While parents are anxious about how and when their baby can sleep through the night, there is also a concern from breastfeeding mothers who have goals to breastfeed for at least a year or beyond when their baby eventually sleeps through. The concern is mainly on maintaining milk supply so that their breastfeeding goals are achieved.
In my experience, babies who are 6 months old and older who have started solids and taking in their daily calorie intake in the day are able to sleep through the night. Some babies may need one night feed until they are 12 months old.
Here are a few things to consider before night weaning completely:
- What are your breastfeeding goals? What you need to do would be different if you are just going with the flow and you are just going to continue breastfeeding on cue during the day as compared to a working mom who needs to express at work.
- Are you night weaning because you want baby to sleep through? This is a personal decision to make because it depends on the reason you want to wean and your goals with breastfeeding. It would be a good idea to weigh out the pros and cons of night weaning before you make the decision.
- Your baby is in a good weight range and your doctor has given the green light to night wean. It’s good to get the doctor’s opinion so that you can be sure that your baby is not needing night feeds as nourishment. However, I would recommend that you follow your instinct and watch your baby’s cues for hunger. Every baby is different after all.
This concern or question is very common among my breastfeeding clients. I have done some reading and discussed with my lactation consultant friends about this matter. There is one simple way of understanding how to maintain milk supply. There is a term called the “magic number”.
Every mom has different breast storage capacity. This is the amount of milk at its fullest each day. Since the capacity varies from one mother to the other, the magic number then could be 4-5 or 9-10. This refers to the number of times that a mother needs to drain the breast to make more milk/maintain supply.
You could read it in more details here on magic number and maintaining milk supply.
In a nutshell, say you are draining your breasts 8 times a day (either by direct latching or expressing), while you are at work, you probably would be able to express 3 times. This means you need to breastfeed your baby 5 more times to maintain your milk supply. This is counted in 24 hours period. If you pump the same number of times at work consistently but you are breastfeeding less when you are home with the baby, then you will notice a dip in your milk supply.
For a mom whose magic number is 8 for example, it would perhaps be a good idea to express 3 times at work, once before leaving for work, once when home from work when she is reunited with her baby, once at bedtime routine, and the other two spread out in the night at 4-5 hours apart. Or she could do one night feed and if her baby sleeps through, she can consider expressing at night instead. Again, this is a personal choice as not many mothers are diligent enough to get up and pump in the middle of the night. Consider this only if it works for you and your goals with breastfeeding.
So don’t focus on the number of pumping sessions that you do, but focus more on the number of times you breastfeed at home and total breast draining in 24 hours and see what your magic number is to maintain milk supply.