Picture this. Your baby’s sound asleep, possibly for the first night ever. You’re lying in bed, desperately for some shut eye yourself. But instead, your breasts are engorged and swollen, throbbing and aching. Milk starts to leak from your nipples. What to do? There’s nothing worse than being kept awake at night with engorgement, but luckily, you don’t have to suffer. Relieving painful engorgement in the middle of the night isn’t as hard as you think.
Breastfeeding is tough, and there’s a lot you don’t know about it until you’re actually doing it. I didn’t quite understand that my body would be ready to feed my baby all the time — even if my kid was sound asleep. There were many nights I’d wake up in puddles of milk after my baby had slept a longer-than-normal stretch. Breast pads were my best friends in the early months, as they kept me from having to change clothes (and sheets) several times a night.
And since sleep is such a precious commodity when you have an infant in the house, maximizing every minute you can get is crucial. Being kept awake by throbbing engorgement or leaking milk is the last thing you want when you could be sleeping. Here are a few tricks to relieve nighttime engorgement so you can long a few hours of sound sleep and sweet dreams.
1. Don’t Be Afraid To Nurse Your Baby
Since breastmilk digests in less than 2 hours, your baby will wake to feed throughout the night. This is completely normal, and there’s nothing wrong with nursing your baby on demand for as long as they need it. Especially since nursing is the quickest way to reduce engorgement at night. Just gently massaging your breast as your baby nurses to help milk flow and relieve some of the tightness.
As an added benefit, night nursing also promotes bonding between parent and child. I know firsthand how helpful this can be. We co-slept with my little one for the first few months to make the night nursing easier on both of us. I grew to love our time together at night when the rest of the house was asleep. It was special to both of us, a time when we could be together without interruption or worry.
2. If Nursing Isn’t An Option, Grab The Pump
But what happens if you wake up engorged and your baby is fast asleep? Well, don’t you dare wake a sleeping baby. Instead, pull out your breast pump. Middle-of-the-night pumps are great for building a freezer stash for times you need to leave your baby with someone else. This way, you relieve engorgement, keep your supply up, and store milk for later.
3. When It's Time To Sleep Through The Night, Use You Hand
There comes a point in every baby’s life when they start sleeping longer and you don’t need to be producing as much milk during the night. Of course, i will take a little bit of time for your body to learn that it can minimize the nighttime supply. If you wake up feeling engorged, use the hand express method to get a little relief without wasting the milk you made.