mom using breast pump while wondering what to do with baby while pumping
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What To Do With Your Baby While You Pump

With the right equipment, (almost) anything is possible.

Ever since Baby was born, you and your breast pump have become bosom buddies — literally. But if you’re pumping to prepare some bottles for your baby (and your little one is wide awake right next to you), you might be looking at each other wondering what to do next. Well, there are plenty of things you can do with your baby while you pump. Some are sweet (like snuggling) and others are educational (like reading) but they’ll all help you to hopefully pump in peace while entertaining your baby, too.

What to do with your baby while you’re pumping

Just because you’re pumping doesn’t mean that you can’t still be close to your baby, especially if you are pumping only one side or have the right equipment to allow you to use your hands while the pump is in use. “Utilize a hands-free pumping bra so you can hold your baby while you pump,” Chrisie Rosenthal, IBCLC, a lactation consultant with The Lactation Network tells Romper. “If you have a baby that insists on being held, and you're having a hard time pumping, consider a wearable pump. They slip completely inside your bra, allowing you more flexibility as you pump.” A battery-operated pump gives you even more flexibility and freedom to get up and walk around while you’re expressing breast milk.

But even if you are sitting there holding bottles up to your breasts for the next 20 minutes or so, here are some things you can do with your baby to keep you both entertained and safe.

1. Sing to your baby

Even if you can’t carry a note, your newborn will be none the wiser when you sing to them while pumping. As it turns out, a baby loves hearing their mother’s voice (most likely a throwback to their time in the womb) because it creates an even stronger emotional bond, researchers found. What you choose to sing is totally up to you; it can be a classic like “Row Row Row Your Boat” — or something more modern like “Running Up That Hill” from Stranger Things.

2. Read a book

There’s never been a better time to help Baby become a bookworm than while you’re pumping. Keep a basket of their favorite books near the spot where you prefer to pump. Your baby can “read” the books (or gnaw on them, if they’re teething), and if they are old enough, let them turn the pages or pretend to read the book to you. As your breast pump does its job, tell them a story about what they’re seeing and if they’re old enough, you can take turns Have them sit next to you, and tell them a story. If they are old enough, trade off taking turns deciding what happens next in the story.

3. Place them in a swing or bouncer

If you have a pump that keeps you sedentary and requires you to use your hands, you’ll need to keep your baby completely occupied. Enter the bouncer or swing, a new parent’s BFF. Make sure that you can see your child while they’re in it for safety and let them have a blast bouncing or soothe themselves while swinging. And if your baby starts to fuss, you can always animatedly talk or sing to them while they jump — and you pump.

4. Take out a toy

Your child might already have a ton of toys, and that’s why you should keep a small set aside that’s specifically selected for pumping sessions. That way, your child will be excited to play with something completely new while you’re pumping.

5. Serve a snack

If your baby is eating solids, give them a snack during your pump session. “It’s even better if it's a finger food they can feed themselves,” says Rosenthal.

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6. Turn on the TV

Let’s say this loud for the people in the back of the room: there’s nothing wrong with letting your baby watch a tiny bit of TV, especially if it buys you enough time to pump during the daytime. And if the TV is turned on only during pumping sessions, Baby will be even more mesmerized by the colors and sounds they see and hear on the screen.

7. Play Peekaboo

Let’s say that you’re all prepped and pumping away when you realize that you don’t have anything for Baby to play with, can’t reach the remote, and the swing is too far away to stick your little one in. Well, you can have a great time playing together and all you need are your two hands for a rousing game of Peekaboo. Not only is it entertaining (babies 4 months and older can really enjoy it) but playing Peekaboo helps your child understand the concept of object permanence, the idea that things still exist even when Baby can’t see them. It also helps your child learn how to participate in playtime, too.

8. Cuddle

Anytime is the right time to love on your little one. And no matter what type of breast pump you have, both you and Baby might benefit from a quick cuddle. If you have a double breast pump, place your baby alongside you and put your arm around them while soaking up that delicious newborn scent.

9. Practice tummy time

While you’re pumping, you can place your baby on a mat for some tummy time. Of course, Baby should always be awake and supervised during tummy time, which can be done two to three times a day for 3-5 minutes at a time at the newborn stage. “Tummy time is a crucial part of infant development,” says Sarah Schooler, MSN, RN, IBCLC, a registered nurse. “You can sit on the floor near your baby while you pump to help encourage or calm them as needed.” Using a hands-free pumping bra or wearable pump gives you even more flexibility to assist your baby and interact while they do tummy time. Not only will Baby be occupied, but your child can reap the benefits of being on their belly, such as improving their motor development and reducing the risk of plagiocephaly (which is when your baby’s head can become flattened in one area), per a PubMed study.

10. Breastfeed or bottle feed

Hey just because you’re pumping breastmilk doesn’t mean that your baby might not be in the mood for a snack. So if Baby is looking for a snack (and your pump only does one breast at a time), you can always breastfeed your baby from the free breast, or put them next to you so that you can give Baby a bottle. That way, you get to feed your baby now while still preparing their next meal for later.

Even though you might feel like you’re stuck on the sofa, just you and your breast pump, there’s plenty that you can do with baby while you’re pumping. No matter which activity you pick, it will probably help create even better bonding between you two.

Studies referenced:

Hewitt, L., Kerr, E., Stanley, R., Okely, A. (2020) Tummy Time and Infant Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review, Pediatrics, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32371428/

Nomikou, I., Leonardi, G., Radkowska, A., Raczaszek-Leonardi, J., Rohlfing, K. (2017) Taking Up An Active Role: Emerging Participation in Early Mother-Infant Interaction during Peekaboo Routines, Front Psychology, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29066985/

Pocwierz-Marciniak, I., Harciarek, M. (2021) The Effect of Musical Stimulation and Mother’s Voice on the Early Development of Musical Abilities: A Neuropsychological Perspective, PubMed, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8393253/

Sources interviewed:

Chrisie Rosenthal, IBCLC, a lactation consultant with The Lactation Network

Sarah Schooler, MSN, RN, IBCLC, a registered nurse