To Sleep or Not to Sleep? - Tips for Breast Pumping at Night
If you’re pumping to maintain milk supply then you’ll probably need to pump at night. Pumping at night can be exhausting, but there are some ways to make it easier.
Should I be pumping at night?
If you’ve recently had a baby and you’re pumping to build and maintain milk supply then it’s important that you pump periodically throughout the day and night. This is especially important if you’re exclusively expressing (feeding baby all of her meals by expressing milk) as you’ll need to pump 8-12 times per day, to follow a newborn’s eating schedule. This is to establish your milk supply, which your body produces based on the amount of milk you’re expressing or breastfeeding (supply + demand). You’ll be pumping or feeding your baby every 2-3 hours in those early days, so pumping at night is important too.
Once your supply is established, you can test dropping pumping sessions. Keep an eye on your output and add a session back in if you find your supply drops. If your baby is consistently sleeping through the night and is older than 6 months (and not relying solely on breastmilk for nutrition) then you can drop the night time pumping sessions as this isn’t when you’re baby is normally demanding milk. You can follow gentle weaning techniques to avoid discomfort or plugged ducts.
Of course you can continue to pump at night if you want to keep the momentum going on a freezer stash. Remember that levels of prolactin, the milk producing hormone, are at their highest early in the morning, so if you’re pumping at night this might be your biggest ‘haul.’
Tips for pumping at night
Breast pumping at night can be exhausting, especially in the newborn phase when you’ll be all around tired. Since pumping at night can be important for building and maintaining milk supply, it’s important that you consistently pump at night during times when you’re feeding your baby expressed breastmilk for a meal.
1. Set up your pumping station before bed time
Before you go to bed, make sure your breast pump is set up and ready for pumping at night. Have your milk collection kits assembled and attached to the tubing, and have your breast pump plugged in (or fully charged) and ready to go. If you normally transfer milk right into freezer storage bags, you can write the date and time on the bags ahead of time. The more you can have set up and ready to go ahead of time, the sooner you’ll be back under the covers and to sleep.
When setting up your pumping station before bed time, make sure you have everything you need within reach so you don’t have to interrupt your pumping session – and get back to bed sooner. Here are some ideas:
- Charge your phone and prepare all the things you might need
- Have a glass of water and some snacks ready in case you get hungry
- Prepare a warm blanket to keep you comfortable in case you get cool
- Have a towel ready in case you spill
- Keep extra pump parts and bottles within reach and easy to find
2. Pump before bed
Adding a pumping session in before you go to bed can help decrease the total amount of times you’ll be pumping at night. If you’re pumping every 3-5 hours, you can adjust your pumping schedule so that you pump right before you go to bed and after you wake up, meaning you only have to wake once to pump. For example, you can pump at 9pm, then wake at 2am to pump, then wake again at 7am to pump.
3. Pump near your bed
Getting out from under the warm covers to pump in another room every night can get really old, really fast. Make things easier by setting up your pumping station in the bedroom, or even on your bedside table so that you don’t have to leave bed (remember that freshly expressed breastmilk can stay at room temperature for up to 8 hours). A quiet breast pump like the Pumpables Genie Plus is essential if you’ll be pumping in the same room as a sleeping baby. If the bedroom isn’t a possibility, aim for a room in the same area of the house as your bedroom. This is helpful in the winter time when you’re more likely to encounter inconsistent – and uncomfortable – temperatures throughout the home.
4. Be social
It may sound counter-intuitive to be social in the middle of the night, however in today’s day and age it’s easy to be social with the internet at your fingertips. It’s easy to feel isolated while you’re up pumping at night, especially if everyone else in the house is asleep. You can find a breastfeeding group on Facebook and chat with other mamas that may be awake pumping at night, or you can play an interactive game app on your phone, like Scrabble, with anyone around the world.
5. Don’t stress about missing a night pumping session
Last but not least, it’s important to remember that you WILL get through this. Pumping will get easier, and you won’t have to do it at night time forever. Don’t stress about maintaining a perfect schedule. If you sleep through a pumping session at night, it’s not going to ruin your supply! The first few months after baby is born can be the most overwhelming, so it’s important to remember this while breast pumping at night. Making pumping at night as easy as possible will help, as will finding a support system. Don’t be afraid to put words of affirmation on post-it notes around your pumping station, too!