Breastfeeding and 12 hour shifts...

  1. Hello there fellow nurses! I have been away from these forums for a long time! But i am back now! =) I gave birth to the most amazing baby boy 8 weeks ago. I go back to work at 20 weeks to a busy med/surg floor. (12 hr nights) My question is for mothers who have managed to exclusively nurse past a year while working 12 hour shifts (or 8!). How many times did you have to pump? Do you have any tips for me? Did your co workers support you? I would also love to hear some success stories for encouragement! How long were you able to nurse your little one? I love breastfeeding my little guy and just want to hear about your experiences! Thanks so much!!
  2. Visit 3KittiesRN profile page

    About 3KittiesRN

    Joined: Sep '04; Posts: 111; Likes: 16
    Registered Nurse
    Specialty: 8 year(s) of experience in Medical/Surgical, L&D, Postpartum


  3. by   Jasminelfue
    Congratulations first of all! I had my daughter July 28 and I too would like to know the answer to this wonderful question. I'm very anxious that my milk will decrease!
  4. by   brillohead
    I wasn't in health care when I had my son, but I did pump until he was a year old. I had low supply issues, and I did everything I could to ensure that he didn't need any formula before he was a year old. When he was sleeping through the night, I would even set an alarm and pump in the middle of the night to keep my supply in the fridge/freezer adequate and to keep my production going.

    As for pumping in hospitals, I'm doing clinicals right now and every lounge I've been in (at three different facilities in two different towns) has a "pumping in progress" sign for the door.

    One thing I found to be helpful (time-saver) was to purchase a LOT of extra storage bottles (Evenflo makes a cheaper set than Medela, it's available at Target) and a lot of extra pumping horns. After pumping, I wouldn't bother with washing out my horns or pouring the milk into a separate storage container -- I just put the lids on the bottles and put them in the fridge, then put the horns in a large Ziploc bag (with two different bags for clean and used horns). Then the next time I pumped I just used fresh bottles and fresh horns.

    Take the whole thing home at night, portion out the pumped milk (which is all chilled at this point -- you don't add warm milk to chilled milk) as needed, then toss everything in the dishwasher. (Except the bags -- I rinsed out the dirty one and let it air dry. The clean one was still clean.) Pack it all up the next day and you're ready to go!

    If you have problems with pumping, try pumping one breast while your child is nursing. It can help your body "learn" what it's supposed to be doing when that funny plastic horn thing is pressed up against it.

    And enjoy these days.... before you know it, the beautiful baby boy will be a smart-mouthed seventh grader like mine!
  5. by   mama_d
    I breastfed my oldest until he was 10 months old while doing LPN school full time & working nites. He did fine with formula every once in a while so my supply waxing and waning a little wasn't a big worry for me.

    My youngest on the other hand was completely breastfed until he was nearly nine months old...he wouldn't eat anything else, even mixing in some baby cereal was a fight. I was working 4-5 12 hr shifts a week at the time; when I weaned him at 15 months I still had a freezer full of milk. I took Fenugreek, ate oatmeal, drank a ton of milk, and pumped between feedings at home. I had awesome co-workers who made sure I could pump twice a shift. It can be done, it just takes some figuring out at first.
  6. by   Delicate Flower
    Congrats on your son!

    I pumped and breastfeed my oldest - now 3 - until about 15 months. My youngest is now 13 months and I am still pumping and nursing. I work 12 hour nights and usually an 8 hour overtime every week.

    I pump right before I leave for work (6 pm), then once during my shift (usually 2 am), then feed the baby when I get home (8 am). For feeds during the day, while I am sleeping, my husband (a stay at home dad) brings the baby to me and I just wake up, feed, yell "He's done!" and go back to sleep.

    I never had any supply issues with either baby.

