Power pumping and Cluster pumping can be tools in your toolbox for increasing your milk supply. There may be times during your nursing and pumping experience when you need a little boost for your milk supply. Both of these methods can supercharge your milk production. The methods vary slightly. One may fit better into your day than the other. Give them each a try to see which way works best for you.
Power pumping is a one-hour block of time in which you’re alternating pumping and breaks or pauses for the entire hour. It is implemented during one of your usual pump times, and because it is a subscribed amount of time, some folks find it easier to schedule it into their day than cluster pumping.
Cluster pumping is meant to mimic a baby who is cluster feeding. The schedule is more varied than a power pumping schedule and is implemented over a longer period of time, typically closer to 3 hours. It is more organic than power pumping, so although it can occupy more time, some people find it fits more naturally into their day.
Milk is continually being produced, and your breast is never completely empty. After the milk supply is established, supply is based on demand. While milk is being removed, more milk is beginning to be made.
Stimulation of nursing or pumping releases the hormone oxytocin, which signals milk release. (1) The let down or milk ejection reflex triggers the milk stored in the breast flow. Oxytocin may begin working with the thought of breastfeeding or hearing your baby rouse. It increases when you are in skin-to-skin contact with your baby, looking at a photo or video of them, or by smelling your baby’s scent on a blanket. You may feel a tingling sensation in your breasts or begin to leak milk.
Prolactin is a hormone responsible for making milk. As milk is removed by your baby, hand, or pump, prolactin levels rise, signaling more milk to be produced and refilling the open spaces like refilling a cup after drinking some of the water it held. Prolactin levels are highest about 30 minutes after beginning to nurse or pump. (2) So, each time that any milk is removed, prolactin rises. Waiting extended periods of time between milk removals tells the body, “Hey, we don’t need that much milk, so slow down production.”
Although waiting longer stretches of time between pumping may yield more milk at first, the signals you send by doing this tell the body to slow it down, and the milk supply begins to reduce. On the other hand, frequent milk removals keep prolactin levels elevated, sending the message to continue making more milk.
Large quantities of milk do not need to be removed for this important refilling message to be sent. In fact, full breasts can mean slower milk production, but less full breasts mean faster and more constant milk production. (3) Research also shows that when the breasts are emptied more frequently and, therefore, less full, the fat content of the milk expressed is higher than when the breasts are more full. (4)
- Both power pumping and cluster pumping increase oxytocin by stimulating more let downs in a concentrated amount of time.
- It increases and keeps prolactin levels elevated for an extended period of time which can increase overall milk production.
- An increase in supply may be noticed in 2-3 days of power or cluster pumping, but some people do not see results until 2 weeks later.
- Once your milk supply increases from power or cluster pumping, your increased supply will be maintained as long as frequent milk removal continues.
- Power pumping or cluster pumping is usually done for one week.
- You may need to increase supply at some point along your breastfeeding journey for many reasons. It can help if your supply took a dip or you want to relactate.
- If you are power pumping or cluster pumping because your supply has decreased, It is always important to figure out why your supply took a dip and remedy the root cause.
- Power pumping or cluster pumping can give your supply the boost you want while you dig deeper and resolve what caused the decrease.
- Power and cluster pumping do not replace an effective latch by your baby or a pattern of nursing or pumping that is insufficient for maintaining your supply.
- Power and cluster pumping does not take the place of middle-of-the-night milk removal. Prolactin levels are naturally highest during the night, and milk removal during this time further elevates the milk-making hormone levels, which is critical for the overall milk supply.
- Overdoing power pumping can cause an oversupply which is not the goal and leads to other complications.
- It is ok if you do not get much milk at first. It is about the signals you are sending to your body to make more milk.
Power pumping and cluster pumping can be valuable tools for increasing your milk supply when you need a little boost. These methods can raise milk production by stimulating more let downs and keeping prolactin levels elevated. Remember, the correct flange size, proper maintenance of pump parts, and incorporating heat and breast massage can optimize your pumping output and experience. Relax and create a soothing environment to allow oxytocin release. Consider breastfeeding supplements from Legendairy Milk to support milk flow and production. While power pumping or cluster pumping can yield results in a matter of days for some, it may take up to two weeks for others, so be patient and consistent. Remember, the goal is not to overdo it but to find what works best for you. Trust your body's ability to respond to the signals you're sending. You've got this!