Cluster Pumping

Cluster Pumping

Did you know that you can use your breast pump to increase your milk supply? A huge factor of milk production is supply and demand: the more milk your baby needs, the more milk your body will produce. This is why during growth spurts babies tend to cluster feed, or feed more frequently or for a longer duration. Your boobs will get the message that more milk is needed and start producing more
breastmilk. Last week we talked about Power Pumping, but you can also achieve similar results by Cluster Pumping.

Breastfeeding a baby directly is always the best way to boost supply, but if you are an exclusive expressing mama or relying on a breast pump for your milk supply, then you can use the same technique a baby does with your breast pump. If you’re experiencing nipple damage, mastitis or anything else, please try to get support to help you heal first before adding any more challenges like cluster pumping. We know it’s hard when you’re under pressure to make milk, but you don’t want to make things worse.

How to Cluster Pump

Set yourself up + let people know what’s going on

Making breastmilk is important, so if possible make sure those around you are supportive because you’ll be spending a lot of time hooked up to a breast pump. For best results you’ll cluster pump several days in a row, so try to plan for when this is feasible. Let everyone know that you’re going to be hibernating inside with a breast pump and a good book / Netflix (if baby allows!). Let the housework / chores go.

You will need at least 3 hours spare, so plan when this will fit best into your day. Prolactin levels are generally at their highest in the morning, but breasts are usually emptiest in the evening. Trying to remove milk by pumping when breasts are empty is actually more effective at telling the body to make more milk, so you may find this works best by scheduling your cluster pumping session in the evening. Please let us know what works best for you!

Make sure you make this as easy as possible for yourself with a comfy place to sit, plenty of snacks and everything else you need. Have all your equipment and milk storage ready to go. We suggest using a handsfree pumping bra to make life easier for yourself.

Your cluster pumping schedule

So basically you’re going to pump every 5-10 minutes, every half an hour. Keep this going for 3 hours, and if possible repeat for 3 days in a row (or whatever works). I think a good way to manage this would be to binge watch a favourite Netflix series, and pump for the first 10 minutes of every episode ;).

Example cluster pumping schedule:

  • 6:00am: express for 10 minutes
  • 6:30am: express for 10 minutes
  • 7:00am: express for 5 minutes
  • 7:30am: express for 5 minutes
  • 8:00am: express for 10 minutes
  • 8:30am: express for 5 minutes
  • 9:00am: express for 5 minutes

Adjust the above to whatever makes sense for you. The specifics don’t matter, just the consistency. This is not intended to be feasible to keep up as part of daily routine – it’s just an emergency measure to supercharge milk supply if needed. You should expect to see an increase in supply after a few days. Good luck, mama! And remember, take care of yourself.

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