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First of all, happy CRNA Week. Today I’d like to talk about how to have a happy pumping CRNA.
Before I became a first time mom, I really had no idea what breastfeeding and pumping entailed. It’s not really talked about anywhere online especially regarding those working in healthcare and how they managed to work and pump. Now that’s been more than 8 months, I’d like to share my experience to encourage new moms to continue their breastfeeding journey once they return to work.
It’s good to share than the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant. Personally, I set my breastfeeding goals to the first month, then 3 months, and then every 3 months to one year.
What I’ve discovered that the breast pump represents freedom from the baby and the ability to still provide the best and complete nutrition for your baby. You don’t need to have your baby attached to your hip to be a good breastfeeding mom. The breast pump gives you freedom to express milk whenever you want and it is not dependent on when the baby is ready to eat or if the baby has trouble latching. Also in the beginning, nipples take a beating (boo… I highly recommend Motherlove Nipple Cream and Lansinoh Hot/cold pack and Ameda gel pads especially for the first week or two) from breastfeeding so pumping gives your nipples a break.
Ever since I got back to work, I’ve had the support of my colleagues and family and the opportunity to continue feeding my baby breast milk. I have to be thankful for the positive nursing culture and a built-in system in the surgical department. That really is key!
It is super helpful to have supportive CRNA leadership, especially from someone who’s done it before. It’s also helpful to have an understanding from all the other CRNAs who can give me a little extra time to pump (getting a 20 minutes break instead of the usual 15 minute breaks).
For me, I take 10 minutes to pump. 5 minutes to clean my pump parts and use the bathroom. 5 minutes for walking to and from the pump room and getting my cooler bag. However, some moms may take more time to pump, usually up to 20 minutes.
My cooler bag from RTIC includes:
- my breast pump,
- my pump parts,
- an ice pack,
- my bottles,
- bottle cleaning wipes,
- fruit/nuts for breakfast/snacks, and
- a water bottle.
In addition, I just wear my nursing/pumping bra to reduce the time that I have to put on and take off a specific pumping bra. I love the one from Kindred Bravely.
When I get to work every morning, I write down my pumping times on the assignment board so that someone can get my pump break at those times. Breastfeeding is a matter of supply and demand and requires you to pump at least every 4 hours to maintain your supply throughout the day. It is extremely helpful to try to maintain this. It is ok to seldomly miss it but not on a regular basis. Otherwise your supply will take a hit.
Anyways, I try to pump at 5am, 9am, 1pm, 5pm, 9pm. However I do adjust my schedule and move it one hour earlier to accommodate the OR schedule. For example, at 5am (at home), 8am, 12pm, 4pm, 8pm. Many moms will try to pump around the same time she would feed her baby.
Having a dedicated private pump room that is close by to the OR is extremely helpful. When the pump room is far away, it takes so much more time to walk there and back, which cuts into the pump time (and every minute counts!). Also, when there are more than 2 pumping moms in the same unit, it is extremely helpful to have additional pump rooms available nearby. The reason is that frequently, pumping moms will have a similar pump schedule. Our unit has multiple pumping moms. We started with one room when I returned to work 5 months ago. Now we have 4 private pumping rooms near the OR. This will ensure timely pump times.
Here are “must haves” to a private pump room:
- A lock to lock the room or curtains to separate the space in a large pump area
- Private room with no windows or a screen if the room has indoor windows so no one can peek in
- A table large enough to put all the pump bag and supplies (for example, a bedside table typically found in hospitals)
- Chair where your feet touches the ground
- Trash (housekeeping should empty this daily)
- A whiteboard and a dry erase marker for the outside of the door when there’s more than one pumping mom to indicate the estimated “out” of the door time so the next pumping mom knows when the room will be available. It’ll help her decide to either wait for the room or try to find another room.
Here are “nice to haves” (but you can have workarounds):
- Sink to wash parts
- Workaround: get breast pump specific wipes to clean
- Paper towel to dry parts, clean off sink and pump area
- Workaround: Use the wipes from above
- Mini-fridge to keep the milk/breast pump parts cold
- Workaround: get a cooler bag and place an ice pack in there. Or put the whole pump bag or just the milk bottles into your work refrigerator (but it may take more space)
- Nice ambiance conducive to a relaxing environment. Stress decreases milk production so thinking or looking at pictures of videos of the baby helps
- Extra pumping supplies. If the hospital already has a mother/baby unit that has a hospital grade breast pump, having this extra set is extremely helpful when something breaks (your own breast pump, parts) or is missing (you forgot to pack it!).
- I always keep a manual breast pump (the hospital gave it to me after giving birth before I left for home) in my locker for those “just in case” times. I’ve used it several times and I could actually empty one breast in 5 minutes but it definitely requires using one hand to pump and the other to manually pressing the breast towards the nipple to empty the milk ducts.
- Snacks such as lactation cookies- breastfeeding requires an additional 500 calories a day. Moms are feeding for two!
Whenever possible when I’m home, I’ll directly nurse the baby. Once you get the hang of breastfeeding, I find it to be easier than exclusively pumping. However, there are definitely pros and cons to both.
In conclusion, having a happy pumping mom at work is so vital to prevent burnout and help moms do great work and feed her little one. Having a private pump room close to the OR and a respected pump break time helps immensely.
If you’re a potential or current pumping mom, what would or has made your pumping journey easier?
If you’re in management, what can do you to implement a better pumping culture to reduce burnout for new pumping moms?