(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).
Essential Must-Have 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! 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.
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 & 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.
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:
To the nurse who is also a mom: It is possible to find time for exercise, but you are going to need to get creative. Being a nurse mom is challenging, and it’s all about finding balance.
Long gone are the days when I could leisurely wake up naturally and decide whether I wanted to take the 9 a.m. or the 11 a.m. yoga class or when I would put my running clothes on in the afternoon and lay around until I “felt ready” to head out for my jog, sometimes several hours later.
Before becoming a nurse and mom, I used to put a lot of thought into the location of my runs. Where would I go today? The beach? Or to the running trail? I never even thought about how long I would be out. I just ran until I felt tired and then called it a day.
Now I’m lucky if I get to squeeze in a 20 minute run after I put the kids down at 8PM. And by that time I’m usually so tired I can barely muster the energy to get out the front door!
For the record, I am happier now than I think I have ever been. I wouldn’t change anything about all of the blessings in my life that make me so incredibly busy. I LOVE being a mom and an ER nurse. But, as a healthcare professional and a person who enjoys a little self-care here and there, I am all too aware that I need to get regular exercise if I want to keep my sanity intact.
What are the simplest ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom?
Over the last month I have been interviewing fellow nurses to find out how they squeeze in a workout while balancing motherhood and 12 hour shifts. Some of the feedback I received was very encouraging! The conversations I had with these nurses convinced me that it is in fact very possible to stay fit when it seems that there is no more time in the day.
For me, finding time for fitness has been a trial and error project. Over the past three years (since my first baby was born) I have tried several methods to squeeze workouts into an already crammed work/life schedule. Some of these methods worked, some I tried but didn’t stick to, and some never came to fruition.
My personal journey to stay fit along with the information shared with me by my fellow nurse comrades revealed 4 primary ways that nurse moms can successfully find time to exercise.
It is possible to find ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom. Be creative!
Fit nurse tip #1. Work out before the kids get up.
Before kids I never in a million years would have dreamed that I would be awake in time to make it to a 6AM hot yoga class. But free time is sparse now. If I don’t make time somewhere then it won’t happen. It’s as simple as that.
The good news is that when I drag myself out of bed early for a workout then I feel amazing for the rest of the day. Sure, I’m tired, but I would be even more tired if I didn’t exercise at all. By starting my day with a yoga-induced rush of endorphins not only do I feel better, but I am so much more productive throughout the day.
My goal is to make it to a 6 a.m. class at least 2 times during the week on the days I don’t work. In addition, I am usually able to fit one early morning class in on the weekend as well. Sometimes it ends up being only once a week and sometimes if I’m lucky, all three. But something is always better than nothing!
Fit nurse tip #2. Work out on your lunch break.
A nurse friend of mine changes into running clothes and goes for a jog during her lunch hour. Talk about dedication to your personal health! She says it works for her because she can do it no matter what time her break is. Additionally, the midday exercise helps break up the day, helps her deal better with stressful patient assignments, and gives her energy for the rest of the shift. And she is a good role model for patients to boot!
(On another note, my husband replaced his lunch hour with an F45 class 3 times a week. Although he is not a nurse, he is a busy working parent nonetheless. The benefits for him are so obvious. He is noticeably better able to manage work stress and comes home with significantly more energy at the end of a busy work day. And he says he feels a lot better too!)
Fit nurse tip #3. Work out after the kids go to bed.
I know a lot of nurse parents who make it to the gym or a yoga class after working a 12 hour shift. This seems to be the most popular time for many parents because the kids are in bed and it’s a good time to work off the stress from the day. It is an effective way to put the day behind you and do something for yourself after spending 12 hours putting patients’ needs first.
On occasion, I will try to go out for a run or a walk if I still have a little energy left in me, usually during the summer months when the days are a little longer. Unfortunately, it is also usually when I am the most tired and I really just want to crawl into bed with a book and fall asleep. But I do love listening to music and disconnecting for a little while after a long shift, and a quick run is a relatively easy way to do that!
A post-work run for me is usually pretty quick, 20-25 minutes max. Unfortunately, if I run too long then I risk not being able to fall asleep and there’s not much worse than that. After all, sleep is important to the already sleep deprived parent!
