Making milk is hard work.
Your body goes through a lot of changes to be able to nourish your baby through breast milk.
When nursing your baby, you usually feed on demand which can be anywhere from every hour to every couple of hours.
But, if breastfeeding alone isn’t creating enough demand on your body to create more milk, power pumping can help.
What is Power Pumping?
Power pumping is the use of a breast pump by lactating mothers to mimic an infant’s cluster feeding. Pumping is usually done in segments of 10-20 minutes at a time with short 10-minute breaks between sessions. Power pumping increases the demand of milk from the mother which can increase her supply.
Is power pumping for every mother? How do I know if I need to power pump?
This is a great question and there are two reasons power pumping can help you increase your breast milk supply,
The first reason is if your baby isn’t getting enough milk.
Before you start to power pump for this reason, first check to see if your baby is already getting enough milk.
Often, new moms think their babies aren’t getting enough milk because they’re really fussy or because they want to nurse continuously.
Frequent nursing and even fussiness could just be a sign that your baby is going through a cluster feeding stage or a growth spurt. It’s common for babies in this stage to want to stay at the breast, but also act dissatisfied and pull away a lot. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t making enough milk.
Check to be sure your baby is producing plenty of wet diapers for their age. Also compare their growth chart for each doctor’s visit to see if they are gaining a healthy amount of weight.
Always consult your baby’s doctor if you suspect malnutrition or if you think your baby isn’t getting what they need from your breast milk.
Another reason you may want to consider power pumping is to help you build up a freezer stash of breast milk.
If you plan to return to work or if you need to be away from baby sometime for any reason, you’ll need a supply of milk stored in the freezer that another person can use to feed your baby.
If you are only producing enough milk to nurse on demand, then power pumping for a day or two can give you the boost you need to start making enough to pump and store.
How long will it take to increase my milk supply?
If your normal breastfeeding sessions aren’t producing the milk your baby needs, rapid power pumping could do the trick.
Most moms who try power pumping to increase their milk supply will do it anywhere from one day up to a week.
Some moms see results after a day of following a power pumping schedule while it takes more time for others.
Every mother is different and will respond differently. I recommend beginning with the mindset that it will take several days for your body to make more milk so that you are prepared if it takes that long, and pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t.
How to power pump to increase milk supply
Before you start to use your breast pump for power pumping, there are a few things you should do to make each session as productive as possible.
To help your milk flow effectively, use a warm compress on your breasts for a few minutes. Afterward, give your breasts a quick massage. Both of these can help increase circulation, trigger your let-down reflex and get milk flowing a lot quicker.
Once you’ve done the preliminary work, here’s how to power pump:
- Pump for 20 minutes – Ideally you’ll want to use the first pumping session as the longest so you can drain as much from your breasts as possible.
- Rest for 10 minutes – Take a quick break to give your body time to adjust.
- Pump for 10 minutes – After your break pump for another 10 minutes to create that demand for milk.
- Rest for 10 minutes – Take another quick break to grab a snack or use the bathroom.
- Pump for 10 minutes – This is your last pumping session.
Even though this is the traditional power pumping schedule you’ll see from most places, keep in mind it is just a suggested guide.
If you only have 15 minutes for your first pumping session or only five minutes for the following sessions, you can still do it.
The point is to pump back-to-back (with short breaks in-between) so that you start producing more milk in a short amount of time.
You’ll notice that each time you pump, you won’t produce as much milk as the first time. This is okay. As your body adjusts to the rapid emptying of your breasts it will begin to increase your milk supply.
So feel free to adjust the schedule and do what works best for you.
Power pumping schedule
Use this handy power pumping schedule as a good starting place and adjust it to fit your lifestyle. If you can, try to fit 2-3 power pumping sessions into your day in addition to your regular breastfeeding.
- Nurse your baby as usual in the morning
- Right after nursing take a thirty-minute break and then go right into your first power pumping session. Most mothers produce more milk in the morning, so this is the best time get the most out of pumping. (source)
- Continue to nurse your baby throughout the day on-demand.
- After the first evening nursing session, wait another 30-minutes and then start your next power pumping session.
Based on the sample schedule above, power pumping can take up to an hour for each session, so try to do it soon after your baby has finished nursing so it won’t interrupt your baby’s normal breastfeeding times.
When is the best time to power pump?
Power pumping can be done any time of day.
Some moms like to do it shortly after nursing their babies so they have time to rest and rebuild an adequate supply before nursing again. Other moms choose a good halfway time between nursing sessions to power pump.
Find times in your day that are most convenient for you to relax, prepare your breasts and have time to complete a full power pumping session.
