As a mom who breastfed both her kids for two years each, I really have to tip my hat to moms who pump. Breastfeeding at the breast can be tough, but the planning, logistics, and scheduling required to breast pump are a commitment and a half. If you are a pumping mom (you deserve all the gold stickers), you may end up more sleep deprived and exhausted because of your pumping schedules, so it’s understandable that you may nod off at the pump. But what you need to know about falling asleep while breast pumping can make you feel a little more at ease.
Romper spoke with pumping expert Jennifer Jordan, Director of Mom and Baby at Aeroflow, who says that it’s not advisable to pump while you’re sleepy, or attempt to pump while you’re asleep. “If you fall asleep during a pumping session,” says Jordan, “don't be surprised if you wake up to a lap full of spilled milk.”
But what makes you feel so sleepy when you are pumping? Well, the obvious culprit is usually a lack of sleep and exhaustion due to the gazillion things moms have to deal with everyday. Whether you pump once in a while, or pump exclusively, the fact is that you have to take time out of your day to pump, and it can be fatiguing. To keep up your milk supply, you may need to wake up in the middle of the night to pump, and with the already tiny amount of sleep you get as a mom, you're bound to be pooped.
Aside from the glamorous, sleepless life you live, there may be another reason you fall asleep while pumping. According to a 2005 study in The Journal of Perinatal Education, it could be your hormones at work. The study found that when breast milk is produced and released (via suckling or pumping), two hormones, prolactin and oxytocin, are released. And while prolactin is responsible for giving you that maternal, loving feeling, oxytocin makes you feel more calm and relaxed, which might make you feel sleepier than usual. So with your busy, exhausting days, topped with a sleep-inducing hormone, it's no wonder you feel sleepy.
So how do you prevent yourself from snoozing at the pump? Jordan suggests making sure that you’re awake and sitting upright while pumping, to ensure that you don’t spill the milk your body is working so hard to produce. “I always recorded TV shows, like Real Housewives, which was my guilty pleasure, and would watch them to stay awake while pumping late at night," Jordan says. You may even try snacking, checking your Facebook, or calling a friend (if it’s not too late at night) so that you can stay awake.
The good news is that with the innovations of modern technology, in the near future, there may be a way for you to pump while sleeping. Willow has introduced a new, wearable breast pump, which amazingly fits inside your own bra and pumps and collects milk in its own leakproof bag. It’s made to pump while walking, sitting, and even lying down, so hopefully you’ll be able to sleep and pump peacefully. Unfortunately, the Willow Breast Pump is still in its beta stage, but there is a waitlist if you’re interested.
For an overworked, exhausted mom, staying awake is easier said than done. But staying alert while you pump will ensure that you don't lose an ounce of that liquid gold. And if you need some help staying awake, you can always research wearable breast pumps, and daydream about a time when you can pump and sleep in peace.