HOW TO DROP YOUR MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT PUMP AND GET A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP.
**This post was originally published ‘here’ and is a collaboration with the Magic Merlin Sleepsuit. I was not paid for the post and all opinions are my own.**
When you begin exclusively pumping, especially if you start when your baby is young, it feels like you’re pumping around the clock...because you are! To protect your milk supply, you want to mimic your baby’s natural nursing patterns which can mean pumping up to 10-12 times a day. And of course, some of those pumps are going to be in the middle of the night. In the exclusive pumping community, we lovingly shorten this to MOTN pump, and it’s a blessing and a curse. A blessing because studies have shown that prolactin levels (the milk making hormone) are significantly higher overnight - particularly in the early morning hours after midnight. That means those pumps can be incredibly important if you’re an ‘under-supplier’ or a ‘just-enougher’. But waking up in the middle of the night to pump is hard work. You have to set everything up, pump, store your milk, and clean up. If your baby is still getting up in the middle of the night, you can find yourself up for hours. And so a question that is often asked by exclusive pumpers is ‘when can I drop my MOTN pump and what will happen to my supply?.’
I remember going through this transition very clearly. I became an exclusive pumper when Avi was around 4 months old. I’ve written about my journey at length here but in short - Avi stopped gaining weight around 3 months and was diagnosed with multiple ties. We had them corrected, but he never learned how to latch correctly so I transitioned to exclusive pumping.
This was a tough time for me because we were going through several other transitions, as well. My maternity leave was ending and we had just bought a new house. We decided that we’d lean into all the big changes and also start putting Avi to sleep in his own room. Of course this was also when he started to roll in his swaddle, so we needed to make that transition, too. I was super nervous about this because even though he was rolling, he still had his startle reflex, which made it impossible for him to fall asleep on his back.
Ironically, the sleep situation ended up being the least of our problems once I learned about Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit. The Magic Sleepsuit is a swaddle transition and a life-saver. It’s amazing for a few reasons. First - your baby will look like the most adorable marshmallow and you will want to take a million pictures. Second - the patented design keeps your baby all snuggly and secure while still sleeping safely on their back. Third - baby’s thumbs are accessible which was a game-changer for us. As soon as Avi found his thumb, he started putting himself to sleep.
So now here we were - I was back at work and settling into a new routine. Avi was finally sleeping through the night in his Magic Sleepsuit. And I was desperately trying to figure out how to drop my MOTN pump. I was exhausted and it seemed crazy to wake up to pump when Avi was sleeping. I rationalized that if I was nursing, I would be getting up, so pumping should be the same thing. At the time, I was pumping 7 times a day with a schedule that looked roughly like this:
Whenever you’re trying to drop a pump, there are a few ways to go about it.
1. Drop cold turkey
2. Slowly decrease the amount of time you pump
3. Slowly decrease the volume you pump
4. Slowly bring the pump times closer together until they essentially merge
Cold turkey is obviously the fastest, but it can be uncomfortable as your body adjusts. And if you’re worried about clogs and/or mastitis, you definitely want to go one of the slower routes.
I ended up shifting my schedule and bringing my morning pumps closer together. I eliminated the 3am and the 6am and just did 1 pump at 5am. This worked for me and my body got used to the change fairly quickly. I was also able to shift my evening pump to 9:30, which let me get a little more sleep.
A couple things to keep in mind when dropping your MOTN pump:
1. It may impact your supply. There’s just no way of knowing until you try it. But eliminating a pump may tell your body that you need less milk. So make sure you’re mentally prepared for that possibility before you make the switch. (and remember, if it causes a drastic change, you can always add it back).
2. Pay close attention to any clogs and deal with them quickly. You can check out my blog here on ‘clogs and mastitis’ for tips and tricks.
3. Depending on which method you go with, you may have some discomfort while your body adjusts. You can try hand expressing to relieve some of the pressure.
An important thing to think about is whether or not your baby is already sleeping through the night. While you can drop the MOTN pump before your baby is sleeping through the night, I don’t recommend it. The reason for this is if you were nursing and your baby was still getting up, you would be feeding him. And as I mentioned earlier, you want to try to mimic your baby’s natural feeding patterns to maximize supply.
If you are ready to help your baby sleep through the night and he meets the age and weight requirements, I highly recommend using the Magic Sleepsuit.
Good luck, mamas! Go get some rest and happy pumping!
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