How a Nurse Pumps at Work

Not all breastfeeding mom journeys look the same.

*We’ve partnered with Teat & Cosset to make the back to work transition a little bit easier for breastfeeding moms. Shop now for 20% off + Free Shipping using code WELLROUNDED.

The job of a registered nurse is not unlike motherhood: it’s emotionally and physically demanding, and requires long hours, dedication and compassion. Being a mother and nurse at the same time? Well, it’s not for the faint of heart — between the needs of your family and the needs of your job, you’re basically taking care of people 24-7! And if you’re a nursing nurse, you’ve got to fit some breastfeeding and pumping in there too.

For registered nurse and brand new mom of two Amy Kiefer, breastfeeding — and pumping — has been a learning curve as she preps to return to her job at the University of Wisconsin’s Carbone Cancer Center. In between chemotherapy patients, she’ll need to find a few quiet moments to pump breast milk for her 3-month-old baby boy. And when she’s at home, she’ll need to nurse and pump some more, both to regulate her supply and to help prep little Trey for the long days of work ahead.

We know there’s so many women out there like Amy, with non-traditional jobs that require some creative thinking when it comes to breastfeeding or pumping. So we’re partnering with Teat & Cosset, one of the most beautiful nursing-friendly fashion brands out there, to celebrate those moms…and all the others out there that are committed to pumping when they return to work.

Below, Amy shares some of her pumping and working strategies, while showing off her Teat & Cosset style.

Are you a pumping mom? Show us where you pump on Instagram for a chance to win an item from Teat & Cosset! Use the hashtag #thisiswhereipump and tag @wellroundedny!

Nursing in bed

Teat & Cosset Nursing Pajamas

Amy is wearing the Teat & Cosset Mila Nursing Pajamas (above).

What’s a regular day like for you at work?
I work in the chemotherapy part of the clinic, which is very busy. It is common for us to treat 90 patients in a day. These patients either need chemotherapy or supportive care (fluids, blood products, etc.). Many of the patients are battling cancer, but we also see people with a few other illnesses/diseases.

I love my job because our patients are SO sweet and inspiring. It is amazing to see people that are battling for their health and maybe even their life, be positive and happy. It inspires me every day to be thankful and to go after my dreams.

How is your job different than that of a traditional pumping mom at a 9-5?
Nursing can be a very hard job to pump at. Our clinic is very busy. For me to take two extra breaks during the shift essentially can leave my coworkers shorthanded for that time. As a nurse, I’m responsible for a set of patients. This means, that a coworker has to agree to take over the responsibility of these patients while I’m gone.

I work in an area where people are at risk of reacting to their treatment drugs. This means that as the nurse I am responsible for immediately giving the patient emergency medications, closely monitoring the patient’s signs and symptoms and implementing other fast interventions to help them. Depending on the situation, these events can take more than an hour to resolve. If this happens at a time when I’m planning to pump, I would just have to wait. It is not uncommon to have a shift where a few events like this happen and that makes it extremely hard to get off the floor to pump.

How will you make breastfeeding/pumping “work” while working?
I do my best to plan my shift out. This way, I’m leaving to pump when all my patients are on “cruise control” and hopefully will not need much when I’m gone. For me, pumping and breastfeeding takes a whole lot of positivity and perseverance. I know that I’m going to make it work and I’ll adjust in whatever way it takes.

Mama cuddling baby

Were you this determined to breastfeed before you had your first baby?
I really wanted to breastfeed our first baby, Maxwell, because I heard all about the benefits and the bond that I would feel. I wanted to provide our baby with the best nourishment I could and I wanted to feel the bond that everyone kept talking about. To be honest, I thought it would be much more natural and easy. I was in for quite the surprise when I found it to very much be the opposite.

Maxwell had tongue tie and coupled with my inverted nipple anatomy, my nipples were wrecked only a few days in. It was an extremely painful experience, and something that I had no idea would happen. I had never even heard of tongue tie. Thank goodness for the lactation consultant that spotted it and got us on the road to recovery. I made an appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist and Max had his tongue clipped. It was eight weeks into breastfeeding before I was completely pain free.

After all that, things got much better. Max and I breastfed for 14 months before weaning. There was a lot of the special bonding along the way.

Teat & Cosset Nursing SweatshirtTeat & Cosset Gemma Sweatshirt

Amy is wearing the Teat & Cosset Gemma Maternity & Nursing Sweatshirt (above).

