In a perfect world, your partner (if you have one) would help care for your baby while you pump. However, that isn’t always practical: if you are exclusively pumping and on maternity leave, or are a stay-at-home mom, or are a single mom, there will be lots of times where you will need to figure out how to pump breast milk while caring for your baby.
Pumping while simultaneously trying to care for a baby is not easy. With the pump, your range of motion is limited, you need to be careful not to spill, and older babies are fond of playing with the pump and pump parts while you try to use them (and least, mine was).
How to approach pumping while you care for your baby will change as your baby ages. With a newborn, your best bet is to multitask pumping with either feeding or getting your baby back to sleep. This will allow the time when you are not pumping to be time you focus on the baby (baths, tummy time, snuggles), get some sleep yourself, or go totally crazy and take a shower or something. Later, when your baby is mobile and interested in grabbing pump parts, the strategies will change, as I discuss below.
Pumping Milk while Bottle Feeding a Newborn
Pumping while bottle feeding seems like it totally make sense to me, in a bizarre way. You’re lactating at the same time you feed your baby, just like nursing! Except not.
So how does this work? Essentially, you hook yourself up to the pump using a hands-free bra. Once you’re all hooked up, you put the baby in your lap and feed him his bottle.
This, of course, is a bit trickier than it sounds. It’s easiest if you have a pumping station set up with all of your gear – pump, pump parts, bottles, hands-free bra, etc. – in one place and ready to go. Once you’ve got your pumping gear all set, you’ll want to get the baby’s bottle prepared.
Then you can sit down to pump. Put your baby in lap while you hook yourself up using the hands-free bra – with a newborn it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to roll off of your lap onto the floor, but make sure that you’re careful nonetheless – turn on the pump, and then you can start giving the baby his bottle. If you need to burp your baby while feeding, it can be difficult to do it on your shoulder as your pump equipment will be in the way, but you can try turning him over on one arm instead and patting with the other arm.
The other thing that can be challenging about feeding while pumping is that if you realize that your baby is hungry and needs to eat immediately, you might not want to take the time to hook yourself up to the pump before you feed him. In this situation, what I did was to walk around holding my baby and soothing him while preparing and warming the bottle. Then, once the bottle was ready, I fed him one ounce or so to take the edge off. (At night, I also did diaper changes at this point in case my baby fell asleep while eating.) Then I quickly hooked myself up to pump and finished the feeding.
Pumping Milk While Getting a Newborn Back to Sleep
If it’s too difficult to juggle feeding your baby while you pump, you can try to get him to sleep while you pump.
How you do this depends on how your baby likes to go back to sleep. If your baby needs to be held to go back to sleep, you can put him in your lap while you pump. You can try jiggling your leg or using your arms a bit to give a little rocking motion. This way, you are right there if your baby needs a burp or a pacifier replaced. Then, once you’re done pumping, you can then move the baby to his crib or bassinet or wherever he sleeps.
Another option is to put the baby in a bouncy seat or Rock ‘n Play next to you. This way you can rock the baby as needed with your feet while you pump and still be close enough to replace a pacifier. Once you’re done pumping, you can move your baby to his crib or just leave him where he is. (Note that some experts have warned against babies sleeping in bouncy seats unsupervised, though I will admit to having let my middle child sleep in one out of desperation before I got a Rock ‘n Play.)
Pumping Milk with an Older, Mobile Baby Underfoot
Pumping with a mobile baby can be really challenging, as many babies consider breast pumps a fascinating toy.
If your baby is mobile, at this point, hopefully naps are a bit more predictable and sleep is not at the premium that it was when your baby was a newborn. If possible, it’s easiest to pump while your baby naps or is asleep for the night. Because I am a fan of multi-tasking, I tend to plan tasks that need to get done on my laptop (paying bills, sending emails, etc.), for nap/pump time. Then I run around like crazy trying to get everything else that needed to get done finished that I can’t do while pumping, like washing bottles.
However, sometimes you need to pump and for whatever reason, your baby is not going to nap. A few ways to manage this are:
- High Chair and a Basket of Toys. Put your baby in his highchair, and grab some Cheerios (if your baby is eating finger food) and a basket of toys and sit next to the baby. Hook yourself up to pump hands-free. Try to keep baby entertained with Cheerios and toys while you pump. A lot of stuff is going to get thrown on the floor, but just leave it until you’re done pumping.
- Exersaucer. If you have an exersaucer or jumparoo, you can try getting a quick 10 or 15 minute pump in while you baby plays in it. You can sit right by it and interact with him in case he cries, but he won’t be able to grab your tubing.
- Get in the Car. If your baby likes driving, put your baby in his carseat and go for a quick drive. You can pump and drive at the same time, or you can drive until baby falls asleep and pull over and pump.
- Manual Pump. If you’re really in need of a quick session and none of the above will work, try using a manual pump to get a quick pump in while playing with the baby. There are less parts to grab and less chance of spilling. You can make the up any missed pumping time later, when your baby is sleeping.
Caring for a baby while pumping is a real challenge, but hopefully these tips will make it easier!