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How Power Pumping Can Increase Your Milk Supply

Power pumping is a technique to increase breast milk production, and it mimics cluster feeding in babies. Learn more about the benefits and tips for success.

By​Wendy Wisner  Published on September 22, 2023

If you’re breastfeeding or chestfeeding, you’ve probably heard of “power pumping.” In a nutshell, it involves pumping frequently in a short time period to increase your breast milk supply. Parents might try power pumping if they’re building up a milk stash, or if their milk production has dwindled for any reason.

Are you wondering if power pumping is right for you? We connected with breastfeeding specialists to learn more about the method, including how to get started and tips for success.

What Is Power Pumping?

In the simplest terms, power pumping (also called cluster pumping) is using a breast pump to boost milk production, says David Berger, MD, a board-certified pediatrician at Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care and owner of Dr. David, MD. “The more often the breast is stimulated, the more milk gets produced,” he says.

Power pumping simulates cluster feeding at the breast, which is when a baby wants to feed frequently, with minimal breaks, during a short period of time. Cluster feeding can prompt an increase in milk supply, says Andrea Braden, MD, IBCLC, a breastfeeding medicine specialist and CEO of Lybbie. “This is how the baby communicates with the parent’s body to change the production of milk to meet their needs.”1

Essentially, babies nurse in rapid succession during cluster feeding—and power pumping imitates that pattern with a breast pump.

Why Do Parents Try Power Pumping?

Parents might power pump whenever they want to boost their breast milk supply, says Jessica Madden, MD, IBCLC, a board-certified pediatrician and neonatologist, lactation consultant, and medical director of Aeroflow Breastpumps. Here are some scenarios where power pumping might be beneficial.

  • You’re having issues establishing your milk supply
  • You’re trying to create a stash of breast milk (which can be stored in the freezer for 12 months, though using it within 6 months is ideal2)
  • Breastfeeding challenges result in less milk production
  • You notice temporary dips in your milk supply, such as during illness, when you begin menstruating again, or when your baby starts solids
  • You’re trying to relactate, which might happen if your baby weaned prematurely
  • You’re going back to work

“Most people find that they’ll notice an increase in milk supply, even by adding one power pumping session a day into their normal routine,” says Dr. Braden.

How to Power Pump

Power pumping is actually fairly open-ended with a few basic principles. “There are lots of versions of power pumping, but the idea is you’re trying to make your body think that the pump is a baby’s mouth and cluster feeding,” explains Dr. Braden.

Dr. Madden suggests limiting power pumping to one hour per day, because otherwise it can become stressful and time consuming. That said, some parents might attempt two or three power pumping sessions each day; either is fine with your health care provider’s approval.

You can incorporate power pumping into your schedule however it works best. Many people find their milk supply is highest in the morning, which is something to keep in mind.

 The Best Wearable Breast Pumps We Tested While Multitasking

Sample Power Pumping Schedules

Here are some power pumping routines that might work for you, keeping in mind that breaks are necessary to prevent breast soreness.

Option 1

  • Pump for 10 minutes
  • Rest for 10 minutes
  • Repeat this sequence three times, which would equal 30 total minutes of pumping in one hour, separated into three intervals

Option 2

  • Start by pumping for 20 minutes
  • Rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for 10 minutes
  • Rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for 10 minutes

Option 3

  • Pump for five minutes
  • Rest for 5 minutes
  • Alternate this schedule for about one hour (or as long as desired)

Power Pumping Tip

Most people need to power pump for at least three days before seeing results—and sometimes the milk increase doesn’t come for a full week—so be patient when trying this technique. Reach out to a lactation consultant if you’re not seeing results after one week.

Is There Any Reason Why You Shouldn’t Power Pump?

If you don’t have problems with breast milk supply, it’s usually not necessary to power pump. According to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM), the technique can lead to oversupply or hyperlactation, which is linked to painful engorgement.3 Your provider can give advice surrounding your specific circumstances.

What’s more, if you’re noticing any type of trauma to your nipple or areola, you should consider getting your pump checked out, says Dr. Braden. “You may need to get somebody to look at your pump and look at your nipples and make sure you’re sized correctly,” she recommends.

You should also reach out to a health professional if you’re pregnant, because sometimes frequent pumping can stimulate uterine contractions.4 This isn’t always an issue, but may be if you have a high-risk pregnancy.

 Is It OK to Just Pump and Not Breastfeed?

Tips for Power Pump Success

You need a good breast pump if practicing the power pump technique, says Dr. Madden. She recommends a high-quality double electric or hospital-grade breast pump—and also a pumping bra that allows you to be “hands free.”

Dr. Berger shares her top tips for power pumping success:

  • Stay hydrated when increasing milk supply.
  • Make sure you’re getting the recommended 330-400 extra calories per day that breastfeeding requires, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).5
  • Get enough sleep (as best as possible, considering you’re the parent of a little one).
  • Try to stay relaxed. You can do something enjoyable while power pumping, like watching TV or reading a book.
  • Make sure your pump is in good working order; contact your pump company or a breastfeeding specialist if pumping hurts or if you’re concerned that the engine of your pump isn’t as powerful as it should be.

Perhaps most importantly, you aren’t meant to figure this all out on your own. If you have any questions about power pumping, pumping in general, or your milk supply, you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to a breastfeeding specialist for support.