Oh Dearest Amy,
So there is one question that is running through my mind…my sweet son, who will be seven weeks old tomorrow is starting to sleep in longer stretches at night. He had been nursing the normal every three hours and the last two nights he has been sleeping a six hour stretch, YAY! Should I be waking up to pump as the first three hour mark passes? My pediatrician says do not wake him to eat, so I honor that. My concern is will my milk supply decrease and will I have enough milk pumped when I go back to work in about a month.
Any suggestions would be so helpful. I am really enjoying this and want to keep it going as much as possible!
Oh, goodness gracious woman, ENJOY YOUR SLEEP. I mean, I would. The only reason to wake up to pump in the middle of the night is your own comfort level, i.e. you’re waking up anyway with rock hard and leaking boobs. And even then, I’d probably only pump a small bit to relieve the discomfort, because pumping yourself empty will just tell your body that yes, that middle-of-the-night meal is still needed, and will repeat the next night. If there’s absolutely no other point in the day when you can pump milk for work, I SUPPOSE you could use the six-hour-stretch for an extra session, but again, I would probably focus more on getting some freaking sleep.
As for your supply “decreasing,” that’s kind of a deceptive word. Your supply is based on demand. So technically, yes, remove the demand and the supply will adjust accordingly. But it’s not really a “decrease” this early on, more of a rejiggering of the schedule. Your baby ate every two to three hours at first because he was tiny and his tiny stomach could only handle tiny amounts of milk. Now he’s growing so he’s able to take in more milk at each feeding…and thus, each feeding will hold him over a little longer than before. So instead of drinking two ounces at, let’s say, 8 pm, 10 pm and 1 am, he’s probably drinking something more like three or four ounces at 8 pm and 1 am. So even though he’s skipping that 10 pm session, it’s all balancing out in the end, and your body’s production hasn’t actually gone down. If that makes sense.
It’s the beauty of breastfeeding on demand: Instead of staring at the clock and worrying endlessly when your baby sleeps through a feeding because it all has to be perfectly regimented, you can relax and let your baby and your boobs figure it out together. As long as your baby is gaining weight well and you aren’t experiencing any specific breastfeeding problems (mastitis, documented supply issues, etc.), it’s ABSOLUTELY OKAY for you to follow his cues and sleep as long as he sleeps.
But if you’re waking up anyway and feel uncomfortable and find yourself fretting about your stash of pumped milk, go ahead and pump. IF YOU WANT TO. Just don’t feel obligated or guilty if you’d rather roll over and conk back out, though, is my main point. Personally, when I was stockpiling milk, I preferred pumping for an extra 10 minutes or so after the first morning feed, then pumping right before I went to bed (assuming the baby had been nursed and put to bed earlier). But that was just me, because I am very grumpy and awful and protective of my own need for substantial REM sleep. (Which I don’t get in short, two-to-three-hour sleep bursts.)
And while I totally hate to be That Guy, you may want to prepare yourself that this six-hour stretch might not be permanent. Newborns are really tricky like that, making you think their sleep progression is linear and will continue to move forward an extra hour every other night or so, until ta-daaaa! Sleeping all night, every night. All of my babies slept their absolute best ever around the two- or three-month marks, and then everything kind of promptly went to hell for awhile once the growth spurts and sleep regressions and early teething started. I know this is like, the JERKIEST WAY EVER to end a column and I AM SORRY, but I know if I was a first-time mom trying to decide whether to wake up voluntarily to pump or just enjoy my sleep, I’d appreciate a heads’ up that hey, this might be a shorter window than you realize and in a couple weeks you might find yourself back in the every two-to-three hours grind.
Or you might not! Every baby is different, of course, and no matter what happens with his sleep or what you decide to do with your boobs in the interim, I wish you nothing but the absolute maximum amount of sweet, precious sleep possible.
Photo credit: ThinkstockPublished December 23, 2011. Last updated October 29, 2017.