I have always been a night-pumping mom, especially with my second child.
Sometimes, I would shoot up awake at about 2:30 a.m. to my newborn’s cries and hurriedly breastfeed her then. On other nights, I would face leaky breasts to the point where I had to pump it out.
So, when new mothers ask me if they can go 8 hours without pumping at night, I tell them that the answer depends on your newborn’s sleep times and if you deal with full breasts at night.
What do I mean by that? Bear with me! I’ll explain.
Table of Contents
Why Should You Pump Breast Milk at Night?
First, it may help you to understand why mothers even consider nighttime pumping. Because clearly, many mums swear by it! I know I do.
- As mothers, we intuitively know when our child sleeps and when they will need to feed. Breast milk even adapts to your baby’s nutritional needs throughout their growth! Did you know that?! How cool is that!
So, your breast pumping times mostly depend on how often and when your baby needs feeding.
Why Does Your Baby’s Sleep Schedule Matter?
We know newborns sleep 12 to 16 hours per day.1
I mean, sure, I get it. Babies don’t care about day and night. And when they are not napping, they need a breastfeeding2 or a diaper change, sometimes both!
My second-born would wake up constantly, night or day. It continued till she turned about 2-3 months.
- So, observe your child’s feeding and sleeping patterns. You can adjust your nighttime pumps once you have that sorted.
Can You Go 8 Hours Without Pumping at Night?
Frequent breastfeeding/pumping, including at night, is essential. Keep in mind:
- In the initial 0-6 weeks postpartum, it’s important to establish a strong milk supply. Prioritize the total number of daily pumps over a rigid schedule of 2-3 hours per pump; aim to pump at least 8 times in 24 hours.
- From weeks 6-12 postpartum, try to avoid going more than 4-5 hours without pumping, aiming for at least 5-6 pumps per day.3
Also, keep in mind, that your nocturnal breast milk supply will ease as your baby grows which I have discussed below in this article. As time progresses and the milk supply stabilizes, longer intervals at night without pumping become possible. However, be alert to signs of engorgement or discomfort, which can lead to complications like clogged ducts or mastitis. More on this below.
These recommendations are general and may vary based on individual factors like the mother’s milk supply and the baby’s feeding needs. Always consult a lactation consultant for personalized advice.
What Can Happen If You Don’t Pump for 8 Hours?
Dear moms, this is important. Sometimes, your infant may be fast asleep at night, but your breasts get painfully overfull with milk.
- This feeling is breast engorgement, and it can happen if you go 8 hours or longer without pumping at night or breastfeeding.
- Why? A breastfeeding hormone called prolactin is fully awake at night and early mornings, signaling your body to produce more milk at night because of our circadian rhythm.
- But if your baby is asleep, you don’t feed. And if you don’t pump either, your breasts become overfull and cause you pain. We don’t want that for you!
I Have Been Through This as Well
Breast engorgement is something that happened to me during the early stages of nighttime breastfeeding, especially around my baby’s 2-month mark.
- So, if you feel that your breasts are getting full more frequently, nighttime pumps are going to be a HUGE relief for you!
- And the bonus is that nighttime pumps also help maintain breast milk supply for longer. This period is vital for establishing a strong, stable supply that meets your baby’s growing needs. Regular pumping sessions, including at night, help ensure your body continues to produce milk at a steady rate. Who doesn’t want that?
Does Nighttime Pumping Have Benefits?
Of course! Here are a few points that describe how nighttime pumping can benefit you and your little one.
1) More Milk Expression, For Longer
As I mentioned, prolactin4 works better at night and early mornings, producing more milk for your baby. And we know that an empty breast signals your body to make more milk.
- So, the more you hand express/breast pump to create an empty breast at night, the better your milk production over the long term.
That means more breastfeeding nutrition for your baby. Yay!!
2) Your Baby Learns Day from Night
Before, I said, “Babies don’t care about day and night.” Well, your nighttime breast milk can change that!
- Nighttime breast milk can help your baby make a hormone called melatonin that helps them distinguish day from night.
So, with time, your infant sleeps more soundly at night.
3) More Nutrients for Your Baby’s Brain
Honestly, the benefits of breast milk are so never-ending! It makes me proud to be a mother.
- Nighttime breast milk also triggers the production of serotonin, a hormone that helps to improve brain functions and create positive moods.
Easing Out of Frequent Nighttime Pumps
We’ve learned that there are a lot of benefits to nighttime pumping. But then, what about your sleep cycle, girl?
It’s time to learn how to space out your nighttime pumps and maintain good sleep.
I’ve given below the strategy I followed with my second child. You may have to tweak this strategy to fit your needs. But from talking to many moms in the community, I’ve realized that this helps.
1) For the First 2-3 Months
In these months, your nighttime pumping and middle-of-the-night breastfeeding will be at an all-time high. Your baby is growing and needs your nutritious breast milk!
So, here’s what I do.
- Around 9 pm, I breastfeed my baby to sleep. It can save you a lot of trouble later, trust me.
- Then, around 1-2 am, I wake up to pump out that melatonin-rich breast milk if my baby is fast asleep. If she’s awake, well, you just breastfeed!
- Around 5 or 6 am, if my breasts are full and my baby is asleep, I pump again.
Another mother, a dear friend, also told me about her early morning pumps. She said, “I also drink a lot of water when I wake up and do that morning pump.” So, stay hydrated, dear mums!
2) For 3-4 Months and After
Once your baby turns three months and beyond, they develop a sleep-wake cycle that you can work with. My baby’s sleep time pretty much mimicked mine after three months.
- At this stage, I would pump right before bed and gradually move my nighttime pumps to 4 am and then 5 am.
- In a few weeks, your body will adjust to this change. Eventually, it so happened that I did not need to wake up every night for pumps. I even reward myself with a break from night pumps now and then.
- What is left is to continue those morning pumps to ensure your milk supply is still high.
Practicing these techniques can go a long way to relieving you from sore breasts and giving you time to sleep when your baby does.
Pump It Up: Night or Day!
Listen, you made it! You now know why it helps to pump at night.
So, pass on this knowledge and practice it whenever you breastfeed your beautiful baby. You can even chat with your doctor to discuss nighttime pumping so your baby can reap the benefits of nighttime breast milk.
- https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/typical-sleep-behaviour-nb-0-3-months ↩︎
- https://books.google.ca/books ↩︎
- https://zayacare.com/blog/pumping-breastmilk-how-much-should-you-pump/ ↩︎
- https://www.motherlove.com/blogs/all/prolactin-and-the-importance-of-nighttime-nursing-or-pumping ↩︎