For parents who are breast/chestfeeding and pumping, making the time to pump after returning to work can sometimes feel like a second job. Having a supportive workplace and someone to talk to can make all the difference.
“Working, pumping and taking care of your baby can be exhausting, and it’s important to support our pumping employees and help make their workdays less difficult,” said lactation consultant Jennifer Riley, MSN, RN, IBCLC. “Pumping parents are providing their infants with food — their lifeline — so it’s important to help our colleagues figure out ways to carve out time and space to pump.”
In May, a new breast pumping law, officially known as the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act, or PUMP Act, went into effect, providing nursing parents with enhanced protections, including the right to break time and a private space to pump.
Riley and her team are committed to easing the transition back to work for Brigham parents who are breast/chestfeeding and pumping. In addition to support from lactation consultants, the hospital also offers support groups, classes, lactation rooms and other resources.
In recognition of World Breastfeeding Week and Black Breastfeeding Week in August and Lactancia Latina Week in September, here are five tips from BWH nurses and lactation consultants about how to establish a pumping routine and get the resources you need upon returning to work.
- Seek support. It’s helpful to find others to talk to, ask questions and share experiences with. That can be through a trusted colleague or by joining the hospital’s support group. Sarah McNamara, BS, LCCE, IBCLC, childbirth educator and lactation consultant, emphasized the importance of asking questions about your own needs and circumstances. “Our support groups are really helpful because you get to connect with other moms/parents who are going through the same thing or have gone through it,” she said. “That peer support is also really helpful in making the transition.”
Caitlin McKane, MBA, BS, RN, nurse director of Transplant Administration and the Center for Advanced Heart Disease, found the support she needed with a trusted group of colleagues. “If you can be open about it with at least a small group of those you work with, they can help support you, give you privacy, designate time and be respectful of the time that you need to take care to do this,” she said. “I’m lucky because I work with a majority of women who are sympathetic, understanding and supportive.”
- Identify convenient space and equipment. Elizabeth “Liz” Norris, BSN, RN, of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), has been almost exclusively pumping since her son was born early and spent nearly eight weeks in the NICU. “Going back to work, I wanted to continue to pump for my son, but the challenge was trying to find time to do so,” she explained. “What works for me is using the hospital pumps in the lactation rooms for two of my at-work pumping sessions so that my time away from the bedside is very spread out. I wear a portable pump in the middle of the day. I eat while I’m pumping, and it doesn’t end up being that much extra time away. Outside of work and on my days off, I cluster pump and try to make up for any lost time.”
Looking for a private space to pump? There are 17 employee lactation room locations at the Brigham.
- Plan ahead. “You have to plan ahead and block out your schedule if you can,” said McKane, who gave birth to her son in January. “I have fewer on-the-fly capabilities and am more scheduled because of needing to designate time throughout the day to be able to devote to pumping.”
- Seek out BWH’s lactation consultants. Norris and McKane both found support in the Brigham’s lactation consultants, who were able to help answer their questions. “I worked with lactation consultants from the very beginning, which was incredibly helpful,” said Norris. “We worked through my struggles around engorgement together, and if they weren’t there, I absolutely would have gotten mastitis. It was definitely a team effort to make this work for us.”
You can contact the BWH Center for Breastfeeding, located at 221 Longwood Ave., by calling 617-525-4120. The BWH Center for Breastfeeding provides outpatient support, with both virtual and in-person appointments available. Lactation visits have been covered by insurance since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and both staff and patients can seek support at the center.
- Take advantage of additional resources offered to MGB employees. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers various lactation resources, including a guide for talking with a manager about your lactation needs. You can also access a breast/chestfeeding class and a return-to-work-while-pumping class taught by McNamara. “These classes help parents make the best decisions for their unique situations, whether they are combination feeding, exclusively pumping or breast/chestfeeding,” said McNamara.