Pump or Sleep? Do I Need to Pump at Night to Maintain Supply?
Is your baby surprisingly sleeping through the night and you don’t know if you should wake him up or if you need to pump to avoid a dip in supply? Are you exclusively pumping and wondering if you need to be pumping throughout the night?
Pumping sure is challenging, but can be extremely important to maintain supply and avoid issues, such as clogged ducts and mastitis. But is it really 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 and if you need to get up and pump if your baby starts sleeping through the night.
If You’re 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 Baby
Pumping whenever your baby eats is the best way to ensure that you are pumping frequently enough to mimic nursing. It also helps eliminate extra night wakings (source). I had to exclusively pump for the first week with my first baby as she wouldn’t latch. Our routine went as follows: change baby, attempt breastfeeding, bottle feed, and then I would pump while daddy burped her.
You should be double pumping for 15-20 minutes during each pumping session, emptying the breasts as thoroughly as possible. Experts also recommend pumping for 2-5 minutes after your milk stops flowing to maintain production and help increase supply if needed (source).
If you are starting to exclusively pump straight out of the hospital, I would start with 8-10 pumps a day, and then adjust the number of pumping sessions accordingly. If you are getting a 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 keep pumping at least once during the middle of the night in the first few months or if you start to notice a dip in supply. Most moms and lactation consultants recommend pumping once between 1 am and 4 am, as most moms tend to have a high output at this time (source).
Keep In Mind
This is because as baby gets older, he will start to eat more per feeding (usually around 3.5-5oz.) and go longer in between feedings. You’ll also need to pump less often once your baby starts eating more solid foods and less breastmilk.
You will have to figure out a pumping schedule that works for you and your baby, as everyone’s situation is different, but here are some example pumping schedules (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
Is it Okay to Miss a Night Pumping Every Now and Then?
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.
If Baby is Sleeping Through the Night
Night nursing certainly is good for supply, but do you need to wake your baby up 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 is having plenty of wet and dirty diapers, then there is no need to wake him/her up to feed. Let your baby 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 are 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 (source).
To Sum it Up
If you are exclusively pumping and bottle feeding your baby, then you will want to be sure to mimic what a typical nursing baby would be doing. Pumping every time your baby feeds will ensure that you’re mimicking this relationship and will help minimize night pumping.
For a newborn, you will want to double pump every 2-3 hours for 15-20 minutes at a time. As your baby gets older and they start eating more per feeding, going longer in between feedings, and eating more solid food, you should be able to start 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 find yourself uncomfortable. If this is the case, pump off just a little for some relief.
Did you pump at night? Share your experiences with us in the comments and be sure to share this post with all of your pumping mama friends.