Dear Mothers in Medicine,
It's been 9 months since I last wrote to you and I cannot thank you enough for your help and guidance. I was able to continue pumping for 11 months, and just stopped 1 month ago. As busy as GI fellowship is, pumping became something I incorporated into my daily schedule, and fortunately the program was very supportive.
Overall I found that pumping three times a day worked best - once before work, once mid-day, usually after noon conference or a little earlier if I had afternoon clinic, and once in the evening (this was variable, depending on consults, scopes, etc.). Talking to my program director in advance and letting him know my needs really made a difference. So it wasn't a surprise when I showed up. And it made it easier for them to find a way to accomodate me. Most of the time I used an empty exam room to pump, and was able to get work done during that time (working on notes, returning calls). Sometimes if attendings weren't using their room, they would let me sneak in for 20 minutes. Always leaving the room clean and without a trace helped too (no one wants milk stains anywhere!). Soon after I started, I found talking to the nurses about baby and nursing went a long way towards building camaraderie, and they were often supportive if I had a scope but told them I needed to pump - they would let me do what I needed to and come back in 20 minutes (of course some days were very busy and they would let me know if I needed to start scoping right away too).
Staying hydrated is key. I kept a water bottle at our work area at all times, and kept refilling it during the day. I would use rounds or conference time as a good time to drink fluids. Gatorade is amazing, and helped keep me hydrated and held me over when I didn't have time to grab a snack. Also don't underestimate the free saltines, graham crackers, and little juices and ginger ales around the hospital. Those are fantastic!
To any mothers out there who are trying to pump, it can be done but it does take coordination. There were many times when I skipped out from joining my co-fellows for lunch (or drinks after work!) because of pumping. But there were times I didn't have to either. I think setting small goals makes it doable. I initially went in thinking that I had nursed for three months at least, and if I couldn't do it anymore it would be okay. Then I got into a routine, and tried for 4 months, then 6 months, and pretty soon 11 months came around. By then he was walking, eating more solids, and transitioning to whole milk. It seemed like a good stopping point for us. I commend all the mothers out there who make this work, and thank you for your support. I'm not sure what will happen with number two (not expecting now, but thinking about it...)
Thanks again everyone!