply increases. Additionally, I strongly advise against power pumping while you’re experiencing mastitis or clogged milk ducts. Your condition might worsen and cause you a lot of pain! If you’re in pain and unsure how to unclog your nippies, do contact your doctor or lactation consultant as soon as possible.   RELATED: Breastfeeding is Hard but Beautiful (Mama Story by Tatiana)

Should I stop power pumping if I don’t see an increase in breast milk after two to three days?

Results for each mom can be different. Some moms see a significant increase in their milk production after only a couple of days of power pumping. Other moms only see results after power pumping for five to seven days. Don’t get easily discouraged by your results. If you’re not sure whether or not your methods are working, don’t hesitate to contact your lactation consultant or ask help from mommas who’ve also experienced power pumping for their babies. [bctt tweet="Don’t get easily discouraged by your results. If you’re not sure whether or not your methods are working, don’t hesitate to contact your #lactationconsultant." username="getmilksta"]  

How to make power pumping more effective?

To help make power pumping more effective and less stressful, there are a few things you need to remember:  
  • Keep yourself hydrated. You cannot produce milk if you’re dehydrated, so drink a lot of water whenever you can.
  • Find flanges that fit properly. The right-sized flange will help with suction better and can help you pump more efficiently.
  • Invest in a good hands-free bra or hands-free milk collection cups. Take my word for itthey’re a great tool to have when power pumping and even when you’re just pumping.
  • Experiment with different suction levels and intervals.
  • Try massaging your breasts before pumping. This can help unclog your milk ducts and stimulate your breasts to properly release your milk.
  • Use a lubricant for comfort and to alleviate the pain that may be caused by too much friction.
  • Don’t stress too much! Stress can decrease breast milk supply, so try to relax before and while you pump.
  If you find yourself stressing too much about your milk output, try using the sock trick. Use baby socks (or any socks, actually) to cover your breast pump bottles, and just focus on having a good time while you pump. Read a nice book, listen to soothing music, do whatever eases you into a relaxed state.  

I should know because I have my own share of struggles, and power pumping became one of the techniques that saved me from resorting to formula feeding. 

You see, when I had my firstborn, my postpartum recovery and breastfeeding journey was a breeze. But, with my second child, my story became totally different. Not only did I have a hard time during my pregnancy, but my baby was also diagnosed with lip tie and tongue tie—which made breastfeeding almost impossible.

Thankfully, power pumping was a lifesaver. And now, as a Certified Lactation Specialist, I’d love to help you understand what this pumping method means and whether or not it’s ideal for your situation. I’ll be answering 14 frequently asked questions, including:

 

  1. What is power pumping?
  2. What’s the difference between power pumping and cluster feeding?
  3. Is power pumping the same as cluster pumping?
  4. Why should I power pump?
  5. Does power pumping really work?
  6. How will I know if I need to power pump?
  7. How do I learn how to power pump?
  8. What does a power pumping schedule look like?
  9. Which schedule and method should I use?
  10. What kind of breast pump is best for power pumping?
  11. How will I know if I’m pumping the right way?
  12. When is power pumping not a good idea?
  13. Should I stop power pumping if I don’t see an increase in my milk supply?
  14. How to make power pumping more effective?

 

What is power pumping?

Power pumping is a breastmilk pumping method that helps encourage your body to produce more milk. It mimics cluster feeding (more on this later), giving your breasts the “demand” signal and triggering its “supply” or milk ejection reflex.

As you may already know, your breast milk follows the supply-and-demand system. And with power pumping, you are manually letting the system run its course.

#Powerpumping mimics #clusterfeeding—giving your breasts the “demand” signal and triggering its “supply” or milk ejection reflex. Click To Tweet

 

Power pumping generally looks like this:

  • You pump your breasts for 20 minutes to 1 hour straight
  • You stop to rest for 10 minutes (it’s advisable to drink a glass of water during this rest period)
  • Pump for 10 minutes
  • Rest for another 10 minutes and hydrate while you wait
  • Pump again for another 10 minutes

 

RELATED: Breast Pumping Tips to Increase Your Milk Supply

 

What’s the difference between power pumping and cluster feeding?

Power pumping is done with a breast pump, while cluster feeding is done by your baby. 

Cluster feeding is normal behavior; it’s a stage babies go through during their first few weeks of breastfeeding and when they’re experiencing growth spurts. Basically, it’s when they breastfeed more frequently over an extended period and with minimal breaksresulting in elevated prolactin levels and increased milk production.

It’s this mechanism that power pumping imitates, and it’s why this method works for many breastfeeding women.

 

Is power pumping the same as cluster pumping?

These two terms are often interchangeably used, but they’re actually quite different. They differ in terms of the number of times you pump for each session, the rest periods in between each pump, and the length of time that you pump throughout an entire session.

