Power Pumping - What is it and do I need it?

Power Pumping - What is it and do I need it?

What is Power Pumping?

“Power Pumping,” also called cluster pumping, is pumping in a way to mimic cluster feeding. The idea is to “trick” your body into producing more milk. This is done by stimulating milk production in frequent bursts, similar to what a baby does when they are cluster feeding.  

Do I need to Power Pump?

If breastfeeding is going well and you and your baby are not experiencing any struggles, then probably not. Your baby will cluster feed when needed, and that will naturally increase your supply. However, there are some situations where power pumping can be helpful. For exclusively pumping moms, it can offer a boost. It can also be helpful in situations where supply was not well established or needs increasing for varying reasons.  

Why does power pumping work?

The only evidence-based way to increase milk supply is with more frequent, effective stimulation. With a well-fitting, double electric pump, power pumping can provide that. It is important to remember that a breast pump does not stimulate milk production as well as your baby, so do not be discouraged if you do not respond as well to the pump. Also important to understand what a biologically normal supply looks like. Power pumping may not give a boost when a boost is not actually needed.  

How do I Power Pump?

Power pumping is done using a double electric breast pump, starting with a normal pump session of 15-20 minutes, followed by a rest period of 10 minutes, and then pumping again in 10-minute bursts. You then continue this cycle for 60 minutes. For optimal results, it is recommended to do this three times a day for no more than three days at a time.      


How much milk should I expect to express?

There is a wide variation of normal when it comes to milk expression. It is important to remember (and hopefully reassuring) that the amount of milk you can pump does not necessarily indicate what your baby is removing during a breastfeeding session. Every drop of milk expressed counts.  

However, for those that are exclusively pumping or pumping while away from their baby, the amount of milk expressed is obviously an important part of feeding their little one. It is recommended that your baby has about 1-1.5 oz of expressed milk per hour. For example, if your baby is eating every 3 hours, they will need 3-4.5 oz of milk during that time. This accounts for those variations in normal, and feeding on demand with paced bottle feeding will help to prevent overfeeding with a bottle. 

If you find that you are struggling to keep up with your baby’s needs, reminding other caregivers of those guidelines to prevent overfeeding can help, as well as expressing milk more frequently. Additional pump sessions, power pumping, and using hands-on pumping techniques can all be effective ways to increase your output.  

Express more milk with multiple letdowns

What is a letdown?

The letdown reflex is triggered when your baby comes to the breast or you begin to pump. The stimulation of the nipple triggers nerve endings that encourage the hormones related to milk-making to be released into the bloodstream. Prolactin works on the tissue related to milk making and communicates to the body to continue making milk, and Oxytocin causes muscles around the ducts to contract and the “push” or letdown of milk through the openings in the nipple pores.   You may recognize that you have let down when you hear a change in your baby’s suck swallow pattern or you see milk being to spray or drip more steadily while pumping. Some breastfeeding mothers report that the letdown feels like a fullness in the breast or an intense tingle.

Encouraging letdown while pumping.

Some mothers share that it can take longer or they have a harder time achieving letdown when pumping. This is not uncommon, if you experience it you are not alone. Here are some tips from our location team on things you can do to help encourage the process:      


  • Gentle breast compressions or massage before pumping
  • Use a warm compress or heat pack before pumping
  • Use hands-on pumping techniques
  • Look at pictures or videos of your baby while pumping
  • Keep a onesie or blanket with your baby’s scent on it to hold onto while pumping
  • Cover your pouches or bottles with a nursing cover or blanket
  • Do something that distracts you from pumping – work, read, or watch a movie.

Using the “Letdown” phase to express more milk

Many electric breast pumps have two cycles or phases. You may even find a “letdown” or “expression” mode button or setting on your pump.  

Most pumps start in the “Letdown” cycle, and the suction pattern is gentle and quick. After the first few minutes, or when the average letdown happens, the pump will switch to “Expression” mode, with slower and more rhythmic suction patterns. If you are pumping and find that you still have fullness after your initial letdown, or you want to try and express more milk, you can switch your pump back to “Letdown” mode to try and stimulate another letdown.  

This is not a foolproof method, as all mothers respond to electric pumps differently, but it is worth a try! Do not be discouraged if you are unable to stimulate more than one let down. You may find power-pumping more effective if this method does not work as well.

Pumping to increase milk supply – Safety Tips

While pumping to increase milk supply can be very effective, it is important to not overdo it. Pumping for extremely long times (30 minutes without a break) or at high power can cause inflammation and even damage to the breast tissue.  

If you want to try pumping to increase milk supply, pay close attention to your body and how pumping feels. Planning your power pumping sessions so they are not back-to-back and making sure to take breaks between stimulation is very important. Equally important is making sure that your flanges fit properly and that you are using your pump at settings that are comfortable for you. Starting at a low speed and working your way up to medium will create a more natural stimulation pattern and reduce the risk of inflammation or discomfort.  

You should rarely have to use your pump on the highest setting. If you find you are not responding to lower settings, check your flange size and pumping techniques with your lactation professional. Similarly, if you are concerned your supply is not where it needs to be, we encourage you to reach out to a lactation professional for a plan before attempting any boosting methods. 

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