Last Updated on August 31, 2023 by Jada Glover
Ah, that magical moment when your baby sleeps through the entire night! While filled with relief and excitement that you may be on the road to scheduled sleep time, you’re probably also filled with emotions and questions like, “Will my milk supply drop if my baby sleeps through the night?”
The short answer is no!
Or rather, your breast milk supply will adjust to produce more milk throughout the day and less at night.
Adjusting to Changes in Baby Sleep Patterns
This sleeping milestone starts many transitions your baby will go through as they grow.
Keep in mind that breastmilk gets produced on a supply-and-demand basis. As your baby grows, they will take in more milk during the day and sleep more at night.
Your body will adjust to stop making as much milk in the middle of the night and, instead, produce more during the day.
Your body may even produce slightly less to accommodate the change in schedule. But, this is natural and not something to be worried about.
As soon as you feel like you have the rhythm of breastfeeding mastered, your baby shifts gears on you and suddenly starts sleeping through the night.
With all the sleep deprivation that comes with caring for a newborn baby, this is a huge milestone, so let your infant sleep (assuming they are meeting all their growth milestones). The last thing you want to do is interrupt your baby’s developing circadian rhythms.
Alleviating Nighttime Nursing Fears
Every baby’s sleep patterns differ, but infants often sleep for longer stretches at about two to four months. Most won’t sleep solidly through the night until at least six months.
It’s also common for some babies to not sleep through the night until they are 18-24 months old. My daughter is 18 months old and wakes up at least twice still to nurse. So if this is you, or if your baby goes back to waking up, this is also normal.
A baby sleeping through the night won’t reduce your overall milk supply as long as you regularly empty your breasts throughout the day. If your baby starts to sleep through the night at about three months, it most likely won’t hurt the amount of milk available for breastfeeding when the baby feeds while awake.
In the meantime, you may wake up engorged, or your milk ducts become clogged and uncomfortable. You may worry that your baby will get a good milk supply during daytime feedings.
Let’s talk about some of the worries you may have and how to relieve all your fears.
Early Days of Nursing
For starters, when you first begin nursing a newborn in the early days, it’s crucial to breastfeed frequently. Nurse your newborn every two to three hours throughout the day. These frequent nursings signal your body to make more milk and establish a healthy milk supply.
Always follow your baby’s cues for the best results in keeping a healthy milk supply. The more often the baby nurses, the more milk you will produce.
Feed newborns at least every three hours until they get back to their birth weight. After this weight gain, you can let the baby sleep longer between feedings.
At first, you may need to wake them up to nurse.
Is My Baby Hungry?
Most breastfed babies wake up during the night because they get hungry. Breast milk digests easier than formula. So, the milk passes through the infant’s system faster, causing them to wake up hungry more often than formula-fed infants.
If your baby, especially a baby under a year old, wakes up at night, it’s most likely because they feel hungry.
If your baby starts sleeping without any sleep training, they are signaling that they are getting enough milk throughout the day and don’t need nighttime feeding for growth and nutrition.
What Does Sleeping Through The Night Mean?
When breastfed infants begin sleeping better through the night, they typically sleep for only 4- or 5-hour stretches.
Sleeping through the night usually means 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Around three months of age, babies average about 5 hours of daytime sleep and 10 hours at night.
Hormones in Breastmilk
As your baby grows, your milk changes to meet nutritional needs. All of these changes involve hormones.
Your morning breast milk, for instance, contains some noteworthy milk-making hormones. The hormone cortisol helps babies experience alertness and stay awake more during the day.
In the evening, breast milk tends to be high in the hormone melatonin, or the sleep hormone, to help the baby fall asleep.
The hormones produced in your breast milk also help you as a nursing mom. For instance, breast milk contains breast milk that helps induce sleep in you, the nursing mother. As you breastfeed, this hormone gets released into your system.
This hormonal release allows you to fall asleep faster. Prolactin also calms your nerves. Breastfeeding also naturally releases melatonin and oxytocin that help the breastfeeding mother relax.
On the flip side, when you are sleep deprived and stressed, your adrenaline will start to inhibit oxytocin causing your milk supply to lessen.
The milk-making hormone prolactin is naturally higher throughout the night since it rises when you sleep. About an hour and a half into your sleep, prolactin increases. The prolactin peaks about 4 to 5 hours later. Prolactin levels stay high for about 2 hours after you wake up.
