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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Entertaining a baby (or 3) while pumping.

My twins have never been exclusively breastfed.  We've struggled long and hard with breastfeeding and milk supply issues.  (It's a very long, very frustrating story you can read about here if you're interested.)  Because of all of our issues, I've spent more time than I'd like to admit hooked up to my lovely breast pump.  At one point, I was pumping every 2-3 hours around the clock, plus nursing and bottle feeding.  That doesn't leave much time for anything else.  But unfortunately it's what my body requires to keep up my supply.

It's time consuming and having 3 little boys under 3 is also time consuming.  With the exception of the first 3 weeks of the twins' lives, I don't have any help during the day.  So being hooked up to a pump for 20 minutes is not exactly ideal.  When the boys want attention while I'm pumping, 20 minutes can seem like 2 hours.  A visitor recently asked me when I was disappearing to my room to pump how I manage doing it when I'm here by myself.  After clearing up her assumption that I pump in my bedroom when I'm here by myself, I started thinking that it might be fun to list my crazy tips for keeping my children entertained while I'm hooked up to the milking machine.

  • First tip, get a pumping bra!   I never actually invested in one, although I probably still should.  Instead, I took an old sports bra and cut slits in each breast.  I slide the flange into the slit, and voila, a hands-free solution to pumping.  My cheapo way is definitely not the best, but I've made it work this long because I'm a tightwad.
  • When the babies were smaller and less distracted while eating, I put them on their Boppies on the floor in front of me and held their bottles (and propped them up when necessary) while I pumped.
  • Seats!  Take advantage of the million "seats" babies have.  Bouncers, swings, carseats, Boppy pillows. Of course the swing is invaluable, but Kiernan sometimes got frustrated with it.  So sometimes I'd put him on the Boppy on the couch next to me.  Other times I'd put him in the bouncer on the floor in front of me and bounce it with my foot.  Or put him in the carseat and rock it with my foot.
  • As they got older I'd put them under the play gym on the floor in front of me so that I could nudge it and activate the motion lights and sounds when the got bored.  
  • Seats again!  As they got too old for the bouncer and too wiggly for the Boppy, I started utilizing the Exersaucer, jumper, and Bumbo.  We have since replaced the Bumbos with milk crates and nixed the jumper all together, but the Exersaucer and crates are Godsends.  (P.S. pediatric physical therapists HATE Bumbos, doorway jumpers, and walkers. Apparently they are terrible for proper muscle development.  At least that's what our PT says.  And they aren't too keen on Exersaucers either, but I told ours that it's necessary for my sanity.)
  • Use your voice.  The "shhhh" sound is like crack for my boys.  When they were little, sometimes all it took was me shushing them ... for 20 minutes straight.  Now that they're older, we have chats and play peek-a-boo and I try to con Brennan into playing with them because they LOVE their big brother.
  • Save a group of special toys for "pump time".  Things with lights and sounds work really well.  It keeps their attention while you're pumping.  When you're done pumping, take it away again and replace it with an old toy.
Let them play with spare pump parts.  My boys love to chew on pump tubing (obviously this is only while I am there to watch them ... I prefer that my children don't strangle themselves).When in doubt, use the TV.  Yeah, yeah, yeah - kids under 2 shouldn't watch TV.  My opinion?  Twenty minutes of Baby Einstein won't kill them while their mother provides them with nourishment!!
Obviously most of these apply to the babies, but some of them helped with Brennan too.  He loves Baby Einstein, (sometimes) likes to entertain his brothers, and enjoys playing with spare parts.  He actually gets really excited to "help mom pump" by holding the flanges for me.  Some people find it weird, but seriously people, he's 2.  Reading books next to me is also a favorite past time.  It used to be pretty tough to entertain him, but it's gotten a lot easier.  Who knows if it's because he's older now, he's used to me pumping, or both.  

So there you have it, a few tips on how to successfully use the breastpump a million times per day while at home alone with 3 boys under 3 without completely losing your mind.

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