Monday, August 27, 2012

TIPS: Pumping at work for the nursing mother

Pumping at work can be daunting and nerve-racking and make the transition back to work that much harder. I had worked at a little hospital in Northport, AL for a couple years before I had to pump at work so I wasn't really worried about it. I knew everyone so well. We were like a little family and they were all supportive. I knew they would cover for me and be supportive of me pumping. But it did get harder. Here are a few tips that helped me and I hope can help you, too!

1. Don't be awkward about it. Be open!

I'm naturally a very open person so it wasn't too hard for me to be open about it, but I felt like that was very helpful. I would tell all my coworkers what I was doing (mostly all women, which helped). I would don my little black backpack and off I went. Someone would ask, "Are you leaving?" or "Where are you going?" I'd say, "Just makin some milk for baby..." or something like that. The conversation usually ended there because most people feel awkward about it. I want to overcome that awkward stigma so I felt like it was important to be open about it so more people would feel comfortable doing it if that time came for them.

2. Double check that you have all your supplies before work!

There is nothing worse than getting all set up to pump in the bathroom or little room with a lock, wherever it may be, only to find out you are missing a bottle or some other vital part to pumping. Then it calls for some major improvisation, which doesn't always work. I would bring my freezer bags with me along with a brown paper sack and put the milk directly in the freezer bags after pumping, in the paper sack, and then right in the freezer. (You are not supposed to "upgrade" milk, like go from fridge to freezer, so that way it would last longer if frozen.) You may want to think about purchasing some breast pump wipes if you are unable to access a sink. I am cheap so I would just rinse them off, wrap them in paper towels and stick them back into my backpack and wash them thoroughly when I got home.

3. Make arrangements beforehand, if possible.

Contact your supervisor, boss, or whoever and make sure there is a private, locked room with a plug (unless you bring batteries) that you can use. Be sure they are aware you will have to take one or two (or however many you need) 20 minute (or however long it takes you) breaks during the day. It is against the law for them to not let you pump or not have a private place for you to pump, so you've got the law on your side if they give you any trouble. That way you can plan someone to cover for you, if necessary, and you will decrease the anxiety of going back to work! It will be hard enough leaving your baby, so anything you can do to make the transition smoother will be a great help!

4. Bring an extra shirt, just in case.

We all hope it won't happen, but it might. I always tried to wear a pretty tight-fitting sports bra, a tank top, and a darker colored or patterned top. I also wore nursing pads when I first returned to work and my supply was a lot higher. One time a friend was asking me about the baby and we were talking about his eating and pumping and before I knew it my shirt was wet and milk was dripping on my shoes. We were good friends so I just laughed about it and said, "Speaking of pumping, I better go do it right now!" Luckily I worked at a hospital so I borrowed a top from the OR because the spot didn't come out, but most workplaces don't have conveniences like that!

5. Most importantly, be committed!

Be committed that you will pump and continue to breastfeed no matter how hard or inconvenient it may be, and it will be worth it. This is the most important step! It may be hard. And if your job is anything like mine was, there will be nights or days you will not be able to pump. I once went over twelve hours without pumping! But me, my baby, and my milk supply survived. Research breastfeeding and pumping and how it all works as much as possible so you are committed to it because you have an understanding of how important it is for you and your baby.

I signed up for a travel nursing job when Jude was six months old and I had to work at different hospitals I had never been to with different people I had never met every night and work shifts that ranged from twelve to over fourteen hours. I also had to attend a couple training meetings where they only gave us a few short breaks. I would sprint into the bathroom and pump for five minutes. I was so nervous about having to pump once I started my job... asking strangers to watch my patients for me, finding a room and everything else to make it work. I knew I would do it no matter what and I am so glad I stuck with it and was committed. There were times when I would eat a couple bites of my food while I was pumping because that was my lunch break. There were times I left to pump and thought someone was covering for me and I came back and all heck had broken loose (we're talking patient safety!) to a misunderstanding. If I can pump in a situation like that then we can all make it work! How wonderful to be able to come home from work and breastfeed our sweet baby after missing them so much! 

The more we breastfeed in public and pump in the workplace, the more accepted it will become. Unite, mothers, to make the world a more breastfeeding friendly place!