Last Updated on February 8, 2023 by Jada Glover
If you’re breastfeeding or pumping to feed your baby, you may be wondering if you need to pump at night to maintain your supply. This can depend on when your baby is eating.
Let’s dig a little deeper to find out if not pumping at night will decrease your milk supply and also how to maintain your milk supply.
Do I Have To Pump At Night?
For many moms, the answer is yes, at least while your baby is a newborn. It can take up to 3 months for your supply to regulate.
Pumping at night depends on your situation also. There are a few reasons why you may want to pump at night.
If your baby is taking a bottle at night, then yes, you need to pump at night to replace the milk your baby is eating. Every time your baby drinks from a bottle, you should be pumping to keep up with your baby.
If your baby is a newborn and you want to ensure the greatest supply, you may want to pump once or twice at night if your baby isn’t waking up to nurse and doesn’t need to be woken up to nurse.
Keep in mind though, pumping every 2-3 hours at night is not necessary, unless your baby is eating that often from the bottle. Your baby may need to be woken up at night to nurse if she is not gaining weight, meeting milestones, or having enough wet and poopy diapers.
If your baby happens to sleep through the night on occasion, you may wake up feeling engorged. In this case, using a Haakaa silicone manual pump or a Medela manual pump may be helpful just to release some of the milk that is causing the heaviness in your breasts. You can also hand express in the shower with warm water.
You don’t want to pump too much, however, because that can tell your body to produce more milk. If you’re already having problems with overproducing, over pumping can cause engorgement and clogged milk ducts because milk isn’t being removed.
If your baby doesn’t typically sleep through the night, and you’re afraid of a drop in milk supply, you can pump every 3-4 hours or however often your baby typically wakes to feed.
Now, if you are trying to increase your milk supply, then yes, you will want to pump, especially in the early morning when your prolactin levels are the highest (between 2-5 a.m. typically).
Will Not Pumping At Night Decrease My Milk Supply?
Your body and baby are capable of amazing things. Your milk will regulate based on your baby’s needs. If you are exclusively feeding at the breast and not pumping at night, your body will slow down milk production (or increase it) to accommodate your baby’s needs.
So to answer the question, will not pumping at night decrease your milk supply? Yes, your milk supply may decrease if you don’t pump at night. But, you may not need to worry about it if your milk is just regulating based on your baby’s needs.
If your baby is drinking from a bottle at night, you will need to pump, or your milk supply will decrease and may not be able to keep up with your baby’s needs.
Do I Have To Pump Every 3 Hours At Night?
On average, you should pump every 3 hours at night. Your baby typically eats 8-12 times in a 24 hour period, but when they eat during that window may vary. You should pump to replace your baby’s bottle intake, which may be every 3 hours at night.
Just like you would follow your baby’s lead nursing at the breast, you should do the same when deciding when to pump.
How Long Can I Go Without Pumping At Night?
If your baby is not drinking milk at night (breast or bottle), you don’t need to pump at night. If you choose not to pump and your baby is drinking milk, your milk supply will most likely decrease.
You can go without pumping at night as long as your baby isn’t drinking milk from a bottle. This way, your milk will regulate based on your baby’s needs.
If you want to pump early in the morning (between 2-5 a.m.), that is the best time because of your increased prolactin levels at that time.
If you notice your overall milk supply decreasing after eliminating pumping sessions in the middle of the night, you can add them back in and slowly decrease the amount of time your pumping at each one, and/or space them further apart, i.e., every 3-4 hours instead of every 2-3 hours.
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Reasons To Not Pump At Night
There are a few reasons why you may not want to pump at night depending on the age of your baby. For example, she may be eating complementary solid foods and not drinking as much milk, or sleeping more during the night and not waking to feed as often.
1 – Your Baby Is Consistently Sleeping Through The Night
If your baby is sleeping through the night consistently, and not taking a bottle during this time, you can stop pumping at night. Again, a gradual approach is necessary to avoid sudden engorgement.
2 – You Are Trying To Wean Your Baby
If you are trying to wean your baby and they’re over a year old, you can stop pumping at night, if you are gradually tapering your pumping sessions. If your baby is under a year old, you will need to offer your baby an alternative milk supply, such as donor breast milk or baby formula.
3 – Your Baby Is Eating More Solids
If your baby starts eating more solid foods, she may not require as much milk throughout the night. This stage is very dependent on your baby and there is no specific age that this may happen.
Follow your baby’s lead, and if she starts sleeping through more, you can taper off pumping sessions. Be sure this is consistently happening before you stop pumping at night.
4 – You Don’t Want To Increase Your Milk Supply
If you’re trying to regulate your milk supply, and do not want to increase your milk supply, then do not pump at night. If you have an oversupply, you do not want to increase your milk supply more by pumping at night.
Pumping at night is going to send a signal to your body telling it to produce more milk. The more milk you remove, the more your body will produce.
Reasons You Don’t Want To Stop Pumping At Night
Pumping at night is essential to your milk supply, especially as your milk regulates in the first three months after your baby is born.
1 – You Are Struggling With Milk Supply
If you are struggling with milk supply, you definitely want to pump at night. If you don’t, you are going longer without removing milk from your breasts.
This means, your body thinks it should slow down milk production because it doesn’t think your baby needs as much milk. It is crucial to follow baby’s lead to determine how often and when you should pump.
2 – Baby Sleeps Through The Night Once
Sometimes we will get a lucky night when our baby sleeps through the night once in a awhile. If this is the case, do not stop pumping at night just because this happens once.
It would need to be for at least a week or more before I would suggest reducing pumping sessions at night. You don’t want to slow down milk production because your baby sleeps through the night once.
Maybe you can skip one session, but don’t make it a repeat action or your supply could decrease when your baby is starting to drink more.
3 – Baby Eats Solid Foods
Just because your baby starts eating solid foods, does not mean she will not drink breast milk. Babies are different in terms of when they will become interested in solid foods.
They may not be interested at all until 10 months, which was the case with my son. So be sure you are continuing to pump at night if your baby is drinking milk at night.
Foods before one year old are considered complementary to a baby’s diet and breast milk should always be offered first before turning a year old.
How Do I Stop Night Feedings While Maintaining My Milk Supply When I Am Exclusively Pumping?
If you’re trying to transition away from night feedings or pumping at night because your baby is sleeping through the night more, you should slowly reduce the number of times you’re pumping.
If you quickly cut out all pumping sessions at night, you could become engorged, which can lead to other issues like mastitis or clogged ducts. You can reduce the number of times you are pumping and reduce the amount of time you are pumping.
For example, instead of waiting for a second letdown when pumping, you can just pump for 10 minutes or so, and slowly reduce the amount of time from there. Slowly is the key for best results.
Not pumping at night does effect your milk supply. Depending on your situation there are good reasons to either stop pumping at night or to keep pumping at night.
Follow your baby’s lead to determine whether or not you need to pump milk at night. A good rule of thumb is, if your baby is drinking a bottle of breast milk, then you should be pumping to replace that milk.
And, depending on how often your baby wakes to drink a bottle, that is when you should be pumping. The number of night pumping sessions will be different for every baby and mom, and it will change many times during growth and development in the first couple of years.
Finally, if you are struggling with your milk supply be sure to grab your free tips below.