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Pumping at night is a task every new sleep deprived mom spends the whole day dreading.
There really is not much to be excited about when it comes to waking up multiple times in the middle of the night to pump.
This is especially true when your baby actually starts sleeping through the night. And yet, here you are, pumping at 3am while everyone else in the household is sound asleep.
If that doesn’t paint the picture of late night pumping, I don’t know what will!
But don’t get too discouraged because you are about to receive the ultimate pumping at night survival guide with tips you can use to make your middle of the night breast pumping sessions less of a nightmare!
This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosures here.
Why You Need to Pump at Night
You may be wondering, what is the importance of pumping in the middle of the night in the first place?
Here are 3 examples of why it may be important to maintain your pumping at night routine:
- Going too long in between breast pumping sessions will eventually negatively impact your breast milk supply, especially if you are under 6 months postpartum.
- Allowing your breasts to go un-expressed for more than 4 hours at a time can lead to engorgement and potentially clogged milk ducts.
- Prolactin levels tend to be the highest during these late night/early morning hours and so you may yield much more milk at night than during the day. Which is an added benefit, especially if you struggle with low milk supply.
As you saw above, the benefits of maintaining your middle of the night pumping sessions are many and the consequences of not doing so can be dangerous to your health and detrimental to your milk supply!
6 Ways to Make Pumping at Night Easier
If you’ve been exclusively breast pumping for a while, congratulations! You are a pump-star mama and deserve some special recognition! Here is a pack of digital pump awards you may help yourself to!
You also know true sacrifice and what truly being exhausted is.
You not only have middle of the night feedings and diaper changes to do, but you are also clocking in multiple times a night for what feels like a factory job.
I know this struggle and I think I can help give you some pumping at night tips to help make this easier on you!
This is also a good time to encourage you to take an online class that gives you a quick and thorough education on exclusive pumping and your milk supply.
The Ultimate Exclusive Pumping Class by Milkology will be an incredibly helpful resource to you! The course is bursting with secret techniques, tips and tricks that can help make pumping exclusively or part time less ambiguous.
P.S. For a limited time I will be gifting my pumping and milk supply course for FREE with your enrollment in The Ultimate Exclusive Pumping Class.
These two courses compliment each other and are conveniently on the same platform. Just contact me here after you have enrolled with the link above, and I’ll get you hooked up!
1. Prepare for Pumping at Night Ahead of Time
Super organized people tend to be really good at preparing for things the night before an event or work and have everything ready to go the morning of.
I recommend being this way with how you prepare for those late night pumping sessions.
Have everything you need ready to go (even plugged in and hooked-up). This way, all you have to do when the time comes is pop those flanges on and power up the pump.
Speaking of preparing for work, here are some pumping at work tips that may be helpful for your transition.
2. Change, Feed and Pump
You may also be responsible for the baby during the nightly feeds as well, like I chose to be. If this is the case, you’ll want to get even better at multi-tasking.
I have some tips and pumping hacks below to help you knock out this difficult task that can feel a little overwhelming at times.
Ideas to help make taking care of baby and pumping at night go more smoothly:
- Have a thermos that you filled with hot water before bed ready to heat the milk (should only take a few minutes). This breast milk heating hack was always much faster for us than using a bottle warmer and would heat the milk much more evenly too.
- Have the bottles ready-made.
- Change the baby’s diaper before you feed. Babies are more likely to fall back asleep right after they feed and then be put back down with no issues and then you can begin your middle of the night pumping session.
- Pump while you feed the baby. If you have a handsfree pumping kit that allows you the extra mobility, you can easily multitask while you pump and hopefully be done pumping when your baby finishes their bottle.
3. Have the Right Night Time Accessories
The right pumping accessories can make pumping at night much easier. My little one sleeps in the room with me and quickly got used to the sound of my buzzing Spectra S1.
I also use a white noise machine that does a fantastic job at drowning out the sound of the pump. It’s honestly one of my favorite Amazon finds ever and we actually can’t sleep without it now! Here is the Amazon link for the same white noise machine I have. I highly recommend it!
Even though she wasn’t easily disturbed by my pump being on, I did try my best to keep the room as dark as possible. My little night light was the best helper with this task and a bright spot on those many long and lonely nights.
More pumping accessories to help make pumping at night faster:
- Lactalites are the perfect addition to your night time pumping efforts. They are designed to clip on to the flange and nicely aid in helping you see your milk output.
- Liquid shield kits make for a more comfortable and secure seal during those hazy late nights and would allow you to catch some more z’s while you pump.
- Medela’s pump part wipes for quick and easy clean-up. Worry about thoroughly washing in the morning.
4. Pump Right Before You Fall Asleep
Schedule your last pumping session of the day right before you fall asleep and take extra time to ensure you have completely emptied your breasts. This will help you get as much sleep as possible before you need to wake up again to relieve the pressure.
