Sleeping is overrated when you become a new mom. You finally realize that looking like a mombie is your new norm. Then out of the blue, your darling baby sleeps through. A solid 8 hours of sleep sounds dreamy right? But the reality of clogged ducts and mastitis enters your mind followed by the dreaded question ‘how long can I go at night without pumping?’ Keep reading to find out more.
How Long Can I Go Without Pumping At Night – Will it Damage My Milk Supply?
So your little one is sleeping through the night and instead of taking advantage of those uninterrupted hours of rest you are up worrying about how long can I go without pumping at night? The truth is the answer to this question is really going to depend on where you are in your breastfeeding journey. In the first few months, it is recommended to pump around 1-3 times per night but as your milk supply is established you can alter your schedule to get a dreamy night’s sleep.
Can I Go 8 Hours Without Pumping At Night?
You have jumped into momhood like a trooper. Feeding and expressing have become a part of your routine and if your little one has started settling for a longer period at night time it doesn’t seem fair that you would still have to get up and follow the grueling routine to pump. So if you find yourself wondering how long can I go at night without pumping, we have some good and bad news.
The recommendations differ if you are exclusively pumping or if you are breastfeeding and are also dependent on the age of your child.
The good news is that there is a way of dropping the nighttime pump. Read further to find out the best possible way for you to get your much-needed rest without the fear of getting mastitis or clogged ducts.
Exclusively Pumping –
Speaking from experience, exclusively pumping is hard work, I am not going to sugar coat it! You have made the choice to feed your little one with your amazing milk with the added job of washing and sterilizing bottles.
For moms that make this work, it can come with extreme fatigue and yet the joy of knowing you are giving your baby the best nutrients possible. We have simplified the recommendations of when and for how long depending on your baby’s age.
‣ Newborn – In the beginning is where many moms find this hard. Aiming to pump every 1-2 hours you may feel as if you are permanently attached to your pump but it will help increase your milk supply. Avoid going longer than three hours if you can.
When pumping I tried to match when my daughter was feeding this meant I always felt ahead of my supply.
Once your baby is around 10 days old you should be aiming to pump at least 25 ounces as your baby usually drinks anything from 1.5 – 3 ounces per feed.
Pumping through the night is a given in these early days of being a mom. You should aim to pump at least eight times in one 24-hour period. This can be adjusted to your own time schedule or if like me you are pumping as the baby feeds then you have your own little alarm clock!
‣ 1 month + – If your baby has started sleeping for a longer period at night time and you don’t pump then you may find your supply can drop. The usual advice would be to pump at least once between the hours of 1 am and 4 am. When pumping during the night you are maintaining your milk supply and allowing your breasts to release. Let’s be honest waking up to soaking bed sheets and pajamas isn’t only uncomfortable but as a lactating mom, it’s a horrific waste!
It is also the highest point of Prolactin levels so by pumping through the night you are increasing the milk receptors meaning a good supply will be maintained.
As your little one grows you will notice that the need to pump will become less frequent and you can start to lengthen the time in between sessions.
All your dreams about being a mother are finally coming true. You are about to be blessed with a beautiful child. At this moment, it is normal for you to worry about your diet. You must be nervous thinking, ” Can I eat flan while pregnant?”
The answer is yes, you can eat Flan while you are pregnant. But wait, don’t start eating this already- you gotta know a few things before you do!
When breastfeeding you and your baby should get into a pretty good schedule. Those night feeds will coincide with your baby becoming hungry. If your little one has decided to sleep through providing that your supply is good then you can get some well-earned rest yourself.
Be prepared though, your breasts will be extremely full if you have gone a solid 8 hours without feeding and we advise that you should gradually work on dropping feeds rather than stopping cold turkey.
Continuing to pump even though your baby doesn’t want feeding will essentially tell your body to make more milk and it can leave you feeling engorged and in pain.
Engorgement can prevent you from sleeping and if this occurs then it doesn’t hurt to pump a little just to ease the pressure. This would be the only reason you would need to pump during the night.
