Now, I know all you breastfeeding mammas out there have been working really hard to build up your milk supply and your breastfeeding relationship with your baby. The thought of all your hard work just disappearing as your baby begins sleeping through the night is challenging, to say the least.
It is honestly difficult to give one straight answer to the question we all face at some point during our breastfeeding journey. But the answer most applied is: No, your milk will not dry up if your baby sleeps through the night.
Our bodies are beautifully complex! Each of us will have a different breastfeeding journey, and our little ones’ demand will determine our milk supply. You can rest assured that your body will adapt to your baby sleeping through the night. Your milk supply will regulate itself to be plentiful during the daytime and limited at night with some help.
Should you pump or sleep?
Sometimes we face an unexpected drop in milk supply due to a variety of reasons, but thankfully there are ways we can build it up again. It’s important to help your body regulate the sudden drop in supply, especially if you plan to continue your breastfeeding journey.
Here are some steps you can follow to help your body adjust:
Step 1: Pump before bed
A quality breast pump is an essential item to have, whether you exclusively breastfeed or not. One of the most uncomfortable feelings ever is full breasts and no way of emptying them! And believe me, using your hands, or an incompetent pump, will not do the trick!
Not only do full breasts hurt, but if left unmanaged, it can cause health issues like infections, or it can tell your body to stop producing milk.
When your little one starts sleeping through the night, it is advised to pump before you go to sleep, at least for the first few nights while your body is adjusting. You can completely drain your breasts before bedtime and store the milk for later use.
Step 2: Pump at night as needed
During the first few nights, you will most likely wake up with engorged breasts around the time that your baby would usually feed. If you are not planning on feeding your baby in the next 2-3 hours, you should pump. Only pump milk until your breasts feel comfortable. Don’t completely drain your breasts, as this will tell your body to continue producing large amounts of milk during the night.
Over time, your body will begin producing less milk during the night, to the point where regular pumping will not be necessary at all. More sleep for mommy!
Step 3: Reduce pumping time
After 3-4 nights of following steps one and two, you can opt to reduce and eventually drop step one if you wish to do so. To do this, you should reduce your pumping time by five minutes every three nights until you no longer need to pump to feel comfortable.
If you would like to keep building up your freezer milk stock, you can continue with the pre-bedtime pumping sessions as usual.
Step 4: Embrace the power pump!
To ensure that your milk supply does not drop, you could incorporate the power pump. Your milk supply is based on your baby’s demand. So, the more baby drinks, the more milk your body will produce.
How to power pump:
- Pump for 20 minutes as you would usually do (or as your baby usually feeds)
- Rest for 10 min (No pumping!)
- Pump again for 10 minutes
- Rest again for 10 minutes
- Pump one last time for 10 min
Once your daytime supply is up and your nighttime supply down, you can wean yourself off pumping by skipping a pumping step every day or two until you no longer need to pump.
As with most things in life, changes are not immediately noticeable. Give your body three to five days to adjust to this new routine before you decide if it is working for you or not.
What causes a decrease in milk supply?
Not getting enough rest
Your body needs a lot of energy to produce milk and keep up your supply. However difficult it may be, ensure that you are getting enough sleep by taking naps when your baby sleeps.
Also, have family or friends help you with chores, taking care of older siblings, or any general tasks you are not getting around to.
Ignoring your health
You may have pre-existing health conditions or recently developed ones, which you are ignoring. Infections and hormonal imbalances in your body negatively affect your milk supply. It’s advised to see your doctor as soon as you notice any abnormalities.
Yes, stress is the silent killer of many things, including your milk supply. Physical, emotional, or psychological stresses will negatively affect your milk supply. Each person has different stress triggers.
Once you have identified yours, try to avoid or deal with them as soon as possible. This will clear your mind and allow you to focus on your baby.
Any change in hormones in your body can affect your milk supply. Most moms continue to successfully breastfeed while pregnant. Generally breastfeeding while pregnant is safe, but it may lead to miscarriage early in the pregnancy in rare cases. Being pregnant while breastfeeding also changes your breastmilk. You produce colostrum again, which is present during the first few days after birth.
Neglecting a healthy diet
It is essential to eat healthy while pregnant or breastfeeding. Your body uses a lot of energy to produce healthy milk for your baby. Your milk supply will drop if you are not eating enough, not eating nutritious foods, and not taking in enough liquids.
Focus on taking in superfoods that help increase your milk supply, like oatmeal, almonds, chickpeas, and dark leafy greens.
Excessive herbs & spices intake
A little goes a long way! You can still use your favorite herbs and spices while cooking, but your intake should be moderate. Some herbs and spices should be avoided as they have proven effects of reducing your milk supply. It would be best if you avoided peppermint and sage and large amounts of parsley, oregano, jasmine, and yarrow.
Sorry mommy, but too many caffeinated drinks can dehydrate your body, thus reducing your milk supply.
Also, if you take in a lot of caffeine, it can build up in your milk and be passed into your baby. Caffeine will make your baby irritable and cause sleep issues. Best to drink in moderation.
Smoking and alcohol
Now, most of us know the dangers of smoking and drinking while pregnant and breastfeeding. Smoke and alcohol inhibit the release of a hormone called Oxytocin, which is responsible for your breasts being able to let-down your milk when your baby feeds. By limiting this hormone, your body will struggle to get the milk out, and so it will stop producing milk altogether.
It is best to quit smoking as soon as possible, but if you can’t, for whatever reason, try not to smoke at least 2 hours before your baby’s feeding time. An occasional drink is considered ok, but avoiding it will be best.
Some medications contain ingredients that affect your milk supply negatively. Most cold and flu medications contain an ingredient called pseudoephedrine, which dries up your milk supply.
If you’re sick, you should consult your doctor about medications you can take that are safe for breastfeeding moms.
Most forms of contraceptives contain large amounts of estrogen that decreases your milk supply. If you need to use contraceptives, try using ones that don’t contain hormones, like condoms or a diaphragm.
It’s always best to consult your doctor on the various options you have and to choose the perfect one for your circumstances.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many hours can I go without pumping or breastfeeding, and still maintain a good milk supply?
The consensus is that you shouldn’t go more than 5-6 hours without pumping or breastfeeding your little one, especially in the first few months after birth.
Once your milk supply is established, your body will naturally adjust to your baby’s demand, meaning you could go longer without pumping or breastfeeding.
Do soft breasts mean that my milk supply has decreased?
No! Usually, your milk supply will begin to establish around 6-12 weeks after birth. Your body now regulates the supply better, and breasts that feel soft or even empty are expected.
If you go long periods without pumping or breastfeeding, you will notice your breast fill up and become heavy – a clear sign that your supply is healthy and normal.
How do I know if my milk has dried up?
Many signs can be noticed with you and your baby. The easiest way is to monitor your baby. Check your little ones’ weight gain, soiled diapers, and hydration levels.
If your milk supply has dried up or is not sufficient, your baby will not gain enough weight according to his growth chart, there will be less soiled diapers, and your baby is dehydrated.
Every breastfeeding mother goes through panic stages where she wonders if her breastmilk is sufficient, has it dried up, etc. More often than not, you are doing just fine mamma! Allow your body to adjust to your baby’s different stages.
You will be truly amazed when you look back on your breastfeeding journey and see all that your body endured and yet still thrived! If you feel worried, it’s best to consult a lactation expert or your