Breastfeeding is one of the most natural and beneficial ways to nourish your baby. However, as many moms know, it can be challenging to maintain a steady milk supply. This is especially true for working moms who are away from their babies for several hours a day. Power pumping is a technique that can help increase milk production and promote a more abundant milk supply. In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of power pumping for breastfeeding moms.
What is Power Pumping?
Power pumping is a technique that involves pumping breast milk for short periods of time, usually 10-20 minutes, multiple times in a row with short breaks in between. This mimics the frequent feeding pattern of a newborn, signaling the body to produce more milk. The goal is to stimulate milk production by mimicking a baby’s cluster feeding behavior. Producing breast milk is all about supply and demand. The idea is to signal to your body that it needs to produce more milk, and by doing so, increase your overall milk supply. Power pumping is typically done in addition to regular breastfeeding or pumping sessions.
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Cluster Pumping vs. Power Pumping
If you’ve heard the terms cluster pumping and power pumping tossed around and aren’t sure of the difference, you aren’t alone. Cluster pumping involves using a breast pump to simulate the sucking patterns of a newborn baby. A mom pumps both breasts at the same time and pumps for a set amount of time, usually 10-15 minutes, every two hours during the day and at least once during the night. This method is often used in hospital settings for moms of premies or who are having difficulty establishing a milk supply.
Power pumping, on the other hand, involves pumping for shorter, more frequent intervals to mimic the cluster feeding pattern of a baby (not to be confused with cluster pumping!). A mom pumps both breasts for 10-20 minutes, takes a break for 10 minutes, pumps again for 10-20 minutes, takes a break for 10 minutes, and repeats the cycle for a total pumping session of one hour. This is typically done once a day for several days in a row.
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To distinguish between cluster pumping vs. power pumping, you can think of it like cluster pumping is geared towards moms of newborns who are needing to establish their milk supply whereas power pumping is geared toward moms of older babies who are trying to increase their milk supply. Now onto the pros and cons of power pumping!
Pros and Cons of Power Pumping – The Pros
1. Increases Milk Production – #1 Pro of Power Pumping
The main pro on our list of pros and cons of power pumping is that it can help increase milk production. By pumping frequently and for short periods of time, you are sending signals to your body that it needs to produce more milk. Additionally, it helps by removing milk from the breasts, which signals your body to produce more milk to replace what has been removed. Over time, this can lead to an increase in your overall milk supply in some moms.
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2. Helps Maintain Milk Supply
Power pumping is particularly useful for moms who are struggling to maintain their milk supply. Power pumping can help maintain milk supply by promoting milk production and ensuring that the breasts are emptied regularly. The more milk that is removed from the breasts, the more milk the body will produce to replace it. This is why frequent breastfeeding and/or pumping is important for maintaining milk supply. Power pumping can be especially helpful during growth spurts, when babies tend to feed more frequently and demand more milk from their mothers.
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3. Saves Time
Power pumping can help mothers save time compared to regular pumping sessions. Rather than pumping for long periods of time, power pumping involves shorter sessions with short breaks in between. This can be especially helpful for busy mothers who can’t be tethered to a pump for a long period of time (i.e. you have other kids to take care of) or who are juggling work demands while pumping.
For example, a mom who typically pumps for 20 minutes at a time may only get a few ounces of milk. However, by power pumping for an hour, with breaks in between each pumping session, a mom may be able to express several ounces of milk in each 10-20 minute pumping interval, resulting in a greater total volume of milk expressed overall. Some moms may be able to go several hours before another power pumping session instead of squeezing in another 20 minute session two hours later. Whether this saves time or not is highly dependent on a mom’s breast milk storage capacity.
4. Provides Relief from Engorgement
Power pumping can also be helpful for mothers who are experiencing engorgement in the early days of their breastfeeding journey. By pumping frequently, you can help relieve some of the pressure and discomfort associated with engorged breasts. Breast engorgement occurs when the breasts become overly full and swollen with milk. This can happen when milk production exceeds the amount that your baby is drinking, when your baby is not breastfeeding frequently enough, or before your milk supply has regulated around 6 weeks.
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If you are power pumping to relieve engorgement, take care to not power pump too frequently as it can encourage your milk supply to increase. You’ll want to start with the power pumping schedule described below and slowly increase the amount of rest time between each pump session until you can return to just pumping once every few hours.
Pros and Cons of Power Pumping – The Cons
1. Power Pumping Can be Time-Consuming
While power pumping can save time compared to regular pumping sessions, it still requires a significant time commitment. Moms typically need to pump for 10-20 minutes multiple times in a row, which can be difficult to fit into a busy schedule. For some moms, it may need to be done several times a day in order to have a significant impact on milk supply. This can be challenging for moms who have busy schedules or other responsibilities that make it difficult to find the time to power pump regularly.
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2. May be Uncomfortable
Pumping frequently can also be uncomfortable for some moms. It’s one of the main cons on this list of pros and cons of power pumping. Some moms find it physically tiring, especially if done multiple times a day. Pumping frequently can be uncomfortable and may lead to sore nipples or breast tissue. The prolonged suction and pressure on the breast tissue can cause discomfort or soreness, especially if your pump flanges are not properly fitted or adjusted. This can make pumping painful and make it more difficult to continue breastfeeding.
Related article: Does Flange Size Affect Milk Output? Yes, Here’s How.
3. May be Inconvenient
Power pumping can be inconvenient for some moms because it requires a significant amount of time and effort. Power pumping involves pumping for a longer period of time than a regular pumping session, usually for an hour, with short breaks in between each pumping interval. Some moms welcome the quick breaks, while others may consider it a major con of power pumping.
Additionally, power pumping requires access to a breast pump and a private space to pump, which may not always be available or convenient, especially when traveling or away from home.
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4. May be Ineffective
Finally, power pumping may not work for all moms. While some mothers may see an increase in milk production, others may not notice a significant difference. Additionally, power pumping may not be effective for moms who are experiencing breastfeeding problems, such as latch issues or tongue-tie. Power pumping can also be time-consuming and stressful, which can cause moms to feel overwhelmed and negatively affect milk supply.
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Power Pumping Schedule
Now that we have explained what power pumping is, you’re probably wondering how to power pump. A typical power pumping schedule is shown in the graphic below. You should be able to save this to your phone for reference later:
- Pump for 20 minutes, performing hands-on pumping. Pump until milk stops flowing and you have no more letdowns.
- Rest for 10 minutes.
- Pump for 10 minutes, again performing hands-on pumping. Continue to pump even if no milk flows.
- Rest for 10 minutes.
- Pump for 10 more minutes, once again performing hands-on pumping and pumping even if no milk flows.
This power pumping schedule takes one hour in total. Remember that pumping while no milk flows is signalling your body to produce more milk. Most moms notice an increase in milk supply in 3-4 days of following this schedule. Some moms may choose to power pump once a day, while others may do it more frequently. It’s important to find a power pumping schedule that works for you and your lifestyle.
Power pumping can be a useful technique for breastfeeding and pumping moms who are struggling to maintain their milk supply. Some moms are even successful at increasing their milk production. However, power pumping can also be time-consuming, uncomfortable, and inconvenient. It’s all about weighing the pros and cons of power pumping as to whether or not it’s helpful to you. While it may not be effective for all moms, many find success with it. Try out it for a few days and see what it does for you!