Knowing that breast milk is produced on a supply and demand basis can leave mothers feeling like they should be waking up during the night to keep to their regular pumping sessions.
Considering these pumping breaks don’t very likely line up with their babies’ feeding schedule, pumping mothers may begin to feel the burnout and wonder if they truly do need to pump in the middle of the night.
The answer is yes and no; it truly depends on the mother’s preference and comfort, and their baby’s needs.
Let’s take an in depth look into the subject of night pumping, including tips to help you succeed should you choose to continue or take up a routine of pumping at night.
Why Should I be Pumping at Night?
In the early days after the birth of your baby, you will want to stick to a pretty strict schedule of breastfeeding, breast pumping, or a combination of the two until your supply is well established.
For mothers who are pumping, this does mean that you will need to stay on schedule throughout the night as well, pumping at least once per night or if you ever notice a dip in supply.
Once you have your routine and breast milk supply established, and once your baby starts sleeping for longer stretches through the night, it’s not completely necessary to get up and pump during the night.
This may not be until close to 6 months when your baby doesn’t solely rely on breast milk for nutrition anymore, or sooner if you’re exclusively pumping and have enough of a back supply.
If you are finding yourself waking up in pain from engorgement or uncomfortable from leakage, it may be a good idea for you to pump occasionally at night just so you can sleep easier.
Otherwise, you don’t really need to worry about dropping in supply if you miss a night pumping session.
As long as you have milk stored for someone to help feed the baby at night, you can keep sleeping.
Tips for Pumping at Night
When you are pumping at night, you will want to set yourself up for success. Here are a few tips that can help make things easier, especially during the newborn phase.
1. Set Up Your Pumping Station before Going to Sleep
The last thing you want to do is scramble around during the night to make sure you have everything you need to pump and store your milk.
It’s a better idea to have everything prepared ahead of time so you can simply pump and go back to bed.
Clean, dry, and assemble your pump ahead of time, setting it up in the area you will be pumping. We recommend a high-quality electric breast pump so you can get back to bed faster!
If it needs to be charged, make sure you plug it in before bed.
Keep breast milk storage bags nearby, already labeled for the session(s) you will be pumping.
At your pumping station, you will also want to keep water, snacks, blanket, slippers, and nightlight readily available.
Keeping your phone charged or having a charger available at your pumping station is also a good idea.
2. Pump Right before Bed and after You Wake
Pumping right before you go to bed can help decrease the number of times you need to get up during the night.
So, if you pump every 3 to 5 hours, pump once before bed and once right after you wake up in the morning.
By doing this, you should only have to get up once or twice (at most) to pump.
3. Pump near Your Bed if Possible
What’s better than not needing to leave your bed at all, or at least not walk very far to get to your pump?
Set up your pumping station near your bed so you can stay nice and cozy during the night and get back to sleep faster when you are done.
Now, of course, this is really only possible if you are manually pumping or using an electric pump with a quiet motor so you don’t wake your partner.
If your pump does have a noisy motor, just set it up in a part of the house near our room so you don’t need to walk far.
4. Connect Online
Pumping at night is not only tiring, but it can also be a lonely time for mothers who are getting up alone to take care of business.
You can use your time to scroll through Instagram or get caught up on the latest news, but it’s not always the same as actually talking with someone.
Thankfully, there are some online groups on Facebook and other social platforms specifically targeted toward pumping mothers and those who pump at night.
Do some research and check them out; you may be able to find a new mommy friend to chat with that is doing the same thing you are.
5. Don’t Stress
Above all, don’t stress yourself if you happen to miss a pumping session during the night. One missed session won’t destroy your supply.
Do what you can, taking care of yourself and your baby, without over exhausting or beating yourself up.
Why I Should Not Pump at Night
As we already discussed, continuing to pump at night after your breast supply is established isn’t a necessity in most cases.
Unless you are uncomfortable due to engorgement or leakage, there should not be a need to continue waking during the night to pump.
In fact, it may do more harm than good to pump frequently at night.
Because breast milk is made on a supply and demand basis, continuing to pump 2 and 3 times per night can cause your body to produce too much milk, which can make you even more uncomfortable.
It can also increase your chances of developing a blocked duct or even mastitis.
If you are finding that your body is producing too much milk, pump or express just enough milk to take off the edge and prevent these issues.
How to Drop the Night Pump
Once you are ready to drop the night pump, you will need to go about it the right way so that you don’t experience engorgement or too much of a drop in supply.
This means you probably don’t want to drop the night pump cold turkey, especially if you are prone to clogged ducts.
Instead, try easing off with a few simple steps.
If you are pumping multiple times during the night, start by slightly tweaking your current schedule, moving some of the pumping times closer to when you go to bed and wake up.
For example, if you usually pump around 3:30 am, move it 30 minutes later every day until it is closer to 6 am on the fifth day.
You can also do the same thing moving closer to your bedtime, moving one of your first night feedings ahead 30 minutes every night until you are only pumping right before you go to sleep.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a half hour only that you move it; feel free to do whatever feels most comfortable for you.
If you are only pumping once in the middle of the night, you can try dropping that feeding altogether and seeing how your body handles it.
It may be easy enough without having to do a lot of schedule rearranging.
The early days of motherhood are bound to be exhausting. Between having a baby that requires your attention 24/7 and having to wake up during the night to feed them and pump your breast milk, you are going to be tired.
The good news is that it doesn’t last forever.
Do what you can to make your nighttime pumping sessions easier, and then, before you know it, your little one will be sleeping through the night, not relying on as much breast milk for nutrition, and you can get back on a better sleep schedule.