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Breastfeeding moms who work on busy units

Nurses   (4,543 Views 51 Comments)
by MarySunshine MarySunshine (Member) Member

6,259 Profile Views; 388 Posts

So...I'm not even pregnant yet. But I want to be someday relatively soon. I want to breastfeed. I work in an ICU where I almost always get a 30 minute lunch break (time is very unpredictable though) but often don't get any other breaks beyond that. If I wanted to pump breastmilk, I guess I'd just have to quit my job. Right? What have other women in this situation done?

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happybunny1970 has 6 years experience and specializes in Acute Hemodialysis, Cardiac, ICU, OR.

154 Posts; 3,605 Profile Views

I was not a nurse at the time my kiddos were born, but I did work. I had a really witchy supervisor who was totally unsupportive, but even with the roadblocks I was successful -- I nursed my second child for a year.

The office I worked in allowed us one 15 minute break and one 30 minute lunch break for an eight hour shift. So I took 7-1/2 minutes in the morning, and 7-1/2 minutes in the afternoon, and again at lunchtime, to pump. I was so efficient! I always came out with at least 8 oz from each session.

The really funny part is that whenever I would nurse or pump from one side, the other side always 'let down' too -- so I just placed a coffee mug under that one while I was working with the other. Waste not, want not.

Bottom line is, people think it's such a difficult thing to do (pumping milk), but it really isn't. It doesn't take long once you learn how, and once that milk starts coming in regularly there's plenty to pump. I had a hand pump, and even learned how to pump using only my hand. Just takes practice.

Hopefully you won't have to deal with a witch who stood outside the bathroom door with a stopwatch like I did, but if you can get someone to cover you for 15 minutes two to three times a day you should be fine.

Good luck!

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MadisonsMomRN is a BSN, RN and specializes in Addictions, Corrections, QA/Education.

377 Posts; 3,952 Profile Views

I currently breastfeed my 11 month old. I work part time and use a double electric pump... Medela Pump in Style. My work is supportive of my needing to pump and usually pump 2 times in an 8 hour shift.

I have had no problems with supply at all!!

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JRapha'sRN has 6 years experience and specializes in med/surg, rural, ER.

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As a traveler I worked in 2 different ERs with mom's still breastfeeding. I think that because nursing is filled with so many females you get great understanding when you need to go pump. Both of the moms I worked with would just have someone cover for them for a few minutes while they went to pump. One of them even had her little girl come in occasionally on her lunch break. Over all I think 90% of the co-workers were supportive and wanting to help make everything as easy as possible.

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RNperdiem has 14 years experience as a RN.

1 Follower; 4,196 Posts; 29,464 Profile Views

My hospital has a breastfeeding room with a couple of hospital grade pumps for staff use. The nurse supplies the tubing and bottles, so no fluids come in contact with the pump.

I worked 4 or 8 hour per diem shifts when breastfeeding. I would feed the baby before work, pump with a good quality manual pump when I got to work, then clock in.

If I worked an 8 hour day, then I would need to pump again. A borrowed office or even the odd shower stall(not in pt room), made a private space.

Finding time to pump is hard. I had problems with engorgement leading to plugged ducts and a case of mastitis from going too long without pumping.

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puggymae specializes in OB, NP, Nurse Educator.

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I worked 12 hour shifts and pumped - used the double pump - for a year. It was no problem. However be careful not to abuse this - I used my morning and afternoon 15 minute break as well as my 30 minute lunch - someone I worked with would go pump then say "I am going to run downstars for just a second" taking yet another break. Other staff members complained and she was written up - and she eventually quit because of all the complaints directed toward her.

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648 Posts; 4,149 Profile Views

Sometimes I am disgusted with our profession. There is no reason that a mother should not be allowed adequate time to pump breastmilk especially with the documentation nurses have to do. I dont even really do nursing anymore, I work though with women who arent nurses. It is nothing for both of them to pump as often as they want. They still generally work on the computer while pumping but are able to do it in privacy.

Hospitals of all places should be advocating that their employees do this, if for no other selfish reason than a healthy child=better mother attendance. When I worked as a RN in hospitals I was treated horribly. Actually while in college I worked in a chain restaurant and was treated much better. Now I honestly love my company, and I am treated like royalty. I will be the first to admit that I am a much better employee now.

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6,487 Posts; 21,441 Profile Views

I worked ER when I had my youngest. Because I never got her latched on I pumped all the breast milk she got. That meant pumping every two hours to get the max amount. My coworkers were great, they made sure I made it to a room to pump no matter how busy it was. I usually went to the OB dept and used an empty room, and they also allowed me to use their pump.

Funny thing was, I had a different manager before I delivered, never had kids herself, who raised an eyebrow when I commented that I planned to pump after returning to work. While I was out we got a new manager who was all for it, thank God!

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388 Posts; 6,259 Profile Views

Thanks everybody for writing back. What about that one (OR TWO) shift(s) from HELL in which you're dealing with traumas, dramas, codes, and all sorts of awful things the ENTIRE time and you cannot get away? If that happens once or twice for a twelve hour shift are you done for?

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rehab nurse specializes in rehab; med/surg; l&d; peds/home care.

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hi there

i was like Tazzi, in that i exclusively pumped. i could not produce a whole lot of milk due to health issues, but i did have to pump q 2hours, even during the night. i rented a hospital grade for home (you have to have the best to pump exclusively) for around 40 bucks a month. i got a medela pump in style for work, and i pumped on my two 15 minute breaks and my 30 minute lunch. it only took around 10 minutes to double pump. i did get really efficient at it.

i didn't have anywhere to go, so i told my coworkers and went into a rarely used medroom. not the best, but i did it.

i got so good at pumping, that i was able to feed/cuddle my babies by bottle (used avent bottles, they're wonderful), and pump at the same time. my ex husband thought i was nuts for going through so much, but i wanted my kids to have as much breastmilk as possible. they are now very healthy, vibrant children!!!

so, bottom line is you can do it!! maybe ask your manager if you could break up your lunch so you could pump?? i worked 12 hour shifts, and i only usually pumped twice, maybe 3 times in my shift. it depended on how "full" i was. you definitely don't want to deal w/ a case of mastitis, which is painful!!!

good luck!!

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rehab nurse specializes in rehab; med/surg; l&d; peds/home care.

464 Posts; 8,070 Profile Views

duh, forgot to answer the last question

if you are really crazy busy, you won't be done for if you don't pump over a 12 hour shift, but you will be in PAIN. you will leak, and even w/ pads in your bra you most likely will have wet scrubs. totally uncomfortable. this is how you get a plugged duct, so even if you can get away for 6 minutes, do it and pump!!! i had a few horrible shifts, but i had to pump by hour 7 or i would leak like crazy. even if i pumped for a few minutes it would help. but, if you do this frequently, your milk supply will dwindle. so, hopefully you could get away and even if you had a bad shift here and there you could "make up" for it by extra pumping/feeding on your day off.

hopefully you will be able to get away for just a few minutes once or twice a shift, at the least, if you are really crazy busy.

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6,487 Posts; 21,441 Profile Views

Thanks everybody for writing back. What about that one (OR TWO) shift(s) from HELL in which you're dealing with traumas, dramas, codes, and all sorts of awful things the ENTIRE time and you cannot get away? If that happens once or twice for a twelve hour shift are you done for?

Like I said, I had terrific coworkers. If it was too busy for me to leave then I called the house supe to relieve me long enough. If she couldn't do it she found a nurse to help. If that didn't work my manager would come in to cover me. There was always someone around who could cover me for 20 minutes.

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