How Do I Drop a Nighttime Pumping Session?
So you have now read that pumping through the night should be continued in the early stages and as your baby grows you can begin to reduce your sessions. The fact is stopping cold turkey can lead to infection and blocked milk ducts. Your body still believes that your baby needs the milk during the night so you need to gradually train it to understand that you do not need as much supply.
It is important that I remind you that dropping a nighttime pump is only for moms who have a good milk supply already established.
What To Expect When You Drop A Pumping Session
‣ Supply – When expressing there is no tell-tale sign of how your body will react to you dropping a feed. Many moms question whether it will affect their milk supply?
There is no real answer to this question because we are all different, from routine feeding to feeling engorged we all have different experiences when it comes to our supply.
If dropping in supply is a concern for you then my advice would be to use the minutes you would pump through the night sessions and spread it across your day sessions. So if you pump for 30 mins at 3 am then each day’s session should be increased to pick up this missed session. Essentially then, you wouldn’t be dropping a session but you would be pumping longer during the day to ensure your supply stays good and you get some well-earned sleep.
On the other hand, some moms feel that because they are getting more rest their supply increases! Which again is perfectly normal.
‣ Return of Your Period – The blissful time you have had breastfeeding or expressing can prevent the return of your period. If you drop this night feed then you run the risk of it returning.
‣ Clogged Ducts/Infection – You can do everything by the book but some women are prone to getting clogged ducts and or infections, namely mastitis.
Not expressing or feeding during the night can increase your chances of getting an infection. Let me be the one to tell you IT HURTS! I tried dropping an express session and caught Mastitis. It was so painful, I felt ill with it too with mild cold and flu symptoms. I needed to continue to express the bad milk before my body could adjust to the new supply I needed. I wish now I had done my homework on this topic and maybe my experience would have been different.
Many moms say that Cabbage leaves can help with the engorgement and taking lecithin supplements help to make your milk less sticky so it flows freely from the breast. The other thing that could help would be to empty your breasts before bed and just after you wake. This way you are less likely to get clogged.
Dropping a Session
Take extra time and care when following the steps below. Decide on the session you wish to drop – which is usually the nighttime session.
- Push the time of that session later by half-hour slots. I.e if you express at 3am for the first night you should aim for 3.30 am on the second, 4 am on the third and 4.30 am on the fourth. – doing this is gradually blending the night feed into your morning feed.
- You could also work it backward so it is totally your choice as to what works better for you.
By the time you get to day 5, you should have your new routine without your night feed. Of Course, you could jump back/forward by an hour each time but remember that doing this too fast can cause complications.
How Long to Go Without Pumping at Night – FAQs
Many moms have successfully dropped the nighttime pumping session and have managed to go as long as 12 hours in between sessions. This is only advised if you have a great supply. Ensuring that your storage capacity can also cope with the refill of milk is also important to prevent engorgement and blocked ducts.
There is no need to set your alarm to pump if your baby has started sleeping through the night. You may get woken with the uncomfortable feeling of being full and if this happens then you can pump a little to relieve the pressure.
If you stop pumping cold turkey then you are more likely to suffer from Mastitis or blocked milk ducts. It is important that you stick to your schedule as closely as possible but don’t panic, the world won’t stop if you miss a session here and there you can just spread the lost time amongst your other pumping sessions.
So, we have successfully answered the question ‘How long can I go without pumping at night?’
At the beginning of your feeding journey whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or pumping you will find that your breasts will need the release every 1-3 hours, going longer in these early days could impact your supply and make you feel very full.
Once you have a good supply and your bub is starting to settle into a good routine then taking steps to drop that dreadful sleep-stealing session can begin.
If you ever feel like you have underestimated the role of pumping or feeding yourself then please seek advice from your doctor. Don’t lose heart momma! Your body made your little miracle and it is made to feed him/her but nothing worthwhile is ever easy, right?
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