• Anwuli Anyah

Breastfeeding Successfully in Residency/The Workplace

Updated: Oct 4, 2019

The law of demand and supply. It is the guiding principle that echoes in the minds of breastfeeding moms. When time came to go back to work, my main fear was that I would not be able to keep my breastmilk supply sufficient, to continue exclusively breastfeeding Tobe. I was worried that in between surgical cases, I would not have enough time to pump, do my operative report, post-op orders, check on the patient, etc. I didn’t want to slack off on my responsibilities. I intended to perform all the duties any resident was expected to. With some dedication and efficiency tricks, I was able to perform all my resident responsibilities and maintain my every 3-4 hours pumping schedule. As part of my, first time motherhood in residency, series (part 3 of 4), I am sharing some of these tips. Supplying breastmilk for Tobe was a priority for me. Not every working mom has to breastfeed, but I really wanted to. I was already leaving my newly born child, so in my mind, the least I could do to feel like I was mothering, was to do this. So I didn’t let anyone make me feel bad and I made no excuses. When it was time to pump, it was time to pump. For the really long surgical cases, I asked permission, broke scrub, went to pump, and scrubbed back in afterwards. People will talk. Don’t let it bother you.

The keys to multitasking and pumping at work is efficiency, knowing what your resources are, and bringing items you need to make up for the lack of resources in the work place. You will find that work resources for nursing moms are lacking. Although it is the law to provide women with pumping rooms, this isn’t always done. As an ENT resident, I often had to attend surgeries at different locations. The two main hospitals I frequented had pumping rooms (with pumping machines you could hook into) but they were at least a 10 minute walk and elevator ride away from the operating rooms. No enough time in between surgeries for me to utilize these. One hospital had a designated pumping room by the OR but no machine. So I had to bring my breast pump to work and I actually preferred having my own machine. The other hospitals and surgery centers I frequented didn’t have a pumping room so I pumped awkwardly in the locker rooms, bathroom stalls, and I’ve even sat on the toilet floor. The key to being able to pump anywhere is portable power. A battery pack is essential. My favorite breast pump was the Medela pump-in-style. I purchased a battery pack to go with it and I also got a car power adapter. I pumped on my way to work, sitting in traffic, on my drive in between hospitals, etc. I was pumping everywhere. There are a variety of breast pumps. Some of them fit in your bra and feature very mobile designs. I tried a few but they didn’t work for me. I found that they often were low on the pump/suction strength and/or leaked. I am always on the lookout for pumps like these because theoretically, they sound great. If you have experience with an awesome fit-in-your-bra type pumps that works well, please tell me in the comments below. I would love to know for my future needs. Pumping at work needs to be efficient. And multitasking is your friend in order to get all your tasks done. A very good pumping bra is essential to this end. This keeps your hands free to drive, type, answer pages, etc. I bet my attendings could here the pump hiss in the background whenever I called them about a patient. Another way to save time and be efficient with pumping is to skip the washing and sterilizing after each pump. I found that as long as I stored my milk and pumping bottles and funnels in the fridge, washing it once at the end of the day saved me a lot of trouble. I still carried a microwave sterilization bag just incase I needed to wash/sterilize something after an accidental drop, etc. I stored my pumped milk in bags to free up bottles for pumping. (The above is not medical advice, I am simply explaining what I did. Do what makes you are comfortable.)

Breastfeeding exclusively after going back to work is possible. It requires utmost discipline because there is no baby to nurse, and if you don’t pump the milk, your body will make less of it. Don’t feel bad or shy that you need to ask to be excused to pump. It’s your right as a nursing mom. Raise and keep your head up. You are doing something incredible. Don’t be scared of judgement. The smart people whose opinions really matter won’t judge you. The best part of all this is going home, at the end of the day, taking your baby in your arms and watching him latch right on, reunited with you. It’s all so worth it, mamas.

5 tips for success

1. Don’t skip pumping sessions, pump every 4 hours.

2. Have all your pumping supplies (except the pump) in a bag that you can stick in the fridge. The bag should have an ice pack for safe transportation. Keeping your tubes and funnels, bottles, and milk refrigerated all day enables you to do one wash at the end of the day, saving time over the course of the day.

3. Get a portable power source (battery pack) and a car adaptor so you can pump anywhere.

4. A pumping bra is essential to keep your hands free for multitasking. A shawl or cover-up for modesty comes in handy too.

5. Pump everywhere! Cease the opportunities to stay on schedule. Pump in your car during your commute, in your office, hospital call room, bathroom, you get the picture.

Thank you for reading. You can find more about my motherhood journey as a surgical resident here and my thoughts on parenting here.

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