Your baby is FINALLY sleeping through the night! What a wonderful feeling both figuratively and literally after days, weeks, and months of sleep deprivation. However, you may be wondering how to handle night feeds or pumps. We have been there. Waking up with sore swollen breasts full of milk is painful. One second you are celebrating the sleeping through the night milestone, and the next you are wondering if you have mastitis! Read on to see our answers to see if you need to pump at night when baby sleeps through the night.
As with every article that you will find here on Work Breastfeed Mom, our answer is: it depends. We know that’s not conclusive, but when we polled our working moms the answers varied depending on each mom’s work schedule, breast milk supply, and mental health. Since those things vary greatly between moms, there is no one size fits all answer to this question.
Because the answer to if you need to pump at night when baby sleeps through the night varies, we decided to list the various different ways moms approach breastfeeding and pumping. Find your scenario below to help you decide when you can stop pumping at night.
Related article: How to Pump Breast Milk: The Complete Guide
Exclusive Breastfeeding + Only Pumping at Work
By and large, most of our moms did not feel the need to pump at night when baby sleeps through the night if they exclusively breastfed and only pumped at work. If you are breastfeeding or pumping at least every two to three hours when you are away from baby and breastfeeding on demand when you are with your baby, your milk supply should be well established. You do not need to pump at night.
If and when your baby begins to wake at night, your body will respond to baby’s demand for more milk. It may take a few days of waking at night for your body to begin making more milk, but rest assured that there is milk in your breasts for baby in the middle of night. And your body will begin to make more milk at night for baby’s middle of the night wakings if your baby begins to wake up night after night again. Your day time supply should not be impacted in any way.
The only situation where you may want to pump at night is if you are not pumping enough during the day. Your body produces more prolactin (the hormone responsible for milk production) at night, so pumping at night may yield even more milk than your daytime pumps. Because of this, if you find that you aren’t pumping enough during the day at work, pumping at night may provide the milk you need for the next day’s bottles.
If you find yourself in this situation, try pumping right before you go to sleep and then 4 hours later. If baby is sleeping through the night, adding just one pump in the middle of the night may yield the breast milk you need–and you only have to wake up once. However, adjust accordingly and wake up every 3 hours (so, only twice) if you find that pumping twice at night is what your body needs in order to make enough milk for baby’s bottles.
Related article: How to Increase Breast Milk Supply (Fast)
The advice is a little different if you exclusively pump. For our EP moms, they did feel the need for nighttime pumping when baby sleeps through the night in order to make enough milk for potential middle of the night wakings down the road. If you exclusively pump, your body is taking its cues from the pump instead of baby at the breast. That means if your baby begins to wake at night again, you will need to begin pumping again in order to have milk for middle of the night (MOTN) feeds. It was for this reason that our EP moms generally chose to continue to pump at night when baby began sleeping through the night.
Of course, if you have an oversupply and are making more than enough milk for baby’s bottles during your daytime pumps, then don’t worry about pumping at night. Many of our EP moms reported this was the case for them, so they didn’t feel the need to wake at night. Again, it all depends on your comfort level and the amount of milk you have in the freezer.
For our exclusively pumping moms who did pump in the middle of the night, most went 2-3 hours between pump sessions while baby was 0-6 months and 3-4 hours between middle of the night pump sessions when baby was 6+ months.
Related article: The Top 3 Breast Pumps for Working Moms
Breastfeeding or Pumping + Supplementing
For our moms who supplement formula and breastfeed, it once again depends on the mom’s situation as to if she pumps at night when baby begins sleeping through the night. Some moms choose to supplement formula at night instead of pumping as a rule. This enables their partner to take responsibility for some of the middle of the night feedings. There are some challenges to this approach such as finding the right formula, making and/or heating bottles in the middle of the night, and handling times when baby wants to nurse for comfort. But, these become non-issues whenever baby begins to sleep through the night.
Many of our moms who did not pump enough during the day and supplemented formula, chose to pump at night in order to provide the most amount of breast milk possible to their baby. Most of our moms who fell into this bucket experienced an undersupply or just enough supply of pumped breast milk. If you find yourself in this category and wanting to give your baby as much breast milk as possible, you will need to pump at night when baby sleeps through the night. The milk you pump at night will provide a buffer supply and may even negate your need to supplement with formula for as long as your baby sleeps through the night (which probably won’t be forever just yet!).
When Can I Stop Pumping at Night
If you choose to continue to pump at night when baby sleeps through the night, you may wonder at what point you should stop pumping at night. If your baby has been sleeping through the night for 3 or more weeks or you have decided to drop middle of the night feedings (with your pediatrician’s blessing), it generally is safe for your milk supply if you stop pumping at night. You can choose to begin pumping at night down the road if you need to. Your body should respond to the demand for more milk again. If you are pumping more than once at night, make sure to reduce the amount of times you pump over 3-4 days (i.e. drop one pump session for a few days, then another) in order to reduce the chances of a clogged milk duct.
Another reason to stop pumping at night would be your mental health. If you find that your mental health is suffering from the lack of sleep that comes with having a new baby, a stressful job, and balancing everything in between, it’s time to get some sleep. If your baby has finally started to sleep through the night, grab some shuteye yourself. We will say it one more time for the moms in the back (who are probably drifting off to sleep), your body should respond to baby’s need for milk in the middle of the night if nighttime wakings start again. Take care of yourself.
Related article: How to Stop Pumping (Finally!)