You see, in power pumping, you follow a set number of minutes for pumping and another set number of minutes for resting—usually within one hour. With cluster pumping, you randomize both while setting a shorter duration for each pump. And, the entire session takes a total of three hours.

Cluster pumping usually produces more breast milk than power pumping, but it’s also seen as more intense and stressful.

 

Why should I power pump?

Power pumping and supplementing with natural galactagogues is what I usually recommend to mommas with milk supply and letdown problems usually brought about by their baby’s oral anatomical issues (e.g., lip and tongue ties) or the mom’s breast physiological or anatomical issues (e.g., inverted nipple). Here are some of my reasons:

 

  • Power pumping helps you secure breast milk or healthy sustenance for your baby.
  • It could save your breastfeeding journey by establishing supply while the baby is having issues with latching (due to ties or if the baby has a smaller mouth).
  • Breastfeeding helps in developing a stronger bond between you and your child.
  • There are components in human breast milk that you cannot find in formulas.
  • Power pumping may help with building a freezer stash, which reduces anxiety among breastfeeding moms who may need to be away from their baby for certain periods of time.
  • When your baby is sick and doesn’t feed as much, power pumping can help you save your milk for when the baby is ready to feed. It also keeps your milk production going.
  • For moms with preterm infants, power pumping would help a lot in expressing colostrum and breast milk (premature babies normally won’t be able to latch right away).

 

If you don’t have a problem with lactation and breast milk supply, power pumping isn’t really necessary for you. But, if you find that you cannot provide enough milk for your baby and want to increase your milk supply, power pumping will be worth trying!

If you find that you cannot provide enough milk for your baby and want to #IncreaseYourMilkSupply, power pumping is worth trying. Click To Tweet

 

Wanna learn more about Galactagogue-Rich Lactation Drinks?

Visit the Milksta Store

 

Does power pumping really work?

Power pumping works, but there are a few caveats to this. For starters, you need to find the power pumping schedule and method that works for you. Your health status and diet may also contribute to how well you can produce milk.

If you’ve undergone breast reduction surgery in the past, it’s possible that power pumping won’t work for you due to the removal of some ducts and glandular tissues crucial to milk production and transportation to the nipples.

 

RELATED: How to Breastfeed (Best Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms)

 

How will I know if I need to power pump?

Before you begin power pumping, you should first investigate why your milk supply is dropping. You should also consider visiting a lactation specialist to get to the bottom of the problem.

A lactation consultant will help you determine whether you do have breast milk production issues or you’re simply breastfeeding or pumping in nonoptimal ways.

You should also pay attention to the telltale signs that may indicate low breastmilk supply. These include your baby not gaining weight, your baby being very fussy, and the low number of dirty or wet diapers. If you observe these signs, you can try increasing your breastmilk supply with power pumping or you can ask a lactation consultant for help.

 

How do I learn how to power pump?

The best way really is to personally (or virtually) ask the help of a certified lactation specialist—someone who can listen to your stories and give you advice based on your unique situation instead of generic stuff that’s meant for the general momma population.

But, if you choose to learn on your own, then you should start by choosing the pump you’re most comfortable with (I personally recommend using a double pump since it could increase your prolactin levels by at least 30%). Next, find someplace where you cannot be disturbed and start trying one power pumping schedule (see next section).

Find a schedule that suits you, and then keep at it for a couple of days or so.

 

What does a power pumping schedule look like?

A commonly used power pumping schedule looks like this:

  • Pump for 20 minutes
  • Rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for 10 minutes
  • Rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for another 10 minutes

 

This may work for some moms but not for others, which is why there are a few different schedules and styles you can choose from. For some moms, a slight variation of the mentioned schedule works better. This is what they do:

  • Pump for 20 minutes
  • Rest for half an hour
  • Pump for 2 to 3 minutes (or until milk runs out)
  • Rest for another half hour
  • Pump again for another 2 to 3 minutes (or until the breasts are drained)

 

This second schedule has longer rest times in between pumps and is usually dependent on how much milk can be drained during the second and third pumps. The longer rest periods allow for your breasts to have more time to produce milk, while the pumping sessions are dependent on how much milk your breasts still have.

Now, here are a few other styles you may want to try:

  • Pumping breasts for 45 to 120 minutes a few times in a day (whenever they can)
  • Pumping breasts for 15 minutes instead of 10 minutes, two or three times in a session
  • Pumping until MER (milk ejection reflex) happens, continue pumping until drained, then resting for 15 minutes before pumping again
  • Pumping every time a momma has access to the breast pump

 

You should also note that what pump you use can alter your power pumping schedule, so you will need to adjust accordingly. To show you what I mean, here’s a diagram that shows the difference between using a single pump and a double pump.

 

Which schedule and method should I use?

Choose based on what seems suitable for your schedule, your baby’s feeding habits, and what type of breast pump you have on hand.