    I float to multiple hospitals, so it was sometimes an issue of where I was going to pump. If I go to a new place and they don't have a pumping room or mother's room, I just ask the charge nurse and usually they point to a feasible place. Sometimes it can be a conference room, empty family lounge, or even a supply or electrical closet. I don't like to pump in empty patient rooms but I have done it. I have a door signs that says "knock please - pumping" that I just place outside of the door where I am. I carry alcohol hand sanitizer in my pump bag because they don't always have sinks in the rooms to wash your hands first.

    Also make sure to always have nursing pads on, pluse extra nursing pads in your bag in case you leak.

    I just last week stopped pumping overnight at work - I still pump right before I leave. My 13 month old is now sleeping through the night so I figured it was unnessecary. Plus if my husband runs out of breastmilk, the baby is old enough to just get whole milk. No need to buy formula. Yay!
  7. by   nurseprnRN
    I breastfed both my kids for >2 years each. First one never saw a bottle of breast milk until she was 8 weeks old...and screamed for 4+ hours and refused to take it. That was the end of the idea of working weekends for that one. (She's still a stubborn thing!)

    The #2 got a bottle of breast milk every single day from day 5. Good thing, too, because he was easier to leave with a babysitter (or his father). When he was about 8 months old I was hospitalized and got antibiotics that cause aplastic anemia in 1:100,00 babies, and I just didn't want to risk it. He was fine on formula and baby food until I came home; I pumped and poured down the sink all the time I was in.

    I pumped at work and put it in the floor freezer, and kept up a rotating supply to go day care and my home freezer. It can absolutely be done. The more you pump, the more milk you'll make. If you pump after you nurse the baby, you'll get an ounce or two of high-fat "hindmilk," and that tells your breasts your baby is extra hungry-- growing, perhaps, what do they know? If you give your breasts that message for a few days, after every feeding or pump yourself absolutely dry at work, there will be more to pump for later. You can keep way ahead of him doing that and always have some put away.
  8. by   AngelfireRN
    Congrats!! I have a soon-to-be 7 month old baby boy, who I still nurse.

    When I did 12s, I pumped before work and twice to three times while I was there. It was usually pretty easy to find a place, but I'd use an exam room in a pinch. The other girls were great, one even invited me to pump in her office, but I was too embarrassed.

    Now I work 8s, and pump BID there, usually alongside my office mgr nursing her 5 month old. You could say I got over being embarrassed. I could give a hoot now. All the patients know I'm nursing and are very understanding if I'm a few minutes in getting to the rooms. One older one makes it a point to ask at each visit..."You still got that young'un on the tit?". VERY old Southern lady, that passes for polite conversation down here.

    Best of luck to you. And I agree with the above post...get plenty of bottles and breast shields, saves washing time.
  9. by   GGT1
    My LO is only 5 months but we are trying to go as long as we can exclusively breast feeding. I pump first thing in the morning, right before I leave to go to work, once during my 12 hour shift, and as soon as I get home in the morning. I also try to feed my lo before leaving to go to work and right after pumping and showering when I get home. i do feel like my supply is very low the day after I work. My suggestion would be to pump as often as you can (more than 1) while at work, I'm just not able to. Good luck.
  10. by   monkeybug
    Congratulations! And yay for you for breastfeeding! After my baby was born, I was working on L&D, some 8s and some 12s. I breastfed for 15 months, but stopped pumping after he turned 12 months and could drink whole milk when I was at work. I tried to pump every 3 hours, but it didn't always work out. One of the best things you can do to insure success is to have a really, really good pump. The better the pump, the better your supply will be. I initially rented a Medela pump, but once we had breastfeeding well-established and I knew that I was in it for the long haul, I invested in a Medeal Pump In Style. As for the coworkers, you'd think being in L&D would mean absolute support, but that is absolutely not the case! In fact, one memorable day, I'd worked 9 hours without being able to pump and I was in active pain due to engorgement. My nurse manager was sitting at the desk doing some paper work, and I asked if she could keep an eye on my patient's monitor strip so I could go pump. She refused. I have never forgiven her for that. One of my coworkers was headed out the door, but threw her bags down and told me to go pump, that she didn't want me uncomfortable and leaking all over the place. She got a nasty look from the manager for that one.