Fit nurse tip#4. Try squeezing in exercise during the days when you are at home with your kids.
Finding new ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom requires some thinking outside the box. Why not try squeezing in a workout when you are at home with the kids during the day? Besides, isn’t taking care of a baby or toddler already a kind of workout in itself?
Here are few ways to exercise with kids in tow:
- Turn on a workout video in the living room (good when the weather is poor!)
- Take the kids for a walk in the stroller
- Take a stroller strides class with other moms
- Run around with the kids on the playground
- Kick a soccer ball around with the kids
- Try teaching your kids with a Gaiam yoga video (watching my daughter practice yoga just melts my heart!)
- Turn up the music and dance with the kids (it just doesn’t get more fun then that!)
How do you find ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom? I very much enjoy hearing about ideas of what others are doing. Feel free to leave a comment!
Additional Recommended Reading:
Here they are: the best holiday gifts for pregnant nurses! These gifts are perfect for both baby showers and holiday gifts. We all know that nurses are amazing caregivers by nature. Why not celebrate with a gift the reflects all of her many talents? Give your pregnant nurse mama friend something that reflects both motherhood and her dedication towards helping others as a nurse.
Clothing For The Pregnant Nurse
The saying is true: when a nurse becomes a mom, literally nothing scares her any more. By then, you have seen everything imaginable and then some. That’s just one of the reasons that nursing is such a great career for mothers.
The nurse mom is going to need something cozy and comfortable to wear while spending time with her new bundle of joy. These great gifts provide comfort while also reminding the nurse mom that she is capable of so many great things.
Coffee Or Tea Mugs
Once a nurse becomes a mother, sleep becomes even more scarce. In fact, it’s a little like working the day shift and the night shift , every single day! There is a very good chance that she will be drinking more coffee than ever before. These gifts will not only help her enjoy a warm beverage, but are also be a reminder of the incredible courage that she possesses.
Children’s books are a thoughtful gift for any expecting mother. These books can help children understand what mom does at work all day. There is nothing better than opening communication with a child by sharing their mother’s experiences helping humankind.
Nurse Mom Gear For Work
Many nurse moms eventually go back to work after maternity leave ends. It can be a challenging time for mothers who are concerned with being gone from their babies for 12 hour shifts. These gifts are a reminder that nurse moms have many jobs, both in the workplace and at home.
Practical Gifts For The Pregnant Nurse
Here is how to help the pregnant nurse get more sleep once she brings her baby home! Nurses are used to working crazy shift schedules and not getting as much sleep as they should. But once a baby comes along, sleep becomes the most valuable commodity there is. Help the nurse mom get the maximum amount of sleep possible with these thoughtful gifts.
Nurse moms are pretty incredible humans.
Being a nurse or a mom is hard work in and of itself. Add the two together and you have one incredibly hard-working, compassionate, multitasking superhero with skills that can save lives.
This holiday season why not give gifts that recognize both talents? The one that is raising children to be strong, capable adults and the one selflessly helping total strangers. After all, there is a fair chance that many nurse moms are not being appreciated or recognized for the dedication and hard work they put in, day after day.
The motherhood/nurse combination is a challenging balance. Next time you run into a nurse mom who looks a little tired, know there is a good chance she hasn’t slept in a week. And give her a high-five.
We hope you enjoy you holiday season and spend lots of quality time with your loved ones!
10 Fun Holiday Nurse Mom Gifts
Any other nurse mom gifts you would add to this list? Leave a comment below.
(This post may contain affiliate links. You can find my disclosure page here. I am not a baby proofing expert. My goal is to encourage parents to think about how they can create the safest environment for their children at home . Many accidents involving children are preventable. You can find more information here.)
To all new parents: just in case you didn’t know, you gotta baby proof your house!
It all happens so fast. First, baby starts to roll and crawl. Then they start “cruising.” And finally, your sweet little bundle of joy takes his or her first Frankenstein steps. And just like that, you have a walker!
Now, I may be just a tad overzealous when it comes to baby proofing our house. After all, I am an ER nurse and I have seen what can happen when a house isn’t baby proofed. (To top that off, our our 8 month old baby just started cruising with his Vtech walker. Gasp!)
