Breastfeeding and High-Pressure Job

Kathleen Tackett's picture


Dear Lactation Consultant,
Hi. I am 22 weeks into my very first pregnancy. Ive just started leaking colustrum in the past few weeks and only occasionally I'll wake up with spots on my shirt, mostly out of the right nipple. My question, or more dillema is, I am a Registered Nurse and I work overnight in a busy emergency department. I plan on going back to work 4-6 weeks after delivery because my husband is a student and is home during the nights and most days. He will be able to schedule his spring classes in the afternoons so I'll be able to get some sleep during the day.

I really want to breastfeed and have purchased a Medela dual breast pump but I'm worried that I won't have time to pump at work because I'm there for 12 hours and there are times when I don't even get to stop and eat because everyone, including the charge nurse, is busy with patients and ... well.. emergencies!

I'm wondering if doing the breast/bottle combination would work for me but then I'm worried about leakage at work for 12 hours if I'm not able to pump at work. I figure I could breastfeed while at home and pump any extra but use formula for when I don't have enough breast milk or when I'm at work. But I know it's hard for the baby to switch back and forth and maybe they won't take one or the other.

And then the problem with possible leaking at work when I'm already leaking now at just 5 months.

Any advice or input you could give me on this matter would be much appreciated. I have to go back to work after the delivery because my husband is a student I'm the primary income.

Thanks a lot.

Hi Ashley,
Congratulations on your pregnancy!

Your question is somewhat tricky, and it's an issue that thousands of women run into in jobs like yours where it is difficult to take time out. My main concern is that if you go 12 hours without emptying your breasts, you might end up with an infection. And at 4-6 weeks postpartum, I'd be worried that going 12 hours would also cut back on your supply. So let's think strategy. There are a couple of different ways that you can go.

  1. You might think about ramping up the time you are there gradually so that you don't suddenly go from 0 hours to 12 hours. Can you start back with a shorter shift?
  2. Can your husband bring the baby to you at least once during your shift?
  3. Check out your hospital to make sure there is not a pumping station. A lot of hospitals have them. And then you can talk with your supervisor about how you might arrange to use it.

To stop leaks, you might want to check out a product called Lilypadz. They are silicone breast pads that actually inhibit leaking (and you only need one pair since they can be reused). [I have no financial arrangement with this company.]

I'd be happy to continue to brainstorm with you about some other strategies. Good luck!
-- Kathy Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC