Updated: Apr 4
A question I am frequently asked is “Will my supply drop if my baby is sleeping though the night?”. Another frequently asked variation is “Do I need to pump if my baby sleeps through the night?”.
Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all answer for these types of questions. But read on, as I try to unpack the nuances…
Short answer: YES (less demand at the breast will yield less supply)
But, I‘d like to answer the question with another question: DOES IT MATTER? 🤔
You may be thinking, “Is she crazy?! Of course it matters!!! I want to make sure I have enough milk!”
But, I urge you to think about these 4 things:
1. Was your baby born #fullterm & healthy? 2. Has my #pediatrician been happy with baby’s #weightgain thus far? 3. Is my current supply meeting 100% of baby’s needs (and if not, am I HAPPY with my current supply situation)? 4. Did my baby achieve this sleep milestone on his/her own (meaning no “#sleeptraining”)?
If you answered “yes” to all 4 of these questions, then you most likely don’t need to be concerned about a supply drop due to prolonged sleeping periods.
a) This is part of the normal ebb and flow of milk supply. And since your baby naturally reached this sleep #milestone on their own, it’s normal and fine for your milk supply to adjust.
b) (Hate to burst the bubble!) Your baby may have some sort of #sleepregression in the future (short or long term) and want to nurse at night again… #teething, #illness, #developmentalmilestones, #reversecycling if you #returntowork outside of the home, etc… As most things in baby’s development… #sleepingthroughthenight is rarely a
linear climb, and more commonly a little roller coaster of 2 steps forward, 1
step back. And if/when this happens, your supply would start to increase again as more demand at the breast would mean more production from the breast, again.
But what if you answered “no” to 1
or more of the questions above? Then that is a whole different ballgame!
Let’s tackle one at a time…
1. Was your baby born full term & healthy?
- No? Depending on the scenario (for example: born at 26 weeks 7 months ago vs born at 37 weeks 2 months ago) there is a large variation on what is appropriate for baby and what is optimal for your supply. I urge you to talk more with your pediatrician and an #IBCLC, so you can get a thorough assessment. You can schedule an in-home or virtual appointment here: https://www.moblactation.com/book-online
2. Has my pediatrician been happy with baby’s weight gain thus far?
- No? 🛑 Stop right here! If this is the case, then you should discuss this with your pediatrician ASAP. They may advise you to wake your baby for night feedings. - Related note: I typically tell all parents to clarify with their pediatrician when it is ok to start letting the baby sleep longer than 3-4 hour stretches overnight. This will be different for each baby depending on how they are gaining weight. 3. Is my current supply meeting 100% of baby’s needs (and if not, am I HAPPY with my current supply situation)?
- No? If this is the scenario, then it may be one of the times I advise a mother to pump at least once during their baby’s sleep. This is highly dependent on what the mom’s #goals are and many other variables (examples: mom returning to work outside the home and struggles to pump enough during her workday, mom’s sleep needs and mental health, mom dealing with chronic under or #oversupply) 4. Did my baby achieve this sleep milestone on his/her own (meaning no “sleep training”)?
- No? This one can be tricky, but if your baby began sleeping longer periods solely because you did some sort of sleep training (I’m not making an judgments here on sleep training, I’m just here to give the info on how it can affect breastfeeding) then, yes, it may actually matter very much if your supply drops.
- Here’s my thoughts on why it matters: When a baby reaches longer sleep periods on their own, this typically means they are developmentally ready to do so. This includes being developmentally ready to skip 1 or more #nightfeedings. I am definitely NOT an #infantsleep expert, but each baby does this on his or her own timeline. If longer sleep periods have been achieved by an external factor like sleep training, this has thrown a curveball in the natural “feed on demand and your milk supply will respond to that demand” conventional wisdom.
What if my boobs won’t let me sleep?! 😩
So, you've read through the above and feel that yes, you and baby are both ready and able to sleep longer stretches, but, your darn boobs still wake you up???! Maybe from #leaking and/or from #discomfort with #fullness?
What’s a mama to do?!
- Soft #sleepbra (absolutely no underwires!) with #nursingpads. Keep extra nursing pads on your night stand. Sleep with a towel under you if necessary. - If you wake up uncomfortably full, then pump or hand express ***just only enough to decrease the discomfort*** (probably less than 5 minutes of pumping). The goal here is to only make you comfortable enough to sleep.
- After a few nights of this, your body should begin to regulate and make less milk at night = less leaking and/or waking from fullness.
If you have further questions about infant sleep and your milk supply, or have any other lactation concerns, I would be so happy to help you on your breastfeeding/pumping journey! More info on my Virtual or In-Home consultations can be found here: https://www.moblactation.com/book-online
Here’s wishing everyone the restful nights they deserve! 😴