Breast pumping is an art, for some it comes easy while for others it is difficult. Lessons and practice bring about the skills for success. Night pumping can present even more challenges.
Dr. Patrick O'Malley
Why Pump at Night?
There are numerous reasons why moms choose to pump at night. Some pump to boost or maintain their milk supply while others with little ones, who sleep more than 4-5 hours, choose to pump to relieve the feeling of engorgement. Working moms, and those who exclusively pump, might keep a pump schedule – even through the night – to ensure a good freezer stash of mama’s milk for many months.
Pumping in the Dark
Feeding your newborn every 3-4 hours, even through the night, is what most parents can anticipate in the early months. Adding a pumping session to (or instead of) a feed gives moms a new set of challenge – along with the expected sleep deprivation. Going into a separate room with lights on can potentially ruin whatever night’s sleep she might have been able to get after pumping. Fumbling in the dark, trying not to wake her significant other and baby, night after night can be stressful. Setting up the pumping area in advance with the essentials, like water, pre-labeled breastmilk storage bags, clean bottles and pump parts, is definitely helpful.
Light is Essential
Especially for moms just starting to get the hang of pumping, and are working hard to increase or maintain their milk supply, having enough light while pumping may influence or even affect the outcome of their pumping efforts. Proper placement of the nipple in the shields and determining the correct shield size could transform a painful pumping experience into a calm one. It is also believed that when moms view their milk expression, it may help enhance their milk production for a few reasons:
Better viewing allows for moms to monitor the effects of manual massage
Viewing milk expression can indicate how to manage speed and suction controls on the pump to maximize milk output
Observing can help reveal the number of milk pores and may help identify clogged ducts
Many moms end-up using their cell phones for light while they pump in the dark to make the process doable. But holding a cell phone, and trying to position it to illuminate the breast pump, while also holding the pump and sometimes manually massaging all at the same time, seems almost impossible and can be very frustrating!
A Light at the End of the Tunnel
You may be wondering why an ER Physician would know anything about the difficulties of night pumping. Well, when our son was a newborn, I distinctly remember the day I walked into our dark bedroom and my wife was holding up her cellphone LED light to get a closer look at her milk flow. She was tired and stressed. I felt I had to help her so I devised a small light attachment (we called it Lactalite) so she could have hands free illumination for her breast pump.
She turned it on and the only way I can describe it is that I could see the stress melt off of her face. She could put the phone down and just check her flow so much easier. This quickly transformed her pumping experience, and she was less stressed, and actually enjoyed it for a change! Literally speaking, there was now a light at the end of the tunnel. Night pumping already presents it’s challenges, but keep up the great work moms - we know your little one appreciates it.
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Dr. Patrick O'Malley
Dr. Patrick O’Malley is a board certified emergency physician who lives and practices in South Carolina. After their son was born, he and his wife, Kelly, invented and developed Lactalite, a breast shield light for pumping moms.