How to cluster pump with an example schedule

How to cluster pump with an example schedule

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This post is part of the series Pumping Mamas

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my secret weapons — aka most effective methods — I used to increase my milk supply was to cluster pump. That means mimicking a nursing baby’s cluster feeding with my pump.

Just joining us? Discover how I increased my milk supply in 8 weeks with seven simple steps.

In the days before and during a growth spurt, nursing babies usually demand a lot more time at the breast. It may feel like they are nursing all the time! Often, these cluster feedings happen in the evenings or at night.

Milk production, after all, is a supply and demand process. Supply usually increases to meet the greater demand.

As a pumping Mama whose baby was unable/unwilling to nurse, the traditional wisdom of letting baby nurse, nurse, nurse would not work for me and my baby.

So I had to figure out how to make my body think the baby was demanding more milk using just my pump.

The links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission for purchases. Learn more. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

This is where Cluster Pumping comes into the picture.

This post contains affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission for purchases made after you click through. Learn more. Thank you for supporting this blog.

Pumping Mama, first you need to be sure to have a good quality, hospital grade double electric pump.

I love my Medela Pump-in-Style, which was used 6-10 times a day for 10 months with my first child, 6-10 times a day for 8 months with my second, and 3-4 times a day 6 months and counting with my third.

And though not strictly necessary, a hands-free pumping bra is a great investment if you are a full-time pumper.

Cluster pumping

When you cluster pump, you switch three of your normal pumping sessions of 15-20 minutes to the following:

  • Pump for 10 minutes.
  • Break for 5 minutes.
  • Pump for 10 minutes.
  • Break for 5 minutes.
  • Pump for 10 minutes.

I set the timer on my cell phone so I would remember to take the breaks and return from the breaks.

But isn’t that time-consuming?

You might be thinking: “I don’t have time for that!”

Well, I hear you. I did not think I would have the time to do this either. With an extremely needy newborn and a toddler under the age of two demanding my attention, trying to get the 15-20 minute pumping sessions every 3 hours was hard enough!

But once I started, I actually found the cluster pumping sessions were far easier to manage than my regular sessions! 

That is because, when the baby started fussing, I knew I had only three or so more minutes of pumping before I could take a break and tend to his needs.

When the toddler came over crying: “Mama! Mama! Food! Wawa!” or whatever it was he wanted, I could gently say: “When you hear the beep-beep, Mama will get you food or wawa or whatever.” That quickly ended the tears and tantrums, and it became a fun game to wait and listen for the cellphone’s alarm announcing a 5-minute break!

Also when my husband shouted from the back room that there was an extremely messy diaper that he needed assistance with, I could say: “Be there in 2 minutes!” or whatever was left on the timer.

So cluster pumping in this way is possible!

Choose at least three of your normal pumping sessions in a row to become cluster pumping sessions and do these consistently for 2-3 days.

Example Schedule

When I began cluster pumping, I was already on a strict 3-hour schedule with a large gap in the morning for much-needed sleep.

Remember to take care of your health, including sleep!

This is an example of what my day looked like when I was cluster pumping:

6:00 am – Normal pumping session
9:00 am – Normal pumping session
12 noon – Cluster pumping session
3:00 pm – Cluster pumping session
6:00 pm – Cluster pumping session
9:00 pm – Normal pumping session
12 midnight- Normal pumping session

I repeated this for 3 days in a row, then took a 2-3 day break where I returned to a normal pumping schedule. Then I would cluster pump again for another 3 days. I saw noticeable results in my daily milk output within a week.

“But,” you protest, “I work! I can’t do this!”

Yes, you can!

You will just have to do your cluster pumping when you are home. So if you work 9-5, you might cluster pumping in the evenings after work. If you work an afternoon/evening shift, cluster pumping in the mornings might work out better.

Make it work with your schedule!

And stay tuned. A future post will have a list of resources for the pumping Mama!

NOTE: As mentioned in this previous post, sleep is a vital component of your physical and mental well-being. You may have noticed from my example schedule above that I went midnight to 6:00am without a pumping session.

To sum up

First I had recovered from five and a half weeks with barely any sleep (only averaging 2-3 hours a night) and was well rested. In full disclosure, I also drank one cup of lactation tea a day. (My favorite, and the one I saw the most increase with, is Pink Stork’s Lacatation Tea.)

Then I threw in an extra early morning pumping session around 3:00 am for about a week to help. About then my supply began holding steady (and I was working full time), and I was able to cut the 3:00 am pumping session out again to make sure I get enough rest.

You may find you have to make temporary adjustments to your schedule, too. Experiment and find what works best for you.

If you are struggling with low milk supply, don’t delay! Cluster pump today! I went from barely producing 8oz a day to consistently pumping 32-35 oz in only eight weeks!

Pump on, Mama!
~Jacquelyn

How to cluster pump to increase your milk supply

Do you have a low supply? Are you a pumping mama? I want to hear from you! Share your story, your frustrations, your victories by commenting below, emailing me personally, or on my Facebook page.


https://blog.jacquelynvansant.com/2018/07/the-pumping-mamas-ultimate-list-of-must-have-items/
Disclosure: The links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission for purchases. Learn more. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

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