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I’m at home with my baby full time. My husband has offered to take the morning feeding so I can sleep in a little, but I’m exclusively breastfeeding. I can’t fathom how I’ll ever be able to pump a bottle for the baby when he’s nursing all the time. It seems impossible – or, at the very least, exhausting. How do other moms do it? - Pumped Out

Dear Pumped Out,

Pumping and breastfeeding while caring for a baby can really hammer home the dairy-cow theme of early mothering. We’ve heard (and uttered!) this question a million times. Over the years we’ve come up with a few ideas that can help you streamline a day’s worth of sucking/suction:

Pump when there’s someone else around to hold the baby if possible. If you have a partner who goes to work, pump before or after the workday.

Make pumping a hands-free experience. This is accomplished by finding some means of securing the suction cups (flanges) to your breasts, leaving your hands free to pursue some other activities. Various contraptions are available for this purpose. Or, you can just take an old bra and cut holes in the nipples (very sexy). If you use a nursing bra for this, you can feed your baby and pump at the same time. This solves the problem of finding time to pump, though some babies do not appreciate being fed alongside all that chug-chug-chugging and plastic tubing.

Cut down on prep and set-up time. Try to clean up after you pump so that you never have to futz around with a scrubber before the actual session. Or keep a bowl of sudsy, hot water next to the sink so you can dump all parts immediately after use and clean at night. If you can, delegate the clean-up to someone else. You could invest in an extra pack of plastic pump parts so there’s more to go around. Put the pump in a convenient place and leave it there, plugged in. Make sure whatever you need is also nearby.

Make pumping a moment of escape. Get a good book, keep it nearby, and read it only when you pump. That way there’s less of a chance that you’ll blow it off.

A word about milk supply: after your supply is established, missing occasional feedings shouldn’t have a big effect. But if you’re skipping a feeding on a regular basis, your supply may go down. Pumping around that time of day (for example, in the morning after you wake up) will help keep your supply up.

We know you said you were exclusively breastfeeding, but if the pumping just isn’t working for you, giving the odd bottle of formula is a reasonable idea. If your supply is well established, a bottle now and again won’t have a radical effect. Short term formula feeding can also help you build a stash of milk for future feedings (you pump while someone else feeds the baby a bottle of formula). Sometimes just having a decent supply in the freezer is enough to take the edge off.

Have a question? Email parentaladvisory@babble.com

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