Pumping to Let Dad Help

Pumping so Daddy can HelpI’ve found that though a little bit of a hassle, pumping offers hubby, grandparents, or other close friends the opportunity to bond with baby. As a stay-at-home mom who rarely pulls out the pump, I may have a different experience from mamas who regularly do. Some mamas will say there are many ways to bond with baby and pumping is such an inconvenience for a variety of reasons. That’s true. I like to think occasional pumping gives loved ones the space to enjoy something that I savor so much. To me, being able to share something that brings joy to me makes the annoyance of pumping worth it. I don’t often pump so someone else can feed baby, but I have found a few things that work for us if I do.

Those first few weeks were an opportunity for me to get used to baby and vice versa. Others helping in those first few weeks was not at all or only when absolutely necessary. Experts suggest 4 or 6 weeks being the ideal time to only nurse to establish supply. Once someone assists you, consider alternative methods of feeding if you’re concerned about nipple confusion. You can also encourage feeding that is as similar to nursing as possible.

Pumping a little goes a long way. Especially in those early weeks and months it is hard to pump enough in one sitting for the purpose of replacing a meal. Baby has a way of encouraging more letdowns and milk versus trying to pump. During the day pump if you have an extra few minutes and a little extra milk. I usually have an excess after the first feed in the morning. It’s useful to have full bottles of milk, but getting an ounce or two here or there can add up to a bottle or two a week for daddy to use. That small amount can also work for the top-off method.

Try the top-off method. Nurse your baby as usual and then have an ounce or two that you previously pumped available for another loved one to feed baby. This strategy works particularly well in those evening hours when baby just wants to feed and fuss and feed again. While it’s important to nurse to maintain and grow supply in those evening hours, I never found a couple ounces of milk in the bottle once or twice a week to negatively affect my supply. You may have a different experience than me.

Avoid the at-night scenario. Significant others are so sweet to offer getting up with baby. That said, night is usually not the best way to help. Explain that a bottle at night means you have to wake up and get up to deal with the pump, so you are not getting more sleep (possibly less!).

Instead, pick the meal that is most convenient for you. Maybe it’s every Saturday afternoon or perhaps an evening feed. While someone else feeds, burps, and cuddles babe you can pump and then have some time to yourself to rejuvenate or whatever your family needs. It’s great if that time is followed by baby taking a nap. Especially once established, I liked this option as I could pump and then have a few hours free to run a few errands without babe, spend time with the other kiddos, or take my own nap.  At the same time that someone else gets the opportunity to bond with baby over meal, cuddles, and other aspects of the day.

Consider formula. There. I said it. If the idea of formula is never, ever for baby feel free to skip this paragraph. If you worry that it might mess with your supply, I trust you know your body best. I came to use formula out of sheer desperation. I struggled with multiple infections (mastitis, thrush, and flu) with our third babe that made feeding excruciating. For about two weeks we used a bottle just to get me through some evenings until I could heal.  It gave me reprieve and someone else an opportunity both to bond with baby and help me out. Some families utilize formula for whatever reason so bonding opportunities come more frequently. I know for some mamas a few ounces of formula can offer strength in mental and physical health. That is critical to the long-term success of anything.

Finally, don’t forget to encourage and emphasize all those other ways dad and other loved ones can love and bond with baby. The method of pumping to give someone else the opportunity to feed babe, when used strategically, can offer everyone a positive experience.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 3 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

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