Congratulations, mama! Your baby is finally sleeping through the night and you can get some uninterrupted rest. But, what does this mean for your breast milk supply? If you want to continue nursing during the day, do you need to pump at night to make up for missed feedings? And what if you’re ready to start weaning your baby off breastfeeding?
Continue reading to find the answers to these questions and more.
Does Baby Sleeping Through The Night Impact Your Milk Supply?
Breast milk works on a supply and demand basis. When your breasts are empty, it signals to your body to make more milk. If your breasts do not empty, your body knows not to make as much. So, going long stretches without breastfeeding or pumping can mean a lower breast milk supply.
It’s important to note that every woman’s body is different, and some mothers may continue to produce enough milk even if their baby starts sleeping through the night. However, suppose you’re not feeding your baby during the night anymore and you’re worried about a drop in supply. In that case, there are a few ways to handle this change in routine, depending on whether you want to wean your baby off breastfeeding or want to continue to breastfeed exclusively.
How To Maintain Breast Milk Supply When Your Baby Is Sleeping Through The Night
Sleep training does not have to get in the way of feeding your baby breast milk. First of all, your body is incredible! It can adapt to a shift in routine. There are a few ways to help your body through this transition to avoid blocked milk ducts, engorgement, and reduced breast milk:
- Pump just before you go to bed.
- If you wake up in the middle of the night feeling uncomfortable, pump.
It can take some time for your body to adjust to your new routine of less feeding at night and more during the day. So, during this transition, you may wake up at night with sore, overfilled breasts. Pump, but don’t drain your breasts completely. This tells your body that you don’t need to make so much milk at night anymore.
- Try power pumping.
Power pumping is a great way to increase your breast milk supply if you feel like it’s dropping as your baby is sleeping through the night. “Power pumping is a technique that’s designed to mimic cluster feeding, and in turn, encourage your body to begin producing more breast milk,” explains Healthline. Pump in between nursing sessions. Over the course of an hour, pump for 20 minutes, then rest for 10, followed by pumping for another 10 minutes before resting again. Go back and forth for 60 minutes to put in a “milk order”. To make this simpler, have a high-quality, hands-free breast pump – we recommend this model.
Tip: Keep yourself well-hydrated and eat enough calories. Just like breastfeeding, pumping can be tiring and your well-being and nutrition are key to success.
How To Wean Your Baby Off Breastfeeding And Breast Milk
Pumping may not be the route to take if you’re a mama who wants to wean your baby off nursing and breast milk.
Anytime you pump and remove milk, you are telling your body that you want that milk.
If you want to reduce your milk supply safely as your baby begins sleeping through the night, you can gradually replace nursing with a bottle one feed at a time. Drop one feed (or one pumping session) a week, then wait a week before you drop another one. Your body will then begin to adjust your supply.
“By going slowly, you’ll produce less and less milk, which will make weaning more comfortable for you. It will also make weaning more pleasant for your baby since they’ll be progressively adjusting to nursing less and drinking more from the bottle or cup,” explains Parents.
What To Do When Experiencing Engorgement
You might notice engorgement during nighttime weaning. Having engorged breasts does not equal having a lot of milk. Engorgement is not the goal. Not only is it painful and can lead to clogged ducts, but it’s also your body’s way of sending the “message” to decrease your supply.
When your breasts are engorged, it causes compression which works to decrease your supply. If that’s not what you’re going for, then you must get rid of the engorgement by:
- Relieving the pressure by hand expressing before pumping or breastfeeding.
- Use cold therapy (such as a cold compress) after pumping or feeding for around 10 minutes.
- Try Ibuprofen to reduce inflammation in your breasts.
How To Encourage Your Baby To Sleep Through The Night
If your baby isn’t sleeping through the night yet and is still waking up for feeds, there are a few things you can do. But first, it’s essential to take your baby’s age into consideration. Newborns and young babies need to wake up every few hours to feed as their stomachs are small and need to be refilled often to support growth. From around four months, a baby may not be waking up frequently for feeds. To decrease nighttime feedings, you can:
- Ensure your baby is getting enough calories during the day. When nighttime feeds decrease, daytime feeds need to increase.
- When your little one does wake up in the middle of the night, keep feeds boring. This means low light and no stimulation.
- Start implementing the Wean and Delay Method. This means lengthening the time between nighttime feeds (about an extra 15 to 30 minutes). “You can also try making each feeding shorter by cutting back the amount of time on each breast or putting fewer ounces in your baby’s bottle. Keep trimming things back bit by bit, and over a week or so, your baby will (hopefully) realize that waking up to eat is no longer worth it,” says What to Expect.
Having a plan is crucial when your baby starts sleeping through the night. You may need to decide whether to continue breastfeeding or introduce formula and bottles to your baby’s feeding routine. Regardless of your choice, adapting to this change can be a challenge and it’s important to have a support system. A Lactation Consultant can work with you to create a personalized plan that suits your needs and helps ease the transition. With the right guidance and support, you can successfully manage your baby’s feeding routine and ensure they’re getting the nourishment they need.