Saturday, September 15, 2018

Residents Who Pump

How to succeed with pumping as a resident:

I am an intern in a busy internal medicine program. I try to pump several times a day. At first, it was very challenging for me to balance pumping and being an intern. I hope I can shed some light on how it can be done and let other moms know that that I once struggled with it too. It is part of who I am now, but it took a lot of commitment and preservence. I know not all mothers choose to pump and not all mothers can pump, and that’s great too! This is how I do it. I will first say that I have an incredibly supportive residency program. I hope that is the case for all mommas wanting to pump.

1. Make it known that you have to pump. Be upfront about it with the chief residents, senior residents and your co-interns. This way, people don’t wonder where you are. You’d be surprised how many people are supportive of your need to pump. And impressed!

2. Plan your day accordingly. I would make sure to get a session in before rounds, during lunch conference and once or twice in the pm depending on the length of the work day. It requires a lot of planning but think ahead! There have been times when rounds starts earlier than expected, but some time pumping is better than no time!

3. Have a system. Efficiency is key. A handsfree clip on bra helps! A tote bag with a cooler and ice pack helps! Find what works best for you.

4. Have a safe space. A designated pumping room with an outlet, sink, chair, table is what you need. Find a way to get the environment you need. If your facility does not have a lactation or expression room, they really should! It is required by law. Check out if you want to help your hospital get a pumping pod.

5. Support at home. My husband helps out so much with washing my pumping bottles and preparing our baby’s bottles for daycare every night. I couldn’t do it without him.

6. Prioritize pumping. There will be times you think you’re too busy to pump. Do it anyways. Figure out a way. You’d be surprised how you can squeeze it in the workday. You’ll be so glad you did it.

7. Try your best not to skip sessions because it can mess up your supply, cause engorgement and even mastitis. This may not be true for everyone, but it was true for me. After I got mastitis from missing pumping sessions, I knew I had to be more diligent about pumping every 3-4 hours.

8. Massage/squeeze during pumping! This helps prevent clogged ducts and really increases the flow.

9. Drink lots of water and carry snacks. You have to be well hydrated and well fed for a good milk supply. Also rest is key! Good rest is hard for an intern but the more rested you are the better the milk supply!

10. Be so proud of yourself. It is a huge accomplishment to be able to pump and be an intern! Some days you’ll have a bigger supply than other days but keep going! You’re a rockstar for doing this and your healthy baby will thank you!

11. Nights can be particularly hard but doable. When I was working nights, I was so exhausted, mainly because I was unable to sleep more than a few hours during the days because I was still pumping every 3 hours. It was very hard, no other way to say it. I even got mastitis then. I was fortunately allowed 2 sick days so I could heal from my mastitis. In addition to taking antibiotics, my trusted lactation consultant advised me to just keep on pumping even if the output is low and as soon as I recover, the milk supply will pick back up. And she was right!

If you’re also a pumping resident, please comment and let me know your experience!


  1. I got a 12 month mat leave as a Canadian resident. I nursed cause I was home with her for a year but if I had gone back to work earlier I likely would have chosen formula. