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Sleep or Pump?

Midnight Pumping

By Amalah

Oh Dearest Amy,

Thank you so much for all your sage guidance in the past regarding my wedding dress, the pregnancy calendar and bounce back!

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: Thinkstock

Amazon Mom

Published December 23, 2011. Last updated October 29, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Stephanie

    December 23, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    What Amy said. Only pump if you feel uncomfortable. Your body adjusts to what your baby needs – it’s really amazing when you think about it!

  • Jeannie

    December 23, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    My LO slept five hours a stretch from the get-go, and I fed on demand and never had a problem with supply, so I say sleep!! I think by seven weeks you often have a good supply established anyway.

    (also, don’t hate me for having a baby who slept: she was my reward for the first one who didn’t sleep through the night until he was 2.5 years. 🙂 )

  • Anne

    December 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Ok great! This helps a lot because I thought if I don’t use it I will lose it. I understand the regulating part totally and have noticed that happening during portions of the day. I never had this issue with my first because he was a chow hound and had to eat ALL THE FREAKING time. Thank you again for calming me down and talking me through this. You are the best!!!

  • Kelley

    December 27, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Wonderful news for you!! Do not wake him up. My son (12 weeks now) started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old. I was told to pump at the 11 or 12 feeding or if I was in pain. I was so tired back then I didn’t want to get up for that feeding if he wasn’t up. Your body will adjust. They do recommend that you pump the 1st 4 feedings of the say for 10 mns after feeding. So if he gets up at 4am I would pump for 10 mins at the end. It was tiring but it does help. Good luck. Enjoy the rest.

  • MR

    December 28, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Definitely sleep! My mom always ingrained into us, “never wake a sleeping baby!” And, since it is supply and demand, if you pump more than LO eats, you will have to keep doing so or be uncomfortable every night. To say it is supply and demand is actually a little off. It is flexible to some degree. Your baby can eat a ton one day and sleep a ton the next, and it won’t screw up your supply for the third day. It just might make you uncomfortable for that second day. But babies do not eat the same amount every day, and your body adjusts for that. As long as you are EBF and not pumping/giving bottles, you cannot go wrong with how often to feed LO. You simply feed them whenever they want. If they sleep 5 hours, you just thank your lucky stars and enjoy it while it lasts! My first ate 40 minutes out of every 2 hours. This LO was doing 11 hour stretches of sleep at 4 months. Of course, she only did it for a month, but still! She is a far better sleeper than my first ever was. Karma for surviving the first I guess. 🙂  Congratulations on your LO and enjoy your sleep!

  • Serendipity

    December 29, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Sleep! Remember the more you sleep the better while you are nursing…it will keep your supplies up! I don’t think missing one pumping session will affect your milk that much…plus milk flow is highest in the morning (I think….it was for me) so as long as you get it out in the morning you should be good.

  • Laura

    December 30, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    Definitely sleep!!!  I went through that and slept and after a few days my boobs were no longer rock hard.  Two weeks later DS started waking up at night and feeding again b/c of a growth spurt, and so they started making more at night again.  Now he’s done with that growth spurt and they are a little hard again 🙂  

    Bottom line – boobs are magic!  Don’t worry about your supply decreasing especially if he is still mostly EBF!

  • bhn

    December 31, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    The only exception I can see to the great advice above (SLEEP MAMA SLEEP) is if baby isn’t gaining weight appropriately. But the OP doesn’t say that that’s a problem, so I say SLEEP 🙂

  • Katie

    April 30, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Help! I saw this post because I am looking for advice on a similar situation. I am breast feeding my DD who just turned 6 months. I went back to work when she was just 10 weeks (not my choice) and I pump twice a day. Around that time my DD was only waking up at 1 and 4:30. I have to get up at 5 so this was great! I was pumping about 10ml. But for the past month or more my pump supply went down to about 8 ml and my DD has been waking up at 10:30, 1:30, 3:30 and 6. We went for her 6 month check up and the doc said she hardly gained any weight. I am so tired now! I don’t know what to do. We started her on solids a week and a half ago and she will eat a banana but she refuses all other foods so far (carrots, avocado, papaya) and I can’t really increase my pumping at work. How can I get her to sleep more and still gain weight?

  • Sarah

    November 19, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks so much for this article! It’s the exact info I needed to read and your humor is highly appreciated. It’s the best thing I’ve reaf in a while and it cracked me up. I never comment, but I had to extend my kudos!

  • Darci

    August 18, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to thank you! I am a first time mom and my sweet son is a month old today, he has been sleeping six to seven hours since he got home from the nicu (shoulder got stuck he was 9lbs six oz!!!) But all the doctors where telling me that if I didn’t pump every two hours, that I would run dry and have to supplement with formula! So thankful for this post. Really helped to ease my mind 🙂