Nurse Mom:  8 Pumping Essentials For Nurses Who Breastfeed

Nurse Mom: 8 Pumping Essentials For Nurses Who Breastfeed

(This post contains affiliate links that I have personally used and have found essential for pumping at work as a nurse working 12 hour shifts at the hospital.  You can find my disclosure policy here.)

Having a new baby is both incredible and overwhelming.  Breast feeding can be hard for new moms (it certainly was for me!).   Once I finally got the hang of it my maternity leave was almost over and I had a whole to problem to figure out:  how was I going to continue breastfeeding while working as a nurse?

Nurses who breastfeed may face challenges as they return to work.

There is good news for nurses who WANT to continue breastfeeding their babies for up to a year or longer as a working mom and nurse.  It is possible!  But you need to plan in advance and communicate with your workplace about your intention to pump at work.  And you need to have the right pumping supplies to make it possible.

If you don’t plan ahead, pumping at work can be extremely difficult.  But with the right pumping tools and a lot of determination you will find that you can make pumping fit right into your busy nursing schedule!

Even I can’t believe how long I have been able to pump while working as a nurse.

I am happy to share that I have been successfully pumping as an ER nurse in a very busy level 1 trauma center for the last 13 months.  And I still can’t believe how well it is going!  Sure, there have been a few minor hiccups along the way (like forgetting my breast pump at home, whoops!).   But overall the experience has been way better then I would have thought.

I now know that I will be able to continue pumping breast milk for my baby for as long as I desire.  I want other working moms to know that they can do this too.  (Read more about what I have learned about pumping at work as a nurse).

Nurse in scrubs

Essential Must-Have Items To Pump At Work As A Nurse:

Portable Breast Pump

This device is the highest on the must-have items to pump at work list, for obvious reasons.  Without it, you have no way to access your milk!   I am using the Medela portable pump because it is the one that my insurance covered and it works great.  You want to make sure that you have a double pump so you can pump both breasts at once to save time.  You can also use this bag to store your breast milk while you are away at work as long as you keep in in a refrigerator.

Check with your insurance to see if they cover a portable breast pump before you buy one.  I live in California and my insurance gave me a breast pump free of charge!

(Just a note, the different brands do not work interchangeably with each other.  So you want to make sure you find one brand you like and stick with it!  Otherwise you will end up with a bunch of parts that don’t work with one anther.  You don’t need your back to work pumping supply list to be any longer then it already is!)

Breast Milk Bottles

You will need breast milk collection storage bottles to store your milk until you get home from work.  I use the Medela bottles because I already use the Medela pump but there are several other brands you can used as well.  Just make sure the ones you are using are made without BPA (its a safer plastic that helps retain breast milk’s beneficial properties).

I also like the Medela screw on lids better then some other brands because they are leak proof.  (I tried a different brand and had an issue with leakage all over my packed lunch!).  You can wash them in the sink and they are also dishwasher safe.

Double Pump And Nursing Bra

For the sake of time and efficiency it is very important that you double pump at work.  I really like this double pumping bra because it makes it possible to double pump without having to hold the pumps with with both hands.  Once you start pumping you will find that having to hold the pumps in place is really annoying and makes it difficult to do anything else.  It also helps prevent spilling accidents since you can remove and clean one side at a time.

Reusable Nursing Pads

Engorgement is no joke.  There have been a few times at work when I wasn’t able to pump on schedule and I ended up leaking through my scrubs (you could barely see it, but still!).  As a result of that embarrassing experience I started wearing nursing pads when I was at work.   I already wore them at home from the time my son was about 1 week old.

I use reusable nursing pads made of bamboo because I have read that many disposable pads contain absorbent chemicals which come in direct contact with your skin.  They also run the risk of trapping moisture, especially if your are leaking. This can increase the risk of mastitis, a very painful bacterial infection that will make you sick and can be dangerous if untreated.  Disposable pads can also be expensive over time if you are frequently using them.  I have 12 reusable nursing pads and I run them through the washer and dryer with all my other clothes.

Breast Milk Storage Bags

The beautiful thing about pumping is that you can store your breast milk in the freezer!  So even if you have a surplus of milk you can put it away for later use.   These little breast milk storage baggies are great because you can write the date on the top section so you know how long they have been in the freezer.

Place them in the refrigerator for 12 hours before you need them to thaw them out.  Or place them in a bowl of hot water for quicker use.  These are a necessity for working moms who pump – I have used over 200 of them already!

Milk Storage Organizer

My freezer got a little over loaded with breast milk within the first few months that I was back at work and this milk storage organizer helped me to keep things more organized.  It also helped me keep the milk organized by date so I make sure to use the oldest milk first.

