Exclusively Pumping: Tips for Quality Time with Baby
Last Saturday, I passed the 15 month mark of Exclusively Pumping (EPing). Since August, we have gone down from 4-5 pumping sessions a day to just 2. Even though I have been rather enjoying the new flexible schedule, at no point in time in the past 15 months did I ever want to quit. At no point in time did I hold the pump in distain. At no point in time did I hate what I was doing. I have had a very positive experience.
I have read my fair share of Exclusively Pumping forums and blog posts, so I am aware my positive experience isn’t shared by all mothers. There are definitely a lot of challenges and a lot of factors involved and I do recognize I had very little discomfort after birth, a top-notch support system, and the flexibility of a telecommuting job, so I paraphrase a wise statement from my Mommy-friend Quinn:
Every family needs to pick the path that is right for them.
With that disclaimer, I am “open sourcing” a little bit of my process for anyone that wants/needs it (accompanied by completely safe-for-work photos). This is stuff that worked for me. If it looks like it can be adapted for your family, that’s great. If it isn’t a good fit for you, no worries.
Pumping Challenge: Bonding with Baby?
I’ve read a lot of Exclusively Pumping accounts where one of the biggest challenges and heartaches a mother describes is the lost time with her baby. The mother feels like she has to keep leaving her baby to pump (some posts use the verb “abandon”). She worries she is neglecting the baby and losing bonding time. Even worse, maybe she frets she is fostering attachment issues for the poor child! One mother described feeling helpless when her baby started crying while she was pumping and desperately wishing she could “go in the other room and pick her up and console her.”
When I first read those accounts, it took me by surprise. That wasn’t my experience at all and I thought, “What in the world am I doing differently?!?” It couldn’t just be the Simple Wishes Hands Free Pumping Bra. It looks like most people independently made that same discovery (If you haven’t– definitely get one or a similiar product. It opens a lot of doors of what you can do while you pump).
I’ve reflected a bit and I think I’ve pinpointed some possible differences.
I Pump with the Baby
Now, there were times where I felt like I was missing out on time with adult family and friends because of pumping, but for me, time with the pump and time with the baby are not mutually exclusive. In fact, there are times where I pick up the baby and tell my family, “I am going to take him upstairs and pump. We’ll be back.” A lot of our pumping sessions could easily be described simply as “Mommy-Son Time”.
It’s easy for me to pump with the baby and I think part of it is because…
I Pump on the Floor
Well, at home anyway, not in public restrooms. I’ve always pumped on the floor. I pump on the floor because I sleep on the floor (even when I was pregnant). So when we arrived home from the hospital and were faced with the question, “Hmm…Where should this breastpump go?” the natural answer was, “Oh hey– how about right here on the floor?”
Because I was on the floor, the baby could also be on the floor where that scary gravity and all the injuries and disfigurements it aims to inflict on my child are kept at bay. The baby could be right next to me or even physically on me (more on that in a moment). If he needed something, I was right there. Thanks to the hands-free pumping bra, I could give him a bottle, I could comfort him, I could change his diapie (though really messy poopies I would recommend handing off, particularly when the child is enamoured with crawling). Heck, I’ve dressed him for daycare while pumping. And even if he didn’t need anything, I was still right there where I could just stare at him, sigh, and think about #$*&ing lucky I was.
Now, as far as comforting and burping, there is the limitation where you can’t really hold your child to your chest while you are pumping, which brings me to my next possible difference…
I Tailor Sit and Use My Legs A LOT
Tailor sitting is also known as “Indian-style” and I do it a lot. I always have. Even in chairs, I often opt to tailor sit in my seat. It’s true. I’ve been reprimanded by librarians (They aren’t fond of people’s feet being where other people’s butts will be). Because it is so natural to me, tailor sitting also makes cameos in my mothering. My crossed legs have proven to be a nice comfy spot for my son to hang out…and sometimes nap.
If he is having gas or discomfort, I’ve found bouncing my knees or rocking to be effective. I’ve also found my legs to be a great way to prop him up while he takes a bottle.
Now when I’m pumping, I may not be able to embrace him and hold him tight to my chest. BUT I still have full use of my lap and my legs. Sure, you have to move tubing around, but I’m there and available for my son. Plus it is good motivation to keep good posture as babies seem to get annoyed when pumping accessories are shoved in their faces (I haven’t tested it out, but I suspect most adults would experience a similiar reaction).
I think the trickiest part to master was finding a way to burp him while pumping. It didn’t come up often because my husband was so attentive but when it did, I would lay the baby stomach down on my thigh and pat his back that way (Hat Tip, my mother-in-law).
Exclusively Pumping with the Mobile Baby
I think like with most things, exclusively pumping gets more challenging as the baby gets mobile and wants to explore. I still pump on the floor and around the “pumping area” are a whole bunch of toys, including this wooden workbench that continues to captivate him. For the most part, we play and talk. Sometimes I supervise him as he explores the room and there are times where I quickly disconnect the tubing so I can go fetch him. The most friction we’ve run into is an ongoing disagreement about how much fun it is to yank the tubing out of the breast pump. Though I expect the incident rate of both his exploring and my adbrupt retrieval missions to increase in the future. : )
Pumping with my mobile son has had some spectacular moments. One day I got to watch as he figured out how to stick his toy screw driver into a spare breastshield he pulled out of the breast pump bag. The breastshield and its funnel shape turned out to very friendly to the unadept and a marvelous tutorial. A couple of days later, I pumped and watched my son’s more confident hand manuever the toy screwdriver into the small holes in his workbench. Then from day to day, I got to witness his increased steadiness as he stood and played. He develops right before my eyes.
And then there was the first time in the middle of playing, my son paused, crawled over to me and gave me a hug. Children are adaptable, and sure enough, my son found a way to make a hug work.
I didn’t miss these moments because I was attached to a breast pump.
And maybe (if it is right for your family), you don’t have to either! : )