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.

Table of Contents

    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 (1).

    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 (2).

    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 milk33 Steps To Pumping Success: How To Pump More Milk

    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 (3).

    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 (4):

    • 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 nightYour Ultimate Guide to 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.

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    32 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!

        • Hi there! My baby is currently 3 months old and I have been exclusively pumping for about a month now. I have been getting up at nigt every 3-4 hours to pump. But I’m going back to work and sleep is essential for my long shifts (I’m a nurse) my question is how long can I go between pumping and it not hurt my supply?! I’m a nightshift nurse so when I’m at work I will be pumping through the night anyway, but when I’m home with my daughter I will be sleeping on a different schedule. So I’ll be sleeping during the day some days (when i have to work) and pumping at night….and other days I will be sleeping at night answering pumping during the day. So I’m curious how long I can go between pumping sessions (since my sleep schedule is all over the place) Thank you!

          • Team Mom Loves Best

            Hey MK! So sorry, we’re just responding. It really depends on you — what your body needs and what your baby needs. We honestly can’t say. But we wish you all the best and hope things work out well.

    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 🙂

    9. I just had twin boys 10 days ago (via c-section) and by the third day I was producing a little over 100mL EACH PUMPING and they were only eating 4 and 5 mL. Now I have cut out almost all night pumpings except maybe one or two, and I pump every 2-3 hours during the day and I’m getting around 70mL each pumping. Do I need to pump more and increase supply again? They’re eating 12 and 15mL now.

      • Team Mom Loves Best

        Hey Madi, thanks so much for reading. Well done on TWINS! And a c-section! Congratulations. Your schedule sounds good to me. Ultimately, it really depends on you and how your babies are doing. If they’re thriving, then you’re doing a great job, mama!

    10. Recently my newborn has been sleeping 5 to 6 hours a night, but my breasts are so engorged and I am so uncomfortable that I have to wake up and pump since I don’t want to wake her up. Is this how it will be forever?! I’m so tired and truly want to take advantage of her sleeping.

      • Team Mom Loves Best

        Hey Dee, we’re sorry to hear that you’re having such a difficult time with engorgement. It may be wise to pump more throughout the day rather than at night, if possible. But since your baby is just a newborn, it’s highly unlikely that this will continue forever. Hang in there, and we hope it gets better soon 🙂

    11. Elizabeth

      I have been pumping and using a Haakaa since my LO was born. I have a five freezer stash now and she is 3 months old. I still get up at night because I am told that she easily eats 4 or even 5 oz from a bottle when I’m away. But the only pumping session I have that produces that fro one breast is in the middle of the nights. During the day, I can get maybe 4 oz from both breasts combined. Is it safe for me to drop midnight feeding?

      • Team Mom Loves Best

        Hey Elizabeth, congrats on the baby! Pumping and scheduling feeds can be challenging. Unfortunately, every mom and her child are different, so we cannot say whether or not you should drop your midnight feeding based on the information you’ve shared. It would be best to consider the needs of your child and your schedule, of course, to make this decision. Thanks for reading!

    12. Barbara L Wesolek

      Thank you so much for this. I forgot my pump pieces at home one night when I went to work and had a bit of a panic. I at one point had a big issue with under producing breastmilk — I would pump (power pump) for 30 mins and only get 2 ounces between both breasts. Since then I’ve had the tea, eaten more breast supply friendly foods, and taken supplements to finally start pumping 14-16 ounces overnight again. My daytime supply has been a little low so I was worried that missing out tonight would cause me more issues but after reading your article I feel so much more relieved missing just tonight.

      • Team Mom Loves Best

        Hey Barbara, we’re so glad we could be a source of relief and that your breast milk volume has improved in response to a better diet and supplements. Worrying can be a normal part of motherhood, but you’re definitely not alone and we’re rooting for you, mama 🙂

    13. Jo

      I have a 10-week old who has been sleeping through the night for a few weeks now. I basically start pumping around 7-7:30 in the morning and then every 3-4 hours during the day. My last pump of the day is about 10 p.m. and then I get up once during the night to pump, around 2 or 3. I just have my pump assembled and ready to go so I can get back to sleep fast. So far I’m ahead by about 8 ounces at a time, which is a great feeling. My milk didn’t all come in right away but when it did it was a big blessing.

      • Team Mom Loves Best

        Hey Jo, you’re one determined mama! We’re glad your circumstances are working out well with pumping at night. Well done, and thanks for sharing your experience. Hopefully, one of our mamas will be inspired or feel less alone 🙂

    14. Yesenia

      Hi, I think this information is very helpful. I don’t have an oversupply, when I pump every 3-4 hours I usually get 6oz from both breast. Do you think if I follow the 3-6 month schedule my output will stay the same?

      • Team Mom Loves Best

        Hi Yesenia, thanks so much for reading and leaving us a kind message about our content. The 3-6 months schedule seems to be right up your alley if you currently pump every 3-4 hours — it’s just about the same idea with that schedule. Give it a shot and see how it works for you? Let us know — all the best 🙂

    15. Emily

      I wish I had found this article sooner- I worried so much about missing a pumping session and its impact on my supply. We spent two months in the nicu, and the lactation consultants took a really conservative line- pump no less than 8 times a day or risk unrecoverable loss of supply, which created a lot of (unnecessary) pressure.

      With all the other stress, I couldn’t handle getting up multiple times a night after the first couple weeks so I only got up once, and it ended up being fine. After about 4 months I stopped pumping during late night feedings (it was such a small amount of my overall production it seemed pointless anyway) with no notable effect on supply.

      Again, I appreciate this article so much and wish I had seen it sooner- it would have relieved so much of the angst I had about cutting back on pumping. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

      • Team Mom Loves Best

        Hi Emily, aww, we’re so glad this article was so helpful! Many times, moms know what’s best for their babies, so try not to worry too much. We’re always cheering you on 🙂 Thank you for reading and all the very best!

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