How To Keep Up Milk Supply When Baby Sleeps Through The Night

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How to Maintain Your Milk Supply When Your Baby Sleeps Through the Night

For new mothers, the breastfeeding journey is filled with questions and challenges. One common concern arises when your baby starts to sleep through the night. How do you ensure your milk supply remains steady while your little one enjoys a more extended rest? In this article, we’ll give tips to help you during this phase and keep your milk supply healthy.

1. Breast milk changes throughout the day, including its fat content.

Babies who feed more frequently receive more fat in each feeding. All milk is good. Breast milk is not divided into two types, one being better than the other. It is a gradual change. Hindmilk comes with every let-down. When you finish feeding on the first breast, the start of the feed at the second breast will have even more fat. The more frequently you feed and empty your breasts, the higher the fat concentration in the milk. This makes sense for newborn babies who need to gain quickly. It also makes sense for older babies who may be eating more frequently during the day. They are consolidating their calories to daytime and consolidating sleep to nighttime.

2. Having a good latch is essential. This is true whether you brought your baby home or are further along in your journey.

A poor latch can lead to a decrease in milk production over time, so ensure your baby latches correctly.

3. Empty your breasts.

When you’re busy and on the move, it’s easy to forget to empty your breasts after each feeding. Missed feedings or leaving milk in the breast can affect milk production. Encourage your baby to switch to the other breast after a feed. If your baby isn’t interested, consider pumping both breasts to maintain supply.

4. Nursing at night.

If your baby breastfeeds at night, make sure they get a good feed. If they are comfort feeding or snacking and snoozing, it won’t do much to help your supply. If they’ve been snacking and snoozing, be sure to pump before bed and during the day to support your supply. Pumping before bed tells your body to produce more milk.

5. If your baby only nurses once at night, you can use hand expression for comfort.

This will help you avoid pumping and making more milk. Pumping can signal your body to make more milk, which might not be your goal.

6. Missing the special bond of breastfeeding at night can be difficult.

But, don’t forget, your bond with your baby isn’t just about nighttime feedings. Spend quality one-on-one time during the day, cuddle, and play together. Reassure yourself that both of you gain benefits from more sleep.

7. Flexibility with Eat, Play, Sleep. You can still feed on demand. 

Having an “eat, play, sleep” pattern doesn’t mean that you have to schedule feeds rigidly. You can still feed on demand. Flexibility like this helps young babies who struggle to stay awake while eating. For older babies, it can provide comfort when needed. It can also help establish the predictability of routine.

8. For more effective nursing sessions, avoid distractions that can make them shorter.

“Eat, play, sleep” can help ensure your baby gets full feeds and better naps, giving you more time for yourself. Remember, eat, play, sleep isn’t about jumping to feed your baby as soon as they wake. If they have a short nap, they may indeed be distracted because they aren’t ready to eat. Wait a few minutes after they wake to feed them. If you need to, feed in a room without other distractions, but make sure it’s not a dark room that they associate with sleep. If they look around while feeding, it’s ok, see if they’ll come back and feed more. 

9. Pumping or hand expression before bed and overnight.

If your baby is eating often at night, you might worry that your milk supply will decrease when you stop feeding. Most of the time, babies snack and snooze overnight. Stopping this doesn’t affect supply. But if stopping full feeds causes you concern, you can pump or hand express. Try this before bed and overnight if needed.

Concerns about your baby’s weight?

Some mothers worry that their baby will lose weight when they sleep through the night. Some mothers I’ve worked with are concerned about daily or weekly fluctuations in weight. These charts show babies with normal weight gain versus babies with faltering. Our baby’s weight usually follows a growth chart. According to La Leche League, gradual descent from one percentile to another is usually not a concern, and daily or weekly changes are often normal. However, it can be a concern if weight is below the expected range for their age. Often, heavier newborns experience a pattern of steady weight gain, then a decline, and this is normal. Please talk with your pediatrician if you are concerned about your child’s weight.

La Leche league chart showing growth for babies with normal weight gain and babies with faltering weight gain

Mothers often worry about solid foods and sleeping through the night. They worry that both together will cause a dramatic decrease in milk supply. This is completely understandable! But rest assured, most concerns can be navigated with ease.

The Six-Month Milestone

Doctors say that six-month-old babies can sleep for 11 to 12 hours without waking up at night. Pediatricians also suggest introducing solid foods into a baby’s diet at this time.

Understanding the Role of Solid Foods

Solid foods play a pivotal role in a baby’s development. Babies start by trying different foods to see what they like and can handle. It’s important to think of solid food in the beginning as a complement not a substitute, for breast milk.

Breastfeeding First Until Your Child Is Much Older

Breastfeeding should always take precedence in your baby’s daily routine. Before offering any solid foods, it’s advisable to breastfeed your baby. Giving your baby breast milk ensures they get important nutrients and antibodies. It also helps them feel hungry for a full feed.

This is a chart from Kelly Mom showing how breastfeeding stays the same when babies start to eat solids. As babies (or toddlers) eat more and more solid foods, breastfeeding naturally declines. During a child’s first year of life, milk is still their primary source of nutrition.

Chart from Kelly Mom showing how breastfeeding calories are eventually replaced by solid food. Breastfeeding continues as solids are gradually introduced and breastfeeding makes up bulk of nutrition in first year.

Building Hunger Pressure

I recommend what I call building “hunger pressure,” so your child will take a good, full feed. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Timing: Wait at least ten to twenty minutes after your baby wakes up from the morning or nap. This gives them a chance to become fully alert and ready to eat.
  2. Environment: Feed your baby in a brightly lit room. A well-lit space can stimulate your baby’s appetite and ensure they take a good, full feed. Even if your baby is easily distracted and you need to be alone to feed, try to be in a well-lit area.
  3. Solids After: Solid foods should be offered about an hour after breastfeeding. Remember that these foods are complementary. Breast milk remains the primary source of calories for your baby.
  4. If your baby is still hungry after eating solid food, you can breastfeed them again. Always remain responsive to their feeding cues.

Breastfeed on Demand

You can continue to breastfeed on demand throughout your baby’s wake window. This helps provide comfort, and it keeps your supply up. And as long as you’re not feeding to sleep (or using other sleep props), you’ll continue to have an efficient eater who sleeps well.

Options for discrete, hands-free pumping

Several hands-free and discrete breast pumps are available for working moms. My favorite options are the Hakaa and the Freemie. I’ve included all the other favorites of moms I’ve worked with. If you have a particular favorite that may help out another mom, please let me know, and I will update my list.

  1. Elvie Pump: The Elvie Pump is a wearable, hands-free, and silent electric pump that fits inside your bra. It’s wireless, compact, and easy to use, making it ideal for discreet pumping at work.
  2. The Willow Pump is a wearable breast pump that operates quietly and can be worn under clothes. It’s designed for convenience and portability.
  3. The Freemie Liberty Pump is a pump that you can use without using your hands, and it can be hidden so that no one can see it. You can use it while keeping your clothes on. It has a compact design and is compatible with various breast pump systems.
  4. The Spectra S9 Plus is a small and easy-to-carry electric breast pump. It has a rechargeable battery. It’s discreet and can easily fit in a purse or bag.
  5. The Medela Freestyle Flex is a small, portable breast pump. It is lightweight and designed for on-the-go use. It comes with a rechargeable battery and is relatively discreet.
  6. Haakaa Gen. 3 Silicone Breast Pump: While not electric, the Haakaa Gen. 3 is a discreet and portable option. The breast pump is made of silicone. It attaches directly to the breast for easy milk collection.
  7. The BabyBuddha Mini Plus is a small and strong breast pump that runs on electricity. This device is compact and can fit in your pocket. You can adjust the settings for personalized pumping.

When selecting a breast pump for work, think about what you need. Do you want a single or double pump? Consider battery life and compatibility with your accessories. To find the right pump, read reviews and try out different ones. Consider comfort, efficiency, and discretion.

In conclusion, the transition from exclusive breastfeeding to solids and more sleep can cause anxiety. This is understandable.

However, it’s important to know that solid foods are complementary in the beginning. Babies still get the bulk of their calories from breast milk for the first twelve months. And good sleep doesn’t have to cause your supply to diminish. By following the recommended guidelines, your baby can keep getting good breast milk. You can continue to nurture the strong bond between mother and child. And you can get the good sleep you both need. And you can have fun exploring and finding out which solid foods your baby likes best!

 

Kim Rogers, M.A.

Kim Rogers, M.A.

Hi, I’m Kim Rogers, pediatric sleep consultant, parent coach, maternal mental health advocate, and child mental health advocate. I waited a long time to become a mom, and I’m so glad I took that leap. Looking back at the hard times alone, it’s worth it for the love we have. I started this website to share helpful information that was so hard to find when I needed it. I mainly focus on sleep, but other things as well. No judgement zone here. This is my attempt at creating a village for those who need it like I did.

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