I wrote this baby proofing checklist in honor of emergency nurses week and my desire to encourage other parents to take an active stance in baby proofing their homes. If you are anything like us, you may be a tad bit sleep deprived and overwhelmed. I hope this list helps to make it easier to create a more baby friendly home
Why is having a baby proofing checklist so important?
You would be surprised at how quickly babies can hurt themselves. The prevention of accidental injuries is the #1 reason why babies need safe physical boundaries in place.
Think of it like this: Playtime + baby proofed home = safe space for growth and learning opportunities!
As parents it is our responsibility to make sure our kids are in a safe environment. Children need a secure place to get messy, play, explore, learn and have fun.
Here are a few things to consider when baby proofing your home:
One second your baby is playing in one spot, the next they are on the other side of the house trying to open up the cutlery drawer in the kitchen. Once babies learn how to crawl or walk they can be surprisingly fast! Safety gates help keep kiddos within a safe area. Remember that you want to make sure safety gates are screwed into the wall if they are at the top of a staircase.
Note: Although safety gates are a great way to keep your baby more safe, it doesn’t mean that they can’t get hurt on them. A study from 2014 found that as many as 2,000 U.S. kids visit the emergency room for treatments resulting from injuries caused by climbing or falling through gates.
Although they appear to be just tiny pieces of plastic, corner guards and edge bumpers have been instrumental in preventing a few very BIG injuries. Why? Because many corners on tables and shelves are at same height as toddler’s heads when they are standing (or worse, running). Hello, head injury!
If your toddler runs into the corner of a piece of furniture with a corner guard or edge bumper, they are much less likely to sustain a serious head injury. We have corner guards on our kitchen table, coffee table, bookshelf edges, fireplace and even our bedroom side tables.
Doesn’t it seem as if toddlers like to explore in every space you DON’T want them to be? Toddlers are curious creatures and forbidden places seem exciting to them. They love testing their boundaries. Door knob covers are great for keeping little ones out of the areas you don’t want them wandering into. Especially places like broom closets, bathrooms or out the front door!
Door nob covers just spin in circles if a toddler tries to open it. But adults can easily open it by squeezing it tightly and turning the knob.
Screens are not enough to keep a child from falling out of a window. And if children are able to open a window then there is the possibility of an accident. Children can be resourceful by climbing on furniture or toys to reach windows, so even if you think there is no way they could reach them, window guards are still a good idea.
Side note: I don’t love that these window guards do not let me put the windows up all the way. But I would rather have them in place than risk having a horrible accident.
#5. Install safety locks on all cabinets & drawers
Toddlers love exploration and will open up every single drawer and cabinet in your home. And if there is one that isn’t locked, I assure you, they will find it! Use safety latches to keep household chemicals, cleaning supplies, and other hazardous things out of the reach of tiny hands.
There are several types of safety locks that you can buy depending on how much you want to spend and how much work you want to put in. We use the 3M safety locks and they work great. You can install them instantly without any drilling and can uninstall them easily when you no longer need them.
The kitchen is one of the most dangerous places in the house for a toddler. There is fire and extreme heat for cooking after all! It wouldn’t be difficult for a tiny hand to reach up and turn on a stove the moment you are not looking. Stove knob covers work very much like door knob covers and make it impossible for a toddler to turn on.
Note: It is a good idea to get into a new habit of using only the rear stove burners to reduce the chances that your little ones can get burned. If you do need to use the front burners always make sure the handles of any pots or pans are facing inwards so that little ones can’t pull them off the stove and sustain a burn injury.
The toilet bowl is a fascinating place for toddlers and they may feel inclined to look inside the bowl to see what is in there. They may even try and pull themselves up onto the toilet. However, a toddler’s head is very big in proportion to their body. The weight of their heads would make it hard to pull themselves out if they accidentally fell in. So make it impossible for them to pull the lid up with a toilet lock cover.
It is a good idea to secure all tip-able furniture to the wall. As toddlers become more mobile they may climb on furniture, such as a book shelf, causing it to tip over. Secondly, in the event of an earthquake, you don’t want any heavy furniture falling over on the little humans below (we live in California, so we have to think about that here!). For aesthetics, you can anchor furniture from the back side so you can’t even see it unless you are really looking.
Did you find this baby proofing checklist helpful? Leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts!