Ah, sleep—such cherished time, especially for new parents. However, as a breastfeeding mother, achieving a peaceful night’s rest without waking up engorged can sometimes feel like an elusive dream once your baby starts sleeping longer stretches at night.
I remember in those early postpartum days, waking up feeling like my breasts were going to explode! I was pleasantly surprised that my baby slept for a few extra hours, but I was so concerned that I was going to get clogged ducts or worse, mastitis. Thankfully, there are strategies to help balance a baby’s sleep routine with your breastfeeding journey. In this guide, we’ll explore how to prevent engorgement overnight while ensuring a good night’s sleep for both you and your little one.
In this article we will discuss:
- How do I keep up my milk supply while feeding less frequently?
- How do I avoid engorgement and mastitis?
- What do I do if my supply drops?
Table of Contents
When Do Babies Start Sleeping Longer At Night?
Newborns have tiny tummies and need to feed frequently, usually about every 2-3 hours. But as they grow, their stomach capacity increases, allowing for longer stretches of sleep. Generally, babies start sleeping longer at night between 3 to 6 months, but this varies for each child. Some may start earlier, while others might take longer to settle into a consistent sleep pattern.
So what should you do when they are sleeping longer periods of time? Do you pump or let your body adjust to your baby’s needs? Check out this video to learn more.
How Do I Keep Up My Supply While Feeding Less Frequently?
Are you seeing a drop in supply now that your baby is sleeping longer at night? Feeding less frequently, especially at night, doesn’t mean you need to compromise your milk supply. Here are some ways to maintain a healthy milk supply:
Frequent Daytime Feeds
Imagine the daytime feeds are like stocking up on groceries for the week. We want to make sure our baby is getting their fill and telling the body to keep the milk flowing smoothly. So, nudge those day feeds a bit closer together if you can. Aim for quality feeds during the day to make up for the reduced nighttime sessions.
Express Between Feeds
Expressing milk is like a secret weapon in the breastfeeding arsenal, especially during this transition. If your baby is sleeping longer stretches at night and needing less frequent nighttime feeds, then expressing milk in between can help maintain your milk supply and avoid engorgement. You don’t necessarily have to do a full pumping session but you can express just enough milk to take the engorgement edge off and make you more comfortable. When I would need to express some milk at night to prevent engorgement, I would use my trusty hand pump like this one! It is super simple to set up and easy to use for a quick pump.
Stay Hydrated and Well-Nourished
To keep the milk flowing, we need to fuel our bodies. Breastfeeding mothers burn about 500 extra calories every day! (Source) As a breastfeeding mom, water will be your best friend. Keep your water bottle or cute tumbler cup nearby and sip on it all day long. Staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining a good milk supply. When it comes to food, think variety and nutrition. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, proteins—will increase your milk supply, keep you healthy, and give your baby all those important nutrients. At meal times, try to include the five food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein to adequately nourish your hard-working body. (Source) Check out this blog for quick, healthy breastfeeding snacks!
How Do I Avoid Engorgement and Mastitis?
Engorgement can be uncomfortable and potentially lead to mastitis if not managed. Here’s how to avoid it:
Massage and Warm Compresses
Massaging your breasts before feeding encourages milk flow and can be incredibly soothing. Pair this with a warm compress, and you’ve got yourself a mini spa session that will reduce your risk of developing clogged ducts or mastitis.
Pump or Hand Express
If your little one decides to skip a feeding (because, you know, they’re in charge), don’t let that milk stay stagnant. Think of pumping or hand expressing as your pressure release valve. It helps you stay comfortable and keeps that milk supply flowing. Collect that liquid gold for future use!
Yes, you read that right—cabbage leaves! While it might sound a bit unusual, chilled cabbage leaves can be a savior when you’re dealing with engorgement. According to this study, cabbage leaf treatment used on women with breast engorgement did reduce pain, the hardness of the engorged breasts, and increased the length of the breastfeeding journey for the mother. Just place the cabbage leaves inside your bra, and voilà! Sweet relief!
Wear a Supportive Bra
A well-fitting bra can help manage the discomfort that can accompany engorgement. Look for bras designed for breastfeeding; they offer support without being too restricting on your tender breasts.
Read more about how to avoid mastitis here!
What if My Supply Drops?
If you notice a drop in your milk supply, don’t fret try these strategies to boost your supply:
Power Pumping: Pumping for short periods multiple times a day to mimic cluster feeding and increase milk production.
Skin-to-skin contact: Practice skin-to-skin contact with your baby, which can trigger your body to produce more milk. It also comes with many other benefits for you and your baby. Learn more about that here.
Stay Relaxed: Stress can impact milk supply. Practice relaxation techniques and get plenty of rest. While this blog discusses the benefits and practices of meditation during pregnancy, it can be applied to postpartum and breastfeeding as well!
Lactation Supplements: Check out the best teas and supplements to increase milk production.
Consult with a Lactation Consultant: They are experts when it comes to breastfeeding and can give you specific guidance for your particular situation and lifestyle.
Should I Wake the Baby to Feed?
In the early weeks, waking a newborn to feed every 2-3 hours is important to ensure they are getting enough nourishment. However, once your baby has regained birth weight and your pediatrician gives the go-ahead, you can let them guide the feeding schedule at night.
Should I Start Pumping at Night?
Pumping at night is an option to maintain milk supply, especially if your baby starts sleeping longer stretches. However, make sure it doesn’t disrupt your much-needed rest. You can experiment with pumping before bedtime or during the first morning feed. If you don’t want to pump but need a little bit of relief, try a manual breast pump or a Haakaa to release just enough milk to make you comfortable enough to go back to sleep.
Balancing a baby’s need for sleep with your breastfeeding journey can be a delicate dance. While it’s great that your baby is sleeping longer at night, it can be tough dealing with engorgement and trying to maintain a good milk supply. Remember, every breastfeeding journey is unique, so find what works best for you and your little one, and don’t hesitate to seek guidance from a lactation consultant or your healthcare provider. Sweet dreams, mama!
Kayla is a mother of two young children. She is married to her high school sweetheart who is a firefighter, paramedic, and nurse. Her professional background is in social work, advocacy, and non-profits. She is passionate about empowering and encouraging mothers to make informed decisions about their pregnancy, birth, and motherhood journey.