Anyone who spends any amount of time pumping breast milk for their baby realizes quickly how mind-numbingly boring it can be. One of the biggest let-down killers is bottle-watching: waiting for the bottle to fill and only getting the drip, drip, drip… Be one of the many women who exclusively pump (EP) and you quickly realize that these hours of your life must be filled with something other than waiting for the oxytocin release. After I finished my year of EPing, I calculated that I had spent approximately one entire month of my life with my breast pump. And while I never question or regret the choice I made to express milk for my son, I also know that this time was not always relaxing or enjoyable. Finding something to do while pumping, however, can help make the experience more enjoyable. So what are your options?
There is (excuse the expression and the pun) the boob tube. During my midnight pumping sessions I became a connoisseur of late night and late, late night television. I truly believe David Letterman and I had a personal relationship. (Note to self: I must reconnect with him.) Emergency 51, Marcus Welby, and Quincy were all on in the wee hours of the night and got me through many 2 a.m. pumping sessions not to mention teaching me all about emergency medicine and autopsies!
Sleeping of course can not be discounted as an option. Yes, it can be done! While usually not a planned activity during pumping, you will be equally surprised as I was the first time you wake up, milk overflowing the collection bottles, and a sense of disorientation overflowing you. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend sleeping as an option, it is possible, does happen, and when it does happen to you, know you are not the only one!
Talking on the phone can be a very pleasant way to pass the time (as long as it’s not your nosy mother-in-law you are talking to) and keep your mind off the bottles. However, you might want to carefully consider who you are talking to so when the inevitable question of “What is that noise?” arises, you can answer without embarrassment or at the very least have a quick, and perhaps distracting, response preplanned.
One of the most common methods to pass time while pumping is to surf the web. With countless hyperlinks to follow, filling fifteen to twenty minutes of your time is quite simple. Catching up on posts on the many discussion boards focused on expressing breast milk helps to build community, camaraderie and support which is so critical in what can be a very isolating activity. On the downside, you have to avoid the many opportunities available on the internet to spend money!
What else can you do? Really pretty much anything. I have even heard of women who drive their car while expressing! And when you start to consider all the possible ways to pass the time while pumping, you begin to wonder, “Just how do you manage all these things while trying to operate the pump, hold the collection bottles, do breast compressions, deal with the overflowing bottles…?”
Well, watching television can be done without the need of hands. Sleeping can easily begin without a need for hands, but pretty much anything else will require an extra set of hands- or the use of the ones you already have. For me, this was accomplished through my wonderfully short stature. In most cases, this is a detriment, but when pumping, my short stature allowed me to precariously perch the collection bottles on my knees with one forearm pressed against one bottle and the hand on the same arm holding the other bottle. This of course only frees up only one hand making very slow work of typing and requires everything be within close reach. For women nursing at the keyboard they have come up with the acronym “NAK” (nursing at keyboard) to explain poor keyboarding or spelling. I have yet to see anyone use “PAK” (pumping at keyboard) but perhaps it is time it is used as well.
Since I was pumping, more than five years ago, there have been a myriad of products come to market that allow for hands-free pumping. Hands-free devices provide a certain amount of freedom impossible without them. While not necessary, a good hands-free bra can allow women to focus on something other than the bottles and the milk being expressed and actually help to improve the volume of milk expressed. Using a hands-free bra can actually reclaim some of the time spent pumping and turn it into something that you can use for yourself.
So, what do YOU do while pumping? Drop us a line below and tell us about it!
Stephanie Casemore is the author of Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk: a Guide to Providing Expressed Breast Milk for your Baby. For more information on exclusively pumping or to purchase Stephanie’s book, visit www.ExclusivelyPumping.com