If you ask most new parents what the one thing is that they want more than anything else in the world, you’ll probably get the same answer: more sleep!
Unfortunately, if you’re the breastfeeding parent, you know that getting up in the middle of the night to feed your baby is just part of the deal.
So, is it ok to have your partner feed the baby during the night so you can get more sleep? Or will that hurt your milk supply?
While it’s fine to have your partner feed your baby occasionally, it’s important to either breastfeed or pump every two to three hours in the first three months, and every three to four hours in the next three months to maintain your milk supply.
If you don’t nurse (or pump) that often, your body will assume you need to produce less milk, and your milk supply may decrease.
The good news is once babies are about 6 months old, about two-thirds of them are able to sleep through the night on a regular basis. And when that happens, your body will naturally adjust its schedule to produce less milk overnight and more milk during the day.
When You Need to Pump at Night
Most of the time, breastfeeding parents will nurse their babies in the middle of the night and only do pumping sessions during the day. However, there are occasions when you may need to pump in the middle of the night, rather than nurse, if your baby is younger than 6 months old.
- If you’re an exclusive pumper (which means you only feed your baby pumped milk from a bottle)
- If your baby randomly sleeps through the night before she does it consistently
- If you wake up feeling engorged
- If you’re trying to build up your milk supply
5 Hacks for Pumping at Night
Pumping at night is definitely a pain, but there are a few things you can do to make it easier on yourself.
- Keep Your Breast Pump in Your Bedroom
One way to get your overnight pumping session over as quickly as possible is to keep your breast pump in your bedroom with your supplies stationed next to it, so all you have to do is hook yourself up and press the on button. Make sure your pump is plugged in or fully charged before you go to bed. You can even write the day and time on your breast milk storage bags ahead of time to make the process as quick as possible.
- Leave Your Milk Out
Another way to save time when you’re pumping at night is to skip putting the milk in the refrigerator when you’re finished pumping. Since breast milk can stay out unrefrigerated for up to four hours, depending on what time you’re pumping, you can just keep the milk out and give it to your baby when he wakes up. For example, if you wake up at 2 a.m. to pump and your baby will likely be waking up at 6 a.m. or earlier, you can use that pumped milk for his first feeding.
- Get a Pump with a Backlit LCD Screen and Automatic Shutoff
When you’re pumping in the middle of the night, the last thing you want to do is bumble around in the dark to turn on your pump. Luckily, several breast pump manufacturers offer backlit LCD screens on their pumps as well as night lights to help you pump in the dark. If you can, also look for a pump that has an automatic shutoff feature, which will make sure that you don’t pump too long if you happen to doze off.Here are a few pumps that offer both LCD screens and automatic shutoff capabilities:
Ameda Mya Joy
Cimilre P1, S5+, S6 or S6+
Spectra 9 Plus, S1 Plus or Synergy Gold
Zomee Z2Pumps that have LCD screens, but no automatic shutoff:
Medela Freestyle Flex
Lansinoh Signature Pro or Smartpump 2.0
- Pump Right Before You Go to Sleep
Whether you are exclusively pumping or doing a combination of pumping and nursing, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of squeezing in a pumping session as close as possible to your bedtime, no matter how long it’s been since your baby has last eaten. This should help you go as long as possible before you have to pump again. For example, if you go to bed around 10:30, try to do a pumping session at 10 p.m. That way you won’t have to wake up to pump again until 2 a.m., and then you can feed your baby when he wakes up around 6 or 7 a.m.
- Listen to a Podcast or Audio Book While You Pump
Although you might be tempted to scroll through your phone while you pump in the middle of the night, it’s probably best to avoid using your phone if possible. That’s because the blue light from screens decreases our body’s production of melatonin, which controls our circadian rhythm. Instead, try listening to an audio book or podcast to keep yourself entertained. And if you are going to use your phone, make sure to turn the brightness down as low as possible so you can get back to sleep more quickly.