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Pumping in a Non-Traditional Work Setting

Meet Hannah

Mom to Brennan 

Registered Nurse 

Childcare: Grandparents


I’m mom and I’m a registered nurse, in that order. Like most moms, I was dreading my return to work as it meant taking time away from my new little love. However, I knew I wanted to return to the career that I believe I was called to. I had so much anxiety about being able to pump at work because as much as I love my profession, I did not want to let it dictate our breastfeeding journey. We had overcome a couple bumps in the road early on (high bilirubin, tongue tie and mastitis) and I knew we weren’t ready to be done. So during those middle of the night feedings in the days leading up to end of maternity leave,  I scoured the internet for resources about pumping at work. I found that a lot of the “tips” were directed towards women working in an office setting and included things like “block out pumping times into your schedule so coworkers know you will be unavailable” or “put a sign on your office door”. I have neither an office nor a “schedule” that would allow me to follow that advice. I work on the floor, have to carve out my own time to pump and find areas where I can do so. Though the law is on my side, in supporting my need to pump at work,  I felt that I did not have the same resources available to others due to my somewhat “non traditional” work setting. 


Since my return I have been able to successfully continue to pump and breastfeed and want to share my tips and tricks with other mommas in the same situation!


1. Advocate for yourself and your baby 

You have to have an attitude of “this is what I’m going to do for my baby” and that has to come first! I know this is hard, I was always one to never take breaks, but needing to pump has forced me to and honestly, its kind of nice!


2. Invest in tools to help you be efficient 

A hands free pumping bra is your best friend!! I found a sports bra type style so there is nothing I have to put on or take off, this saves valuable minutes! I wear this bra, a tank and my scrub top so I can pull up the scrub top, pull down the tank and get easy access to the girls. I always carry a nursing cover to throw on. My lunch bag doubles as my milk cooler so I do not have to worry about access to a refrigerator. The biggest time saving tip I’ve found is keeping pump parts cool in between uses! I use a wet/dry bag with its own ice pack and throw my parts in there rather than having to wash and dry them each time. They get properly washed when I get home. 


3. Make a game plan

Nothing eases my anxiety more than having a plan in place that includes planning for a “worst case scenario”. For me, this means pumping in the car on my way to and from work. Doing this makes it so that during an 8 hour shift I only need to pump once and with my hands free bra, I do that while I’m eating a meal. If it is slow towards the end of my shift I will go pump and not have to on the way home. “Worst case” I will not have a chance to eat or pump during the day but because I pump on my commute I would only miss one session and not be horribly engorged or have to dip into my milk stash too much. In nearly 4 months of pumping, this has not happened thankfully! No two shifts are the same and my patients can go from stable to unstable in a matter of seconds, so having the logistics of pumping worked out much as possible has really been invaluable in my continuing to pump. 


4. Communicate

To add an extra layer of worry, I started a new job 3 months after returning from maternity leave. During orientation I asked “is there a place I can pump” and during each orientation shift I said to my preceptor “I’m going to pump now” when I felt I was in a good place with my workload. I did not make it an option or ask if I “could” go and thankfully, I’ve found that every single person has been supportive and helpful. I know it can be awkward (it shouldn’t be but it is) but it’s important that you “run the show” so to speak. My hospital has a maternity unit with a lactation room which is the holy grail, but I’ve also pumped in meeting rooms or empty patient rooms when necessary. 


Breastfeeding and pumping mommas work in all types of environments, both traditional and non traditional. I truly believe “where there’s a will there’s a way”. Get creative, think outside the box and lean on other moms for support, you might be surprised at how many people are willing to help you be successful. We are in this together and as my mother always says “it takes a village to raise a child”!

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