5. Sleep While You Pump
Sounds crazy right? I know a lot of moms who perform their M.O.T.N. pumps this way.
I could never do this, as I’m an extremely light sleeper. However, if you choose to give this tip a go, I suggest propping yourself up against something and using a pump that has an automatic shut off (like Spectra S1 or 2).
I also suggest using the largest bottles you can find, incase there is any over flow. After all, being so relaxed may helped you yield much more milk! If you use a Spectra, these 11oz Philips Avent baby bottles are compatible.
Another breast pump that would work great pumping while you sleep is this very affordable wearable electric breast pump.
Incase you aren’t familiar, this kind of breast pump is completely cordless and it easily fits right into your sports bra! The simplicity and low risk of spilling or getting tangles up while you sleep is pretty much completely eliminated with this set up.
6. Socialize While You Pump
It’s amazing how much joy and support a community can bring you. Especially when you can share this experience with others who truly understand.
You also don’t have to worry that you’ll be the only one up at 3am pumping!
Consider joining a Facebook group or following a helpful Instagram account like @pump_momma_pump or @pumpinggoddesses.
Best Breast Pumps for Pumping at Night
The right breast pump can make your middle of the night pumping sessions go much more smoothly. There are two pumps I’d like to feature as best breast pumps for pumping at night.
This unique pump is my top pick for pumping at night because of how small, portable and quiet it is.
I would use this pump for most of my middle of the night pumping sessions because it was so easy to keep next to me in bed.
Another huge benefit about this breast pump is how efficiently it can fully empty your breasts. The quicker the better when it comes to pumping at night!
Spectra S1 and S2
Spectra makes some very nice breast pumps, most exclusively pumping moms own at least one Spectra and love it! One of the reasons they are so great for late night pumping is because of how quiet they are.
They also conveniently have a night light already built in!
You could also try and get a Spectra for FREE through insurance, apply here!
Tips to Help You Wake Up to Pump
Here is where the real struggle starts and ends when it comes to pumping at night.
A new mom is already sleep deprived as is, and then you add middle of the night pumping sessions on top of it – sigh.
Here’s the good news mama, you should be able to safely drop your M.O.T.N. pumping sessions when your baby begins to sleep through the night!
However, take precautions when doing this and closely monitor your milk supply and engorgement level when you wake up in the morning. You may need to gradually work on this process over a period of several weeks.
See the pumping tips below to help you not sleep through your middle of the night pump:
Baby Wakes Up
If your baby wakes up hungry, that is the easiest way to remember to pump. No alarm needed! Just get your routine established like we talked about earlier and you’ll be golden.
Listen to Your Body
Don’t ignore your body and the signals your breasts will relay when they are ready to be emptied! This could be the sensation of a letdown, leaking breasts or the fullness and discomfort of engorged breasts.
Set an Alarm
If your baby and/or husband sleeps in the same room as you and you don’t want to also wake them up when you have to pump, try setting a vibrating alarm instead. Feel free to even set more than one if you need to!
A vibrating alarm is less abrasive and therefore, you may be less likely to turn it off.
Drink Lots of Liquids
Yes, this is a tip to help you wake up to pump!
It may seem silly, but there are many moms who regularly sleep through their middle of the night pumping session and it ruins their milk supply.
If you are a heavy sleeper, consider drinking lots of liquids before you fall asleep so you have to get up to use the bathroom and then pump.
Motivate yourself with a podcast, show or audiobook picked out before bed and ready to be enjoyed when you wake up! Simple, yet effective.
What About the Breast Milk?
Now that you have some awesome pumping at night tips to help make the process a little less unpleasant, let’s talk breast milk.
What happens if you forget about the breast milk at night and it sits on your night stand until morning? Was all that sleep deprivation and extra work for nothing?!
After all, It’s quite easy to be forgetful when you’re painfully tired.
To put your worries to rest, lets look at how long freshly pumped breast milk can sit out at room temperature before it is deemed unsafe for your baby to consume.
According to the CDC, freshly expressed breast milk is safe to sit out in room temperature for 4-6 hours. However, if baby has drank from the bottle AT ALL, it can only be left out for no more than two hours. (source)
A good ole’ sniff and taste test should also tell you everything you need to know about the quality of the breast milk, but if you know you pumped at 3am and it’s now 9am, I may just toss it or use for a milk bath to be safe.
Tips to Store Breast Milk at Night
- Get an adorable little mini fridge, like this one I found at Amazon (it’s so cute!) that you can keep in your bedroom or wherever your middle of the night pumping station is.
- Bring a small cooler with ice in your room every night before bed and place your milk in that.
- Pump straight into a Kiinde twist bag and screw the lid on tight and put straight into the freezer, have the bags labeled ahead of time.
Important Last Words
This would be a good time to remind you that if you are just starting out as a beginner to pumping, there are helpful online classes that can make pumping a more simplified task.
Help yourself to some free pumping schedules before you go!