Caring for a baby is hard work in and of itself, so when you throw in pumping on top of that, it can be hard to juggle it all. If you’re not sure how you’re going to manage pumping while caring for your baby, that’s a normal worry. But we’re here to give you our best tips on how it can be done.
Whether you’re pumping exclusively or pumping a couple of times per day to build your milk stash, we’re going to share our best methods for managing it while simultaneously caring for your baby. Now what you get still may not be “pretty,” but it will certainly be the beautiful mess of a mama’s love.
Ideas for How to Safely Care for Your Baby While You Pump
If you’re wondering, “What should I do with my baby while I’m pumping?” that’s a valid question! It can be hard to feel like you’re keeping your focus on your baby while getting in the pumping you need to do (which is also a way you’re caring for your baby...you’re basically a rockstar mom!)
If you’re feeling pressure to have to be holding your baby 24/7 even while you pump, try to let this go. It can be really tough if you have a baby who demands your attention all the time, so if this is the case, we do have some tips for you on how to hold your baby and pump at the same time. Just know that you can be an excellent caregiver to your baby with them next to you instead of having them in your arms. Because of course we know you are snuggling and holding your baby plenty all those times you aren’t pumping!
Hold Your Baby
Though you should not feel like you need to hold your baby while you’re pumping, it can actually help with your output. And for some moms, they actually feel less stressed when their babies are in their arms as opposed to not. So of course do what’s best for you without feeling the pressure of doing what you think is “right.”
If you do want to hold your baby while you pump, you’ll want to at the very least utilize a pumping bra (if not a completely hands-free pump). Here are the best ways to do that
Option 1: Hold your young infant between your two breasts and allow them to lay their head down on your chest. Even with the pump parts attached to you, there should be enough room to lay your baby on your chest. If your baby is sleepy, or at a stage where they aren’t too wiggly, this method works well. You can also do this skin-to-skin which is a wonderful to snuggle a newborn.
Option 2: If you plan to bottle feed your baby while pumping, you can lay them on your knees (so they are looking face up at you.) This way they can still be snuggled up to you but can get their feeding in at the same time. Personally, I think this one is really tricky, so if you can feed them BEFORE you pump, that would be ideal. We recommend using the bökee to get your baby's bottle prepped and ready before you begin pumping - then keep it close by to help you stabilize your bottles as you finish up pumping to avoid any spills.
Option 3: Use a nursing pillow for assistance. You can still “hold” your baby without having them completely in your arms. This is something I did a lot when I pumped and was caring for my baby at the same time. I would position my nursing pillow around and prop my baby on it so that she was right up against me. I could caress her head or rub her chest while still being able to pump at the same time.
Put Your Baby in a Swing Next to You
Younger babies are often content when placed in a swing. The rocking sensation and music is calming for them and some swings even have a mobile for your baby to look at. Keep them at an arm’s reach in case they need you, but chances are if you make this your routine, they will stay happy for the duration of your pumping time. And if you have a really young baby who can't stay awake for long, this is a great way to get them to take a little snooze (under supervision, of course.)
Place Your Baby on a Playmat
I often found it to be the easiest to sit on the floor while I pumped. This was because I could have my baby right next to me while keeping them thoroughly entertained. Playmats and baby play gyms are great for this. This works especially well for moms who are on an eat-wake-sleep cycle with their little ones, which is a great routine to follow to help your baby become an independent sleeper. If you feed your baby right before you pump, chances are they will happily play alongside you while you complete your pumping.
This is also great for giving them the tummy time they need, just make sure you're close by.
Utilize a Pack ‘N Play
There is absolutely nothing wrong with putting your baby in a safe place such as a playpen so that you can pump as quickly as possible with the lowest amount of stress. If your baby is several months old and on the move, this may be the best way to go.
You can put a few of your baby’s favorite toys in there to keep them entertained and supervise while pumping close to them. Your baby may whimper the first few times you try this since they’ll likely want to be with you when you’re in sight. But it is great for your baby to learn some independence. Pumping usually only takes 10-15 minutes, and this is the perfect amount of time to let your baby play on their own and then they’ll be back in your arms soon enough.
Use an Exersaucer/Activity Center
For the mobile baby older than 6 months, using an exersaucer is another great option. I wouldn't recommend this choice during every feeding, but for one or two sessions per day, this works well. These are not only great for distracting your baby and keeping them busy (and out of mischief!) while you pump, but they can also aid in your baby's development.
Other Tips That Will Help You Care for Your Baby While Pumping
Using a combination of the above options throughout the day works best. Having everything close by your designated pumping area makes it easy to choose what's best depending on your baby's mood at the time of feeding. Besides determining the best place to put your baby while you pump, there are some other things that you can do that will help pumping go more smoothly while also giving your baby the best care possible.
These have worked well for us and we think they’ll work great for you, too!
Get Everything Set and Ready Before Pumping
Once you begin pumping, you’re generally tied to where you’re sitting for the most part (unless you have a hands-free pump - see below!) Because of this, you want to make sure that you have your area completely prepped and ready before you get that pump rolling. This also means having everything you need to entertain or comfort your baby while doing so.
In our article, “Best Breast Pumping Tips for New Moms,” we discuss the importance of having a designated pumping spot, as well. If you always pump in the same place, you’ll be able to have everything you need within reach and won’t have to set it up each time. The first on our list is one we consider to be a necessity:
- the bökee - This tool is something you’ll want to have among your most precious baby gear. Not only does this simple (yet genius!) product help you prep a bottle one-handed, but it comes in incredibly handy when you’re needing to handle your milk from pumping while caring for your baby at the same time.
These are the other items we always like to have close by:
- Water Bottle - Pumping makes you thirsty!
- Snack Stash - Pumping also makes you hungry!
- Baby Blanket
- Baby Toys
- Nursing Pillow - we especially love the Twin Z Pillow as we discuss here
- Burp cloth - to remove moisture after pumping or to be prepared for the inevitable spit up from your baby close by
Use a Hands-Free Pump
I cannot tell you what a lifesaver a hands-free pump can be. With my first two babies I used a standard double-electric pump, but kept seeing ads for a hands-free pump while I was pregnant with my third. Since I would not only be juggling 1 child, but 3, I knew I needed this. Now you can even get cordless/tubeless hands-free pumps making it easy to walk around or hold your baby while you pump. Personally, the extra cost is completely worth it for the sanity this type of pump can bring you.
Pump Right After Feeding Your Baby
If you are pumping to supplement and to create a stash for future use (as opposed to exclusively pumping), then that likely means you are utilizing breastfeeding to feed your baby. When determining your timing for pumping, it’s beneficial to pump directly after feeding your baby. Not only will you ensure that your baby is getting a full feeding, but this is also one of the best ways for your baby to be content while you pump. This method works great for bottle feeding, too. A baby with a full tummy is most often a happy baby, which means your baby will very likely happily play under a playmat or with some toys next to you so that you can get your pumping done with ease.
Pump When Your Baby is Sleeping
It can be tempting to “multi-task” and try to pump while caring for your baby. And while you will likely need to do this sometimes, especially if you’re exclusively pumping, it’s much less stressful if you can carve a time to completely relax while you pump. If you have other things you like to do or need to get done while your baby sleeps, that is understandable. But if you can have everything prepped and ready to go, hopefully you only need to take 10-15 minutes of your baby’s naptime to get your pumping done.
Keep to a Pumping Schedule
Whether you decide you’ll pump while your baby is sleeping, awake, or both, it will really help to pump on a schedule. Even if you’re only pumping a couple of times per day, it’s best to always do these sessions at the same time. That way, both you and your baby will come to expect what’s going on at this time each day. Even though your baby is tiny, they pick up on cues. If that's always the time they play on their playmat next to you, they'll be much less likely to put up a fuss if that's what they are used to doing.
Pumping while caring for a baby takes some strategic managing, but honestly, it's what we moms do best!