Is It Necessary to Breast Pump at Night?

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).

Take Note

By days seven to ten, you should be aiming to pump 25-27oz. per day for a single baby. If you have multiples, aim for 27-32oz. of milk by 14 days postpartum. An average newborn drinks 1.5-3oz. of breast milk per feeding.

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.

Read This Next
Full bottles of expressed breast milkHow To Pump More Milk: The Ultimate Guide

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.
Headshot of Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

Editor's Note:

Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

Keep In Mind

As your baby gets older, you should be able to go longer between pumping sessions and start dropping some, including those dreadful middle of the night ones.

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.

Remember

If you have to go to a concert tonight and don’t want to pump while you’re there, it’s okay. Missing one pumping session one day will not be detrimental to your supply.

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.

Related Reading
Mother breastfeeding her baby at nightThe Basics Of Breastfeeding At Night

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.

Learn More
Mother breastfeeding on the sofaBreastfeeding and Weight: Do You Gain or Lose?

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.

Mom using a breast pump
A Multi-Tasking Mom’s Guide to the Best Breast Pump Bras
Ameda Breast Pump Review
Ameda Purely Yours Review
Medela Pump in Style vs Ameda Purely Yours
Ameda Purely Yours vs Medela Pump In Style
Freemie Freedom Breast Pump Review
Freemie Breast Pump Review
Bottle of expressed breast milk on the counter
Has Your Breast Milk Gone Bad?
Breast pump sitting on the windowsill
How Long Can You Keep Breast Milk Before It Goes Bad?

16 Reader Comments

  1. Angela Cameron

    “Healthy Nursing Tea” works great. Bought this for my insufficient supply and so far I absolutely love the results. It was the perfect solution I was searching for since I’ll be going back to work and needed a natural way to increase my milk supply to be able to pump and have enough breastmilk to feed the baby too.

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Thanks for the great suggestion Angela! I’ve recommended Healthy Nursing Tea before too. Glad to hear you’ve got your supply back on track 🙂 All the best

  2. Jennifer A

    this is really helpful. I was trying to find something that answered the questions I had.. thank you

    • Jenny Silverstone

      You are welcome Jennifer! Glad I was able to help 🙂

  3. Margaret Shugart

    I currently go to school 6-8 hours a day, during which my partner bottle feeds breastmilk. I breastfeed at home. I can pump once at school then have been getting up in the middle of the night to pump, mostly because my little is such a voracious eater.

    I can’t get much from pumping when I’m home because she eats often and she needs quite a bit when I’m at school. So, the school pump isn’t enough. She is four-months-old and sleeping through the night now. I decided last night to try a different pumping schedule so I can sleep too. Your blog gave me hope and courage! Thank you.

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Hi Margaret, I’m so glad this post could help. Good luck!

  4. Becca

    What do you mean by “double pump” exactly?

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Hi Becca, a double pump is a pump that can express milk from both breasts at the same time.

  5. Laurie

    I’ve been exclusively pumping since she was about a month, she is now 3 months. I’m trying to get away from pumping in the middle of the night, but right now I pump 2am. 6am. 8am, 11am 3pm 6pm 10 PM. I feel that is too often, but typically pump more than 50oz a day.

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hi Laurie. Congratulations on the new baby. We understand that night sessions are challenging. Well done on hanging in there so long. The good news is that as your baby gets older, you should be able to go longer between pumping sessions and start dropping some, including those dreadful middle of the night ones. Since she’s three months old already, you can use our suggested pumping schedule of 6am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 10pm. We hope this helps! Please let us know how it goes for you 🙂

  6. Jennifer

    Hello 🙂 I recently had to start exclusively pumping because my supply completely dropped and my 15 week old wasn’t getting enough breastmilk (she started losing weight). I’ve been pumping about 6 times a day in order to build up my supply and started to pump 1-2 at night but am not getting any sleep. Can I still build my supply of pumping during the day only and once a night?

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hi Jennifer, sorry to hear you’ve had some issues with pumping. It can be hard to find a schedule that works. According to our medical experts, you can pump only once at night, especially if your baby is sleeping through the night. Night time is great for pumping since your prolactin levels are highest around that time. You may also try this pumping schedule: 6am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 10pm. The important thing is to try to mimic your baby’s feeding pattern — that way, you can maintain the supply. If you try this out, please let us know how it goes 🙂

  7. Sophie

    Hi, I currently nurse my 5 week old 6x in the daytime and DH feeds her 2 bottles at night. I pump 4x a day. Can I drop the middle of night pump and add an extra one in the daytime, without affecting my overall milk supply? I am about to get enough from the daytime pump sessions to cover her 2 bottles at night.

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hey Sophie, if your general/daytime supply will suffice, then you should be able to get away with cutting your nighttime pumping session. Let us know how it works for you, and all the best! 🙂

  8. Senia

    Hi, I have a 6-month-old and breastfeeding has been hard. How many times a day should I pump for my baby boy? I try to push for 5 times, but it gets harder when running errands.

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hey Senia, thanks for reading. Sorry to hear pumping has been a bit challenging for you. As your boy is 6 months old, you might be able to drop to 4 pumping sessions. Our professional recommends this schedule for babies 6-11 months old: 6am, 10am, 2pm, 10pm. We hope that helps. Please let us know how it goes 🙂

Leave a Comment