    You will usually find that your best support comes from coworkers who breastfed their own babies. I have found that bottle-feeding coworkers tend to get huffy about it, especially after your child is about 6 months old. Maybe they feel guilty? Or maybe they feel like their own choices were being impugned? My pumping brought me a beautiful friendship. There was a nurse on the unit that I could never get along with. We were like oil and water. But, when I came back from maternity leave, I made a point of asking her about her experiences (she had just finished nursing for a year) and she was the one I could always count on to relieve me so I could pump. When she had her next baby, I returned the favor as often as I could, and now we are best friends.

    Don't get discouraged, and don't let a lack of support stand in your way. Look up your hospital's policies on breastfeeding, and see what your state law guarantees you. Our policies said I should have a private place to pump that was not a bathroom. I ended up in the locker room all the time, which wasn't very private, but I would sit in the corner with my back to the door, because I never had time to go out to the nearest pump room.

    I would pump at home before I left for work.
    Last edit by monkeybug on Oct 5, '12 : Reason: to add something
  11. by   Caffeine_IV
    My baby was born on St Patricks day. I've been pumping and working nights again since June. I pump when I least twice a shift. I get caught up and assist coworkers then head off to pump. Occasionally I only get in one session due to being sooo busy.

    My supply has been an issue but I am taking supplements to help. Only a few coworkers know that I'm nursing and pumping. I'm hoping to make it to 18 months again! Good luck.
  12. by   Snowbird17
    The best advice is to have everything ready to pump and plenty of supplies so that you are super efficient at the process.

    I would pump three times shift. Literally, I had a 3 full set-ups (6 shields and adapters) prepared with bags or bottles already attached. That way when I closed the door, I only had to wash my hands and start pumping. No connecting and prepping. Wear shirts that snap, and hands-free bras or nursing tanks, it made it faster. Then when I was finished, into the fridge or freezer the milk would go and I put the "dirty"set-ups in a bag to wash at home. Another nurse washed her stuff each time, dried etc, it would take her forever, and she felt super stresses.

    I pumped for 10 minutes, but could be in and out of the break-room in less than 13 mins total! I pumped at 6am before I left home, at 10, lunch at 2 and 6 pm. (follow your schedule from home) You have to make time, plan ahead as you would for any other event during the day, like a roadtrip or whatever. Whenever I would consider skipping a session, I would think- "This is for my baby." Everything else became secondary!

    Occasionally I worked nights, it is actually better because as your baby ages, he/she will sleep through the night and you may only need to pump once a shift!

    Just a warning, you will not make as much milk at work. So stock up now. Babies are more efficient at emptying your milk and you are not as stressed at home. I had a picture and short video of my baby nursing on my phone. If I was super stressed at work, I would watch it and it really helped with my let-down and production. The mother's brain is such an amazing thing!

    Everyone was really supportive. Just be really efficient, it shows that you respect their help. I made it a year. Also, I would get to work a little early and take a good assignment. I work in an ICU, so I avoided 1:1 patients. It just makes sense. I also made pumping sessions my only breaks. No running to the giftshop or my car, etc.

    Also, leave extra supplies in your locker! I forgot my pump one day and thankfully the post-partum unit gave me supplies and has a pump for employees. Otherwise, that would have been a miserable day!!!

    Try not to work 3 in a row. By the last day, your supply is really low. I found if I broke my days up I could keep the supply up!

    Good luck. Just make it a priority!
  13. by   3KittiesRN
    Thanks so much everyone for all of your wonderful replies! I am glad to know that it has been done before! I am going back to work in less thank 2 weeks and am very much dreading it. But I know that I am going to make breastfeeding work. Thanks ladies for all of your tips! =)
  14. by   nurseprnRN
    The pumping every time after you nurse him at home is really key-- you won't get a lot, but every time you do it, your breasts will make a little more for next time, so those days when you only pump and don't get to nurse him q 3-4h you'll have extra.