Is My Baby Getting Enough Milk?
If your baby consistently sleeps through the night, you can rest assured your little one can do so because of a satisfied tummy. If a baby feels hungry, they will let you know.
Hunger will wake a baby from a sound sleep which often results in night waking for night feeds when the infant gets hungry.
So, if your baby is sleeping through the night, chances are your breastfeeding is filling their little tummy. Their need for breast milk will lessen when the baby begins eating solid foods.
Will The Baby’s New Sleep Pattern Last?
Once you enjoy a full night of sleep, you may think this is how the baby will sleep from here on out. However, many babies go through patches where they may sleep through the night for a while but then have interrupted sleep with teething, an illness, learning a new skill, or a growth spurt. Sometimes this is called a sleep regression.
They may want to breastfeed more or less at night. These seemingly back-tracking nights of extra feedings are common, especially around four to six months of age, and not a sign that your baby is hungry or needs to start solid foods.
Allow your body to adjust to every change by always following your baby’s cues.
Tips for Adjusting to a Change in Milk Production
When your baby stops nighttime nursing, your little one will most likely start to make up for it during the day.
They will probably awake hungry and ready to feed since they have had no milk throughout the night. They may start nursing every two to three hours while awake.
Because of this shift in nursing style, your body will adjust to produce the majority of milk throughout the day according to your baby’s needs to up the supply when your baby needs it most.
When your baby forfeits nursing during the night for nighttime feedings, you will want to ensure their daytime feedings are filling them up.
Feed them within ten to fifteen minutes of waking so you know they will stay awake during the breastfeeding session. When you breastfeed during the day, ensure your baby is wide awake and receiving full feedings.
When they are awake during each feeding, they will eat more, which in turn will strengthen your milk supply.
Stock your Freezer
Since your baby is no longer nursing at night, you will find it helpful to begin pumping using a manual pump before you go to bed or waking a few hours into your sleep for a short pumping session.
Use these pumpings to increase your freezer stash while keeping your milk supply up.
How do I relieve breast engorgement throughout the night?
While your tiny wonder lies there sleeping, you may find that you’re the one waking up. Why? Because you’re uncomfortable since your milk supply that is accustomed to waking in the middle of the night for feedings suddenly has no outlet. It continues to fill up leaving you with breast engorgement and in pain.
When you wake up engorged with milk, use a hand pump to release enough milk to relieve the pressure so you can sleep.
If it is excruciatingly painful, use ice packs and massage your breasts to keep the milk flowing and prevent your ducts from clogging.
Another way to relieve your engorged breasts during the night is to do dream feedings.
If you co-sleep, this is a manner of rolling over and offering your sleeping infant a breast for just a nibble to release a little bit of milk before rolling back over and going to sleep.
If your baby is in a bassinet or crib nearby, some babies will stay asleep as you pick them up, dream feed, and lay them back down so long as you restrain from turning on a light, taking time to change their diaper, or burping them.
When to Pump
If you notice your milk supply plummeting, use a breast pump to try to replenish your supply.
- Pump before bed to drain your breasts
- Pump at night when needed, but never fully drain your breast
- Reduce pumping sessions after three nights of nighttime pumping
- Power Pump to mimic a cluster feed when a baby goes through a growth spurt. Pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, Pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, and pump for another 10 minutes.
It usually takes at least three to five days before you feel a difference in your milk supply.
Additional Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Milk Supply
Additional tips to maintain a healthy milk supply when your baby starts sleeping through the night and missing those feedings include:
- Drink plenty of water, including natural electrolytes like coconut water
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Get plenty of rest
The plenty of rest tip should come a bit easier now that the baby is cooperating and sleeping through the night.
Remember that breast milk consists of 80 to 90 percent water, so stay hydrated. While drinking water may not directly increase your milk supply, becoming dehydrated will decrease your supply.
Consult a Lactation Specialist
When you have questions about your breastfed baby, never be afraid to consult a Lactation Consultant with any questions related to breastfeeding or night weaning.
Pro Tip from mom-to-mom: Remember, every person is unique, every birth experience is unique, and every breastfeeding experience is unique. Your experience with your new baby may differ from others, even those you birthed and nursed. Unfortunately, plenty of new moms stand ready to give unwanted advice and judge you, but keep your head up and know that you are doing the best for you and your baby.