Is your baby surprisingly sleeping through the night? Are you unsure whether to wake them or pump at night to avoid a dip in supply? You may be concerned about this especially if you’re exclusively pumping or dealing with milk supply problems.
While pumping is challenging, it can be essential for maintaining supply and avoiding issues, such as clogged ducts and mastitis. But is it necessary to pump at night?
In this post, we will cover how often you should be pumping, including at night, if you’re exclusively pumping. We’ll also discuss if you need to get up to pump when your baby starts sleeping through the night.
Exclusively Pumping (Baby Isn’t Nursing)
If your baby is having latching issues and you’re solely pumping and bottle feeding (i.e., exclusively pumping), then you should be trying to match what a normal nursing baby would do at the breast.
1. For A Newborn
Newborns typically nurse 8-12 times within a 24 hour period. So, pump at least every two hours, no longer than three, until supply is well established (source).
Pumping whenever your baby eats is the best way to ensure you are mimicking nursing. I had to pump exclusively for the first week with my first baby as she wouldn’t latch. Our routine went: change baby, attempt breastfeeding, bottle feed, and then pump while daddy burped her.
Double pump for 15-20 minutes during each pumping session, emptying the breasts as thoroughly as possible. Experts also recommend pumping for two to five minutes after your milk stops flowing to maintain production and help increase supply if needed (source).
If you’re exclusively pumping straight out of the hospital, start with eight to ten pumps a day, and then adjust accordingly. With low supply, increase the number of pumping sessions. If you have an oversupply, drop a pumping session or two.
2. For Older Babies
It’s a good idea to pump at least once during the night in the first few months or if you start to notice a dip in supply. Many moms and lactation consultants recommend pumping once between 1am and 4am, as most moms tend to have a high output at this time (source).
In addition, your prolactin levels are highest at night – so you’re taking advantage of the milk making hormone by pumping at night.
Editor's Note:Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC
Keep In Mind
This is because as baby gets older, they eat more per feeding (usually around 3.5-5oz.) and go longer before the next one. You’ll also need to pump less often once they start eating more solid foods and less breast milk.
Figure out a pumping schedule that works for you and your baby, as everyone’s situation is different. You might find these example pumping schedules useful (source):
- 10-12 weeks: 6am, 10am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, 10pm.
- 3-6 months: 6am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 10pm.
- 6-11 months: 6am, 10am, 2pm, 10pm.
- 11-12 months: 6am, 12pm, 1pm.
- 12-14 months: 6am, 7pm.
If You Miss A Night Pumping
Sticking to a pumping schedule can be challenging (I certainly don’t know how exclusive pumpers do it. Props to you!). If you accidentally miss a pumping session now and then, there is no need to fret, as it most likely will not harm your supply. Especially, if you can squeeze in another session at a different time of the day.
To Wake Or Not To Wake?
Night nursing certainly is good for supply, but do you need to wake your baby or pump if they are sleeping through the night?
If your baby is back up to birth weight, growing fine, doesn’t have a medical issue (such as jaundice), and has plenty of wet and dirty diapers, then there is no need to wake them to feed. Let them sleep and ENJOY SOME SLEEP yourself, mama.
There is also no need to pump, as breastfeeding is a supply and demand function. If you pump, you’re essentially telling your body to make more milk, and it’s most likely that your baby will want a lot to eat after a long night of sleep. This could potentially lead to an oversupply.
If you’re uncomfortable or engorged in the middle of the night, simply pump off or hand express just a little bit of milk for some relief.
Pump Or Sleep?
If you are exclusively pumping and bottle feeding your baby, mimic what a typical nursing baby would be doing. Pumping every time your baby feeds ensures you’re mimicking this relationship and will minimize night pumping.
For a newborn, double pump every two to three hours for 15-20 minutes at a time. As they get older and start eating more per feeding, going longer between feedings, and eating more solid food, you should be able to drop pumping sessions, including those dreadful middle of the night ones.
If your baby is nursing, but has recently started sleeping throughout the night, there is no need to get up and pump unless you’re uncomfortable. In that case, pump off just a little for some relief.
Did you pump at night? How long was it before you stopped pumping at night? We’d love to hear your experiences! Also, be sure to share this post with all of your pumping mama friends.