Pumping At Work:  Cleaning Parts And Sanitation

One of the biggest concerns of many nurse moms who are pumping at work is cleanliness.  After all, the hospital is a place where sick people go and it is more full of germs then pretty much anywhere.  The last thing a new mom wants to do is accidentally bring home unwanted bugs to their new baby!  Thus, it is so important to try and keep your breast pump parts as clean as possible while you are pumping during 12 hour shifts.

First, it is very important to try to pump in an area if the hospital that is as clean as possible.  Many hospitals have a lactation room set aside for employees of the hospital.  Talk to your administration about places that you can safely pump that are as germ-free as possible.  Bathroom stalls are not a place for a new mom to pump! You have the right to pump at work as a nurse in a sanitary place!

For more information on successful pumping during 12 hour shifts in the hospital read How To Pump At Work As A Nurse.

Here are a few essentials for keeping pumping parts clean at work:

Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump And Accessory Wipes (72 each)

Medela quick clean breast pump & accessory wipes are perfect for nurses at work with no access to soap or water for cleaning breast pumps and accessories.  Unfortunately, many nurses have no choice but to pump in empty hospital rooms with no running water and therefore have a difficult time cleaning pump parts.  These are still so helpful for me as a nurse who pumps at work.  One wipe cleans both breast shields, valves and membranes.

I also use these for cleaning changing tables, high chairs, cribs and countertops, toys. and other hard surfaces when I am at home.  And the Medela quick clean wipes are unscented, alcohol and bleach-free as well.

Wet/Dry Bag for Breast Pump Parts with Staging Mat

Having extra wide wet & dry bag to carry your clean and used pump parts make pumping more sanitary.

I also love using the staging mat so I can set-up & take down my pump parts on a clean surface. This staging mat snaps on to the backside of the bag so that you always have it handy. When you’re setting up and taking down your parts, you want a clean spot to do it, and now regardless of where you need to pump, you’ll have this with you. Just unsnap it from the bag and set it down on a flat surface – and you can do your set up right there. It’s also large enough for you to fit all your parts.

Take it one day at a time, Mama.

Breastfeeding while working as a nurse can be overwhelming, but you can do this!

There are a lot of products on the market and it can be overwhelming for a mom who is preparing to go back to work from maternity leave.  So, make it easier on yourself and have a plan in place before you go back to work (read more about how I pump at work as a registered nurse who works 12 hour shifts).

After successfully pumping at work with two babies I have whittled down my list to include the things that have helped me the most.  I hope this helps to guide you in the right direction to find what works for you too!

It is your legal right to continue to provide breast milk for your children and pump while you are at work.  Do not let anyone tell you differently or make you feel guilty about it.  Only you know what is right for you and your baby.

Let me know how it goes as a pumping mom in the workplace and please reach out to me if you have any questions.  Breastfeeding while working as a nurse IS possible!  Good luck Mama!

Additional Recommended Reading: 

Pump At Work Supply Checklist From A Nurse Who Works 12 Hour Shifts

Must-Have Items To Pump At Work

Must-Have Items To Pump At Work

(This post contains affiliate links that I have personally used and found essential to my success pumping at work.  You can find my disclosure policy here.)

So you have made it through the first few months of breastfeeding a newborn.  Congratulations!  You are doing a great job mama!

But now a new change is looming on the horizon:  your maternity leave is slowly creeping to and end.  And you are wondering how you are going to continue providing your dear baby with their primary source of nutrition, breast milk.

And, like me, there is probably a big question going through your head right about now:

What supplies do I need for pumping at work?

I had so many concerns about being a “pumping mom” and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how I was going to make it happen without a ton of stress.  But I knew I needed to be prepared.  I am a registered nurse and I work very busy twelve hour shifts.  Like most pumping moms who work, I don’t have time not NOT to be prepared.

I am happy to share that I have been successfully pumping as an ER nurse in a very busy level 1 trauma center for the last 4 months.  And I still can’t believe how well it is going!  Sure, there have been a few minor hiccups along the way (like forgetting my breast pump at home, whoops!).   But overall the experience has been way better then I would have thought.

I now know that I will be able to continue pumping breast milk for my baby for as long as I desire.  I want other working moms to know that they can do this too.  (Read more about what I have learned about pumping at work as a nurse).

Must-have items for pumping at work

Must-have items for pumping at work

The essential must-have items to pump at work:

1. Portable Breast Pump

This device is the highest on the must-have items to pump at work list, for obvious reasons.  Without it, you have no way to access your milk!   I am using the Medela Freestyle portable pump because it is the one that my insurance covered and it works great.  You want to make sure that you have a double pump so you can pump both breasts at once to save time.


Check with your insurance to see if they cover a portable breast pump before you buy one.  I live in California and my insurance gave me a breast pump free of charge!

