How to find time to pump with a newborn can be difficult and if there is one thing I learned quickly as a parent, it is that things rarely go exactly how you plan. I had hoped to breastfeed, but after suffering from a CFS (cerebrospinal fluid) leak from my epidural and the resultant NICU stay for our daughter because I was unable to nurse, I found myself headed down the path towards becoming an exclusive pumper. Since I had prepared to nurse Bibi, not pump, the start of my exclusive pumping journey was a rough one. In time, though, I was able to get into the groove of it. My life got easier once I started using these little tips and tricks to help me find the time to pump 5-6 times a day.
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Pump While Baby is Sleeping
The easiest time to pump is when baby is asleep. This is especially helpful during the newborn stage because their sleeping patterns line up quite nicely with pumping 5-6 times a day.
However, new moms should ideally use the baby’s sleeping time for their own sleep and recuperation. But when you are juggling the care of your baby, self-care, household chores, and possibly work, how can you make room in your schedule for pumping so often? Here are several tips that will help you find time to pump and pump more efficiently.
Pump while baby is eating
Pumping while baby is taking his/her bottle can be very advantageous. Mechanically, it can be a little more difficult to set up the pump while feeding the baby but with some ingenuity it is possible.
Since the baby is drinking from a bottle, they are occupied and most likely headed towards sleep. This means once they are asleep you can use naptime for something else besides pumping.
Make sure you have all of your pump supplies ready and laid out in a comfortable spot. Warm baby’s bottle, then hook yourself up to the pump with baby safely next to you. Using a nursing pillow like a boppy, position baby on your lap and begin feeding while you pump at the same time.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Many of us have expectations for motherhood that don’t line up with reality. We see ourselves doing everything perfectly and independently, but that just isn’t realistic. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And don’t be afraid to tell people exactly how they can help you.
This is especially true during the newborn phase. Postpartum, I had many complications so I needed my mom and husband to take care of the baby while I pumped.
New dads aren’t always aware of the physical and emotional toll that occurs from childbirth and then taking care of the baby while trying to recover. Telling your husband or partner exactly how they can help and giving them the opportunity to do things is much better than silently suffering.
Pumping allows dads to help with one of the most precious parts of babyhood…nighttime feedings. There is something so satisfying and sweet about comforting and nourishing your child during the quiet nighttime hours. Let dad take care of one nighttime feeding so you can pump or rest.
There are many other people who would probably love to help you out so you can pump. Reach out to your mother or mother-in-law, sisters, friends or neighbors. Women who have had their own babies are especially aware of how difficult motherhood can be and many would be happy to hold baby while you pump or take care of other needs.
Besides the actual milk collection, exclusive pumping requires a lot of prep work and cleanup. Make sure that your helper is aware of how often you need to pump as well as the amount of time it takes to clean up and sterilize and take whatever help they are willing to give. You can also teach your husband or helpers how to clean and sanitize your pumping products . This will free up time for you to shower, meditate or rest your eyes for a few minutes.
A Swing/ Mammaroo for Newborns
Another wonderful option that keeps baby happy so you can pump is a baby swing or Mammaroo. I had a Mammaroo and loved it. Although it is a bit of an investment, knowing baby was safe inside the seat while I had my hands free to pump made it worth the cost.
The Mammaroo mimics the back and forth and side to side motion that will comfort baby so you can pump. It was also helpful during the middle of the night when I was pumping. While Bibi’s dad was sleeping, the Mammaroo calmed her down and stopped her from crying.
How to Find Time to Pump with an Infant or Older child
As baby gets older and more active, keeping them occupied so you can pump can feel very daunting. Here are a few ideas:
- Put him or her in a bouncer/saucer. Keep the seat nearby while you pump so baby can see mom. You can use this time to interact with baby by singing or talking.
- Keep one or two toys separate as an exclusive pumping time toy. Baby only gets the special toy when mom is pumping so the toy remains novel and fun.
- If you have access to a device that allows video calls (Facetime, Amazon Alexa, Google Nest Hub or Portal from Facebook) you can set up baby so that they can see the screen and interact with grandparents or other family members. Not only will grandma love seeing baby, but it will help build family bonds and connections while you take care of pumping.
- Use nature to entertain baby. Set baby up so they can see a tree out of the window and feel a breeze on their face. If the weather is warm enough and you feel comfortable you could set up an outside spot for you to pump and baby to look around. Make sure baby is shaded from sun and dressed appropriately for the temperature outside.
Hands Free Bras & Pumps
There are products that make it much easier to exclusively pump while getting other tasks done. Using a hands-free breast pump bra frees up time (and your hands) for doing other things. They also allow you to pump both breasts at the same time which saves time and has been shown to increase milk production by an average of 18% and create milk with a higher calorie content. I used a double pump from the Medela family called Sonata. It is made to mimic, Symphony, a medical-grade breast pump widely used in hospitals. Read my honest review of the Sonata breast pump here.
Another product I used and recommend is the Haaka. Although it is technically called a “pump” it is more of a milk catcher that collects milk passively. It’s very simple to use and super easy to clean compared to a pump. It doesn’t fit as securely as a pump with mechanical suction so I only use it when I know I will be sitting at my desk while Bibi is sleeping. For those who are nursing directly from the breast, the Haaka can catch the milk on the non-nursing breast while baby is feeding.
Extra Pump Parts
Another helpful tip for exclusive pumpers is to purchase extra pump parts. It is a small investment compared to how much time it saves. When you have extra parts on hand you don’t have to keep cleaning between pumping sessions. While one batch of parts is drying you’ll be able to use your extra clean set.
When you are trying to set up baby so you can pump, the last thing you need to do is be searching for parts or cleaning dirty ones.
Sterilizer That Also Dries
My number one best purchase as an exclusive pumper was a sterilizer that also dries. After pumping I was able to place the pump parts in the sterilizer, turn it on, and have completely sterilized and dried parts for my next pumping session within an hour. Some sterilizers only steam sterilize but I found the small cost for upgrading to one with a dryer is well worth it. Here is the sterlizer/dryer I used.
Give yourself grace
Adding an additional task like pumping to the already stressful time of adjusting to a newborn is hard. While these tips and tricks will help you find more time to pump, the most important thing you can do is to give yourself grace.
Being a mom is hard and you are doing the best you can. Like all of the other parts of motherhood, this period of time will all too soon pass. I didn’t intend to be an exclusive pumper, but in this journey, I have learned that being a mom gives you the strength to overcome difficulties and do whatever is needed in order to keep your baby strong and healthy.