Also, remember that you can only power pump while the baby isn’t feeding directly from your breasts, so opt for a schedule that’s doable while your baby is sleeping or while another caregiver can look after your little one.

Choose a #pumpingschedule that suits your own sched, your baby’s #feedinghabits, and the type of #breastpump you have. Click To Tweet

 

What kind of breast pump is best for power pumping?

This depends on which breast pump you’re most comfortable with. An electric pump for both breasts and hands-free bras are what I personally used since they allowed me to express both breasts at the same time and with minimal effort.

It’s also good to a try pump with different suction levels and cycle counts, so you could experiment and see what works best for you.

 

How will I know if I’m pumping the right way?

The only way you can determine if you’re power pumping the right way is to measure the changes in milk supply that you experience during such a process. Measure how much you produce daily for about a week before you start power pumping. Then, measure how much you produce after you’ve tried power pumping.

If you find that your supply increased by a couple of ounces of breast milk in a day, then your efforts are paying off!

Power pumping with a double breast pump

 

When is power pumping not a good idea?

If you have an abundance of milk, there is no need to power pump. If your baby is developing normally and is getting enough milk from you, you don’t need to power pump. If your baby is cluster feeding, you will also find your breastmilk increasing naturally, so power pumping isn’t necessary at this point either.

If you have enough milk for your baby but you still try to power pump, you may just find yourself with engorged breasts, which you don’t want (trust me, they’re painful). Power pump only when there’s a need to do this and only for a few daysand only until your breast milk supply increases.

Additionally, I strongly advise against power pumping while you’re experiencing mastitis or clogged milk ducts. Your condition might worsen and cause you a lot of pain! If you’re in pain and unsure how to unclog your nippies, do contact your doctor or lactation consultant as soon as possible.

 

RELATED: Breastfeeding is Hard but Beautiful (Mama Story by Tatiana)

Should I stop power pumping if I don’t see an increase in breast milk after two to three days?

Results for each mom can be different. Some moms see a significant increase in their milk production after only a couple of days of power pumping. Other moms only see results after power pumping for five to seven days.

Don’t get easily discouraged by your results. If you’re not sure whether or not your methods are working, don’t hesitate to contact your lactation consultant or ask help from mommas who’ve also experienced power pumping for their babies.

Don’t get easily discouraged by your results. If you’re not sure whether or not your methods are working, don’t hesitate to contact your #lactationconsultant. Click To Tweet

 

How to make power pumping more effective?

To help make power pumping more effective and less stressful, there are a few things you need to remember:

 

  • Keep yourself hydrated. You cannot produce milk if you’re dehydrated, so drink a lot of water whenever you can.
  • Find flanges that fit properly. The right-sized flange will help with suction better and can help you pump more efficiently.
  • Invest in a good hands-free bra or hands-free milk collection cups. Take my word for itthey’re a great tool to have when power pumping and even when you’re just pumping.
  • Experiment with different suction levels and intervals.
  • Try massaging your breasts before pumping. This can help unclog your milk ducts and stimulate your breasts to properly release your milk.
  • Use a lubricant for comfort and to alleviate the pain that may be caused by too much friction.
  • Don’t stress too much! Stress can decrease breast milk supply, so try to relax before and while you pump.

 

If you find yourself stressing too much about your milk output, try using the sock trick. Use baby socks (or any socks, actually) to cover your breast pump bottles, and just focus on having a good time while you pump. Read a nice book, listen to soothing music, do whatever eases you into a relaxed state.

 

My final note on power pumping

A mom with increased milk supply smiling at her breastfeeding baby I’ve personally witnessed the saving graces of power pumping in my life and in the life of many other breastfeeding mommas. You should note, however, that every mom’s case is unique, and power pumping may or may not work for you the way it did for others. If you want to make sure that you’re doing the right thing, or have other concerns regarding your milk supply, talking with your lactation consultant is a great idea. Get the help that you need. You and your precious baby will surely love the benefits!   _________________________________ This mom-powering piece is curated by multiple contributors: Lian Delos Reyes, founder & CEO of Milksta, and research & content specialists Rowena Taylor-Rivero and Rose Jane dela Cruz.

My final note on power pumping

A mom with increased milk supply smiling at her breastfeeding baby

I’ve personally witnessed the saving graces of power pumping in my life and in the life of many other breastfeeding mommas. You should note, however, that every mom’s case is unique, and power pumping may or may not work for you the way it did for others.

If you want to make sure that you’re doing the right thing, or have other concerns regarding your milk supply, talking with your lactation consultant is a great idea. Get the help that you need. You and your precious baby will surely love the benefits!

 

_________________________________

This mom-powering piece is curated by multiple contributors: Lian Delos Reyes, founder & CEO of Milksta, and research & content specialists Rowena Taylor-Rivero and Rose Jane dela Cruz.