What Is Power Pumping?

If you need to produce more breast milk, power pumping is often an effective way to boost your milk supply. Power pumping is also called cluster pumping, as it mimics a baby's cluster feeding sessions (frequent nursing sessions with minimal breaks), which results in increased letdown and helps to stimulate more milk production.

What Is Power Pumping?

Power pumping is meant to give your supply a nudge. It simulates cluster feeding, which is when your baby nurses very frequently. This cues your body to start producing more milk. Essentially, power pumping jumpstarts the milk supply chain to enable you to create a stockpile of milk for your baby.

Power pumping doesn’t take the place of regular pumping or nursing. It's meant to be done in addition to your normal routine. However, it can take the place of one regular pumping session.

This strategy works best if you are bottle-feeding part or all of the time. If your baby is nursing frequently, it will be challenging for your body to make enough extra milk between feedings.

Don't worry that your baby won't have milk at the breast on days you power pump, though, as your breasts are never fully empty and your baby's sucking motion will stimulate more as needed.

Reasons for Power Pumping

Power pumping can be useful if your milk supply is dropping and you want to give it a boost. You can also use it to create a bigger stockpile of expressed breast milk, such as if you are going to be away from your baby due to travel or you are transitioning back to work or to exclusive pumping.

Power pumping may not work for everyone, but it is often effective. It is also a fairly easy, low-risk strategy for building supply, so it is worth a try.

There are a lot of reasons your milk supply might run low. If you’re worried because you don't get much milk when pumping after nursing, your supply might be fine but there just isn't much "extra" left over for pumping. You could also be experiencing a change in volume since a baby is more effective at getting milk than a pump.

But it's also very normal for milk supply to wane, especially if you don't pump or nurse often or on a consistent schedule. So, if you primarily pump and are noticing a reduction in output, then several days of power pumping might be the answer to reinvigorating your supply.

Your breastmilk production is directly related to how much milk your body thinks your baby needs. Your body gets this feedback from the amount of time you spend nursing and/or pumping and the quality of suction (hungry babies with a good latch and medical-grade electric pumps are the most efficient).

Milk supply ebbs and flows over weeks and months due to a range of factors, including your growing baby's changing eating habits and growth spurts; your nursing and pumping habits; your health, stress level, hormones, and general wellness; and the introduction of solid foods.

If you've addressed issues that could be affecting your supply and you still need a boost, you're ready to try power pumping.

How to Power Pump

To power pump, set aside one uninterrupted hour, ideally in a location where you feel comfortable and relaxed. It may be best to try to do this in the morning; milk supply is often higher in the morning than in the evening. However, it can be done at any time that works for you.

Power pumping
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin 

It's best to use a double electric breast pump and a hands-free nursing bra so that you can relax during the process. If your hands are free, you can have a snack, read, use a computer or tablet, or do any other stationary activity you find enjoyable. If you’re nursing, try to power pump after a nursing session.

A sample power-pumping schedule is:

  • Pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes
  • Pump for 10 minutes

For the rest of the day, follow your normal pumping and/or nursing routine. Power pumping once a day is enough for many people. You can add a second session if you like. But keep in mind that two long cluster pumping sessions in one day can be mentally and physically draining.

Everyone is different. Some will respond quickly to power pumping, while others will need more time.

If you do this for two or three days, you’ll likely start to see results. Some people say that it takes four to seven days to yield results, and some don’t see a change at all. Once you notice an increase in supply, you can cut out the power pumping sessions until you think you need another boost.

Tips for Success

To improve your power pumping experience:

  • Continue through the entire hour.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat an extra snack or two to fuel your extra milk production.
  • If using a manual pump or hand expression, switch sides rather than taking a break. Aim to pump four times on each side for eight to 12 minutes each time.
  • If you have your baby with you, another option is to nurse on one side while pumping on the other.
  • Relax as much as possible as lower stress levels encourage letdown.

Keep pumping even if nothing comes out. The continued pumping action will activate additional milk production for future expression.

More Ways to Increase Supply

In addition to power pumping, there are other ways to encourage an increase in your milk supply. Get more rest, if you can. Eat protein-rich foods and drink plenty of fluids.

Add an extra pumping session or two to your usual routine. Each time you pump, make sure to pump long enough. Continue to pump for at least two to five minutes after you see drops of milk. You can also try using a larger pump flange.

If you nurse, nurse more frequently. Pump on one side while your baby nurses on the other.

Supplement with fenugreek; ask your doctor if this is safe before using it. Try breast massage or breast compression, both of which can help with stimulating lactation.

A Word From Verywell

Power pumping works for many people, but not all. It's easy to get discouraged if you aren't easily producing an adequate supply of breast milk. But know that help is out there.

Making milk and balancing pumping and nursing on top of taking care of a baby (and yourself) is hard work, so enlist support as needed. Lactation consultants, your doctor, other nursing parents, and your child's pediatrician are all resources that can likely help you get your milk production on track or come up with other feeding strategies that will work best for you and your baby.

 

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Fed Is Best Foundation. Power pumping: does it work?.

  2. Nemours KidsHealth. Breastfeeding FAQs: supply and demand.

  3. Lawrence R. Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession. Saunders.

By Jaime R. Herndon, MS, MPH
Jaime Rochelle Herndon, MS, MPH, MFA, is a former writer for Verywell Family covering fertility, pregnancy, birth, and parenting.