What about for this second baby Trey?
This time has been much easier. I experienced only the “normal” nipple soreness in the beginning. Trey and I have had pretty smooth sailing and we were breastfeeding pain free in just a week’s time. This has made all the difference in the experience.

The challenge of this round of breastfeeding is my oversupply and lopsided supply. I had these issues last time, but this go around they are amplified. Often times other mamas will message me and say, “I would KILL for your supply” or “I would give a limb for your supply.” While I understand that it might look like a great problem to have, it warrants a lot of frustration and extra time too.

Often times, and especially in the beginning, my breast would be too full for Trey to take OR he would start feeding and it would come out so fast that he would start choking. I worked with the lactation team for six weeks to try to slow the supply down and even it out. I’m happy to report that things are better, but both issues still persist. The silver lining is that I’m able to donate my breast milk to other babies in need.

Packing your pumping bagSaying goodbye to baby

What is your plan for returning to work in terms of pumping/breastfeeding?
I’m thankful that this is my second time around because my pumping/breastfeeding routine will be much easier to navigate. Although we’re exclusively breastfeeding, Trey does take bottles of expressed breast milk. My husband and I introduced bottles at about one month of age with both of our babies. This way, I’m able to have a little more freedom. We also know that this is a very necessary skill for him to learn for once I return to work.

Here is my plan and tips:

  • I feed the baby before leaving for work. If my shift starts later or my boobs are still pretty full I will also pump before leaving.
  • I pack all my pumping parts the night before to make mornings less busy.
  • I leave an extra set of ALL supplies at work. I learned to do that after forgetting my nipple shields and ending up in a puddle of tears because of it.
  • I refrigerate my pumping parts between pumps, so that I can just use one set at work.
  • We send frozen expressed milk to daycare. They are willing to store a couple weeks’ worth. They let us know when they need more.
  • I will pump twice a shift to keep me supply up.
  • Before I go to bed each night, I transfer the milk into bags and put them in the deep freezer.

Since your work wardrobe is usually scrubs, why is it so important to find stylish nursing clothes when you’re off the clock?
Trey still breastfeeds every couple of hours, so it’s a total bonus for my clothes to be nursing friendly. I’m the queen of athleisure when not at work, so throwing on my Teat & Cosset nursing sweatshirt is a really great option for me. But it’s always very special and exciting to throw on normal and stylish clothes. My favorite clothing item to wear is a dress. Dresses and curled hair make me feel beautiful and put together, so you can often find me in those for a date night. And yes, we still date even with these little people in our lives!

Nursing pumping at work bottles of breast milk

What’s the best pumping advice you could give to a breastfeeding mom planning to go back to work, especially if she has a non-traditional desk job?
You HAVE to be ready to advocate for yourself. At a busy non-traditional job like nursing, there are shifts where there is never a “good” time to go. I have to tell myself, “Amy, this is your baby’s food. You need to go and pump.” Understand that although it might not be ideal for your coworkers, it is your right and another one of your “jobs” to get it done.

I also researched the laws in my state. This way, I could advocate for myself and make sure my employer was being fair. I would highly suggest equipping yourself with that knowledge and using it if you are being treated unjustly.

I know some people hate pumping, but I really think of it as a nice break in the day. Because it is necessary, I might as well enjoy it! I often text my husband something sweet, have a snack, listen to an audiobook and scroll through pictures of the boys. This makes the time go by fast.

Lastly, I would suggest having a pep talk ready to go. I’m huge on positivity and training yourself to be mentally resilient. There is no doubt there will be bumps along the road. Whether it be a rude comment from a coworker or a forgotten pump part. When the going gets tough, have a go to mantra ready to go. Example: “Amy, you are doing great! Look at you! You’ve already been breastfeeding for three months. Giving Trey a terrific start and you are rocking this!”

Amy Kiefer Cancer nurse

Photography by Jenna Leroy for Well Rounded.

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Shop now for 20% off + Free Shipping using code WELLROUNDED.

Teat & Cosset Gemma Maternity & Nursing Sweatshirt

Teat & Cosset Gemma Maternity & Nursing Sweatshirt

Teat & Cosset Mila Nursing Pajamas

Teat & Cosset Mila Nursing PajamasTeat & Cosset Zoe Nursing Dress

Teat & Cosset Zoe Nursing Dress

Teat & Cosset Dafne Nursing Dress

Teat & Cosset Dafne Nursing Dress

Jessica Pallay

Jessica Pallay

JESSICA PALLAY is Co-Founder and Editor of Well Rounded NY. She is a Brooklyn mama to Libby and Elsie, and writes about all things pregnancy and new motherhood.

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