Keep in mind that power pumping should never replace nursing your baby. Continue to feed your baby on demand and fit your power pumping sessions between breastfeeding.
What supplies do I need to power pump?
To make power pumping work, you technically only need a breast pump. There are other supplies that can make the experience more pleasant or comforting, but as long as you have a pump, you have all you need to get the job done.
Supplies needed for power pumping
First, make sure you have a good electric breast pump. Electric pumps work best because they do the work for you.
Since you have to pump so frequently during power pumping, an electric pump will keep your hands from getting tired the way they would with a manual pump.
In addition to having an electric pump, I also highly recommend it be a double pump. Using a double pump will save you so much time.
With a single pump, you’ll have to switch breasts and pump individually, essentially doubling your power pumping sessions. With a double, you can cut down on time by pumping both breasts at once.
Recommended supplies for power pumping
- Nipple cream
- Hands-free pumping bra
- Comfortable chair or couch
- Entertainment (books, magazines, computer or favorite T.V. show)
Tips to make power pumping more successful
Just like with regular nursing or pumping, there are some things you can do to make things go more smoothly and to help yourself get the most out of it.
Try these tips to make your power pumping a success.
- Stay hydrated
Drink lots of water. You’re nursing a baby and your body needs water to keep up with the demands of producing milk.
Keep a bottle of water next to where you pump so you can sip throughout your pumping and nursing sessions.
Kick it up a notch by adding fruit slices to your water for a flavorful addition to plain water. If you make it tasty, you’re more likely to drink it consistently.
- Get good nutrition
Remember that whole “eating for two” thing during pregnancy? Well, the same could be said for breastfeeding.
Whatever you eat will be passed to your baby. You want to make sure you’re getting good nutrients to keep yourself feeling your best, keep your body working optimally for milk production and to pass your baby all the good nutrients you can through breast milk.
- Get plenty of rest
Our bodies need sleep so we operate at our best each day. I know having a new baby makes it harder to get good sleep, but try to sneak in naps when you can or have your partner stay up with the baby overnight sometime to allow you a full night of rest.
“Sleep helps us thrive by contributing to a healthy immune system.”The National Sleep Foundation
- Relax and reduce stress
When you’re ready to pump, create a peaceful atmosphere around you. Whether that be by playing soothing music, taking deep breaths, diffusing your favorite scents or reclining in a comfy rocking chair.
- Entertain yourself
Pumping on and off continuously for an hour can feel like a long time, so keep a few things around to entertain yourself and help you pass the time.
Always have your phone handy, the remote, a good book or magazine, snacks and water and all of your pumping supplies. This way you won’t need to constantly get up and down and you can focus on pumping more milk.
- Natural ways to increase milk supply
You might want to try some other natural methods that might help you make more milk.
Foods like oatmeal, blueberries and fenugreek have been used by mothers for decades as a way to increase milk supply.
Combining a few natural methods with power pumping could help you see great results.
- Keep track of how much you pump
Each time you pump over the next few days, record how much milk you’re able to produce. This is an easy way to see if your milk supply is gradually increasing. You can get a free breast pumping tracker sheet here.
When should I stop power pumping?
As mentioned before, every mom is different. Some moms power pump for a day and see a huge increase in milk supply while other moms have to pump for three or four days before they notice a difference.
Start with one day and keep tabs on how much milk you’re producing each time you pump. Continue until you notice that you are starting to make more consistently.
While this could take several days, if you think you need to power pump longer than a week, check with your doctor to make sure there aren’t other issues preventing you from making more milk.
Power pumping for working moms
If you are a working mother or you plan to return to work at some point, you might find it challenging to power pump while on the job. In most cases, it won’t be possible to power pump for a full hour. If you find yourself in this situation, try this pumping schedule for working mothers.
- Nurse your baby as usual
- Use your last hour before leaving for work for power pumping
- Do your usual pumping at work (this won’t be power pumping, just the regular pumping you’d do to keep up your supply while away from your baby)
- Nurse your baby as soon as you get home
- Wait 10-20 minutes, then power pump again
With this schedule you can still power pump twice a day (maybe three if you do it after your baby nurses at night).
You can also join a community of other breastfeeding and pumping moms and get helpful tips.
You’ve got this!
The biggest thing to remember is that breastfeeding works by supply and demand. As long as there is a good demand for more milk, your body will produce it. As you increase this demand for more by power pumping, your body will begin to supply more.
More Pumping and Breastfeeding Resources
- 45 Practical Ways to Boost Low Milk Supply
- 30 Delicious Lactation Recipes to Increase Milk Supply
- 30 Effective Ways to Relieve Nipple Pain From Breastfeeding