(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?
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!
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).
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 & 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.
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.
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!
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Sarah Jividen is a registered nurse, blogger, writer, wife, and mother with an aspiration to empower nurses and moms to take better care of themselves. Sarah lives with her husband in a beach suburb outside of Los Angeles where they are raising their two-year-old daughter, newborn son and two rescue kitties. In a rare moment of free time you may find Sarah practicing yoga, socializing with friends, sampling dark beers or attending a local concert venue with her husband.