(Just a note, the different brands do not work interchangeably with each other.  So you want to make sure you find one brand you like and stick with it!  Otherwise you will end up with a bunch of parts that don’t work with one anther.  You don’t need your back to work pumping supply list to be any longer then it already is!)

2.  Bottles

You will need breast milk collection storage bottles to store your milk until you get home from work.  I use the Medela bottles because I already use the Medela pump but there are several other brands you can used as well.  Just make sure the ones you are using are made without BPA (its a safer plastic that helps retain breast milk’s beneficial properties).

I also like the Medela screw on lids better then some other brands because they are leak proof.  (I tried a different brand and had an issue with leakage all over my packed lunch!).  You can wash them in the sink and they are also dishwasher safe.

3.  Clip and Pump Hands-Free Nursing Bra

I really like this nursing bra accessory because it makes it possible to double pump without having to hold the pumps with with both hands.  Once you start pumping you will find that having to hold the pumps in place is really annoying and makes it difficult to do anything else.

This cleaver contraption can hook on to almost any nursing bra and make it a hands free pumping bra as well!  That way you can still do other things like check email or scroll though your phone.  Because lets be honest, pumping can be pretty boring after a while!

4.  Breast Milk Storage Bag

After you pump you need to make sure you have a place to store your breast milk until you get home.  I always pack a lunch for work so I just use my insulated lunch bag to store my milk.  You can use any insulated storage bag.

5.  Reusable Nursing Pads

Engorgement is no joke.  There have been a few times at work when I wasn’t able to pump on schedule and I ended up leaking through my scrubs (you could barely see it but still!).  As a result of that embarrassing experience I started wearing nursing pads when I was at work.

I use reusable nursing pads made of bamboo because I have read that many disposable pads contain absorbent chemicals which come in direct contact with your skin.  They also run the risk of trapping moisture, especially if your are leaking. This can increase the risk of mastitis, a very painful bacterial infection that will make you sick and can be dangerous if untreated.  Disposable pads can also be expensive over time if you are frequently using them.  I have 12 reusable nursing pads and I run them through the washer and dryer with all my other clothes.

6.  Breast Milk Storage Bags

The beautiful thing about pumping is that you can store your breast milk in the freezer!  So even if you have a surplus of milk you can put it away for later use.   These little breast milk storage baggies are great because you can write the date on the top section so you know how long they have been in the freezer.

Place them in the refrigerator for 12 hours before you need them to thaw them out.  Or place them in a bowl of hot water for quicker use.  These are on the high list of absolute must-have items to pump at work that you will need: I have used over 200 of them already!

7.  Milk Storage Organizer

My freezer got a little over loaded with breast milk within the first few months that I was back at work and this milk storage organizer helped me to keep things more organized.  It also helped me keep the milk organized by date so I make sure to use the oldest milk first.

8.  Newborn Bottle Feeding Set

Your baby is going to need a way to drink your breast milk when you are not there, right?  I tried so many different brands of bottles for our baby (their are so many!) but I finally settled on Dr Browns newborn bottle feeding set.  Different brands are NOT able to be used interchangeably with one another so its a good idea to find a brand you like and stick with it.  Otherwise you end up spending a bunch of money on bottles and parts you don’t even need.

In the beginning your baby will only need the 4 ounce bottles because they wont be drinking as much milk.  But as they grow you need to switch to the 8 oz size.  My son is 6 months and can take an entire 8 oz bottle in one feeding very easily.

The Dr Browns bottles have a blue vent system that is supposed to remove excess air bubbles from the milk.  This supposedly helps reduce feeding problems like colic, spit-up, burping and gas.  Our daughter struggled with pretty severe colic and constant spit-up and switching to the Dr Browns bottles helped the situation tremendously.  She still had some issues but they were noticeably much better!

9.  Baby Bottle Drying Rack

This is not a necessity but I included it because the Splirish baby bottle drying rack because it has been so helpful for me (and it looks cute on the counter too!).  It comes in medium and large sizes.  One of the unfortunate side effects of pumping breast milk is that you are going to be washing A LOT of bottles and breast pump parts.  It is just par for the course with pumping at work!

Every night when I get home from work I put all of my breast milk into storage bags and put them in the freezer.  I am left with several dirty bottles from work along with dirty pump parts and all the empty bottles that my baby drank during the day.  That is a lot of bottle washing!  To save time I soak the parts in soapy water  and then wash them all at once and leave them on my drying rack to dry out until the morning.  This system has saved me a lot of time over the months.

Take it one day at a time, Mama.

You may get overwhelmed, but you too can do this!

There are a lot of products on the market and it can be overwhelming for a mom who is preparing to go back to work from maternity leave.  So, make it easier on yourself and have a plan in place before you go back to work (read more about how I pump at work as a registered nurse who works 12 hour shifts).

After successfully pumping at work with two babies I have whittled down my list to include the things that have helped me the most.  I hope this helps to guide you in the right direction to find what works for you too!

It is your legal right to continue to provide breast milk for your children and pump while you are at work.  Do not let anyone tell you differently or make you feel guilty about it.  Only you know what is right for you and your babies.

Good luck, mama!  Let me know how it goes as a pumping mom in the workplace and please reach out to me if you have any questions.  I would be happy to help you!

How To Pump At Work As A Nurse

How To Pump At Work As A Nurse

This post may contain affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure page here.  To collaborate with Mother Nurse Love click here.

Are you wondering how to pump at work as a nurse who works long 12 hour shifts?

When I went back to work after my son was born I was so nervous about when, where, and how to pump at work as a nurse who works long 12 hour shifts.  I just couldn’t figure out how I was going to successfully make it happen when our RN workloads are already so intensive!

But, I am happy to report that I have been successfully pumping as an ER nurse in a very busy level 1 trauma center for the last 2 months.  And to my surprise, its actually working!  And I now know that I will be able to keep breastfeeding and pumping for my child for as long as I desire.

I am so relieved that I am still able to breast feed and pump for my son as a busy nurse who works long 12 hour shifts.  I want other nurses to know that they too can do this!  That is why I am so  excited to share what I have learned during my pumping journey at my hospital.

Nurse Moms, you can do this.  Please read on to learn about how to pump at work as a nurse.  If I can do it with my circumstances, you can too.  I promise!

How To Pump At Work As A Nurse When You Work 12 Hour Shifts

How To Pump At Work As A Nurse When You Work 12 Hour Shifts

How To Pump At Work As A Nurse Who Works 12 Hour Shifts:

#1.  Communicate with your charge nurse/administration that you will be pumping while at work.

Hospital administrators are not psychic and have no idea what your pumping needs are if you do not tell them about it.  They may have no children or have ever breast-fed so this may be new for them.  Discuss the frequency that you will need to pump and discuss a location that works for you.  Ideally, it should be somewhere private on the unit like an unused office or empty patient room.

#2.  Talk to the charge nurses before each shift so they know in advance.

Figuring out how to pump at work as a nurse takes some pre planning on your part.  It is not a good idea to wait until things get busy to ask for a place to pump.   Charge nurses have a lot to balance too, so work with them and come up with a plan before all hell breaks loose on the unit!

#3.  Have a pumping schedule in mind.

In a perfect world, pumping every three hours would be ideal.  But that may not be possible for a busy hospital nurse with a crazy workload.  Figure out a flexible “working” plan such as:

  • 6:45 (before shift starts)
  • 10am
  • 1pm, or 2pm (lunch break)
  • 4pm
  • 7:30pm (after shift ends)

It is almost impossible to follow any schedule exactly, but planning ahead at least gives you a guideline.

#4.  If you can afford it (and your workplace allows) try starting with two 12 hour shifts a week instead of 3.

I was really nervous about being able to successfully pump for three shifts a week, so I decided to start with two.  I am so glad I did.  It has made pumping at work seem less stressful and more attainable.  As a bonus,  I get to spend a little extra time with my son as well.  Once my son starts eating more solid food and is breastfeeding less I will go back to working three.

#5.  Work every other day.

Continually pumping away from you baby day after day might affect your breast milk supply.  Talk to your administration about working every other day so you can breastfeed at home on the days in-between.

#6.  Find out if your hospital has a designated pumping station.

I work at UCLA Medical Center and we have a pumping room for breastfeeding nurses that is located on the 5th floor.  It is not ideal for me to go there during my shift because I work in the ER on the first floor, but sometimes I can make it there during my lunch break or before/after a shift.  They have comfortable chairs with curtains so I can pump comfortably with privacy.  They also have Medula breast pumps available for use.

#7.  Find co-workers who you know will cover your patients for you when you need to pump.

One of the many reasons nursing don’t pump during their shifts is that they are concerned about their patient’s safety while they are gone.  Hopefully you have a trusted charge nurse or other co-worker you know can keep a eye on your patients so you can pump.  Remember, it is you legal right to pump while at work, so not matter what your workplace needs to find someone to cover you.  So far I have been very lucky to have many other nurses that I trust cover for me when I ask them.

#8.  Work per diem.

This option isn’t for everyone but it definitely works for me!  I am able to have complete control of my schedule so I don’t end up working back-to-back shifts or night shifts while I am breast feeding.  It has also offered me a better work life balance as a working mom.

#9.  Be flexible, but stand up for your right to pump!

Due to the unpredictability of being a busy RN, you will need to be somewhat flexible when it comes to pumping during a 12 hour shift.  But if you are not being reasonably accommodated, you need to say so.  It is your legal right to pump at work.  Ultimately, you are the person responsible for making sure that your pumping needs are met while you are at work.

Good luck Mama, you can do it!