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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 hectic level 1 trauma center for the last two months. And to my surprise, it’s 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 breastfeed 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.
Additional recommended reading: Must-Have Items To Pump At Work
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.
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 breastfed, 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)
- 10 am
- 1 pm, or 2 pm (lunch break)
- 4 pm
- 7:30 pm (after shift ends)
It is almost impossible to follow any schedule exactly, but planning 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 nervous about being able to pump for three shifts a week successfully, 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 your 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.
At my workplace, 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 nurses 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 another co-worker you know can keep an eye on your patients so you can pump. Remember, it is your legal right to pump while at work, so no matter what your workplace needs to find someone to cover you. So far, I have been fortunate to have many other nurses that I trust to cover for me when I ask them.
#8. Work per diem.
This option isn’t for everyone, but it works for me! I can have complete control of my schedule, so I don’t end up working back-to-back shifts or night shifts while I am breastfeeding. 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 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.
Essential Items to pump at work as a nurse:
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! You want to make sure that you have a double pump so you can pump both breasts at once to save time.
I like this nursing bra accessory because it makes it possible to double pump without having to hold the pumps with both hands. Once you start pumping, you will find that having to keep the pumps in place is annoying and makes it difficult to do anything else.
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.ORDER NOW
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.
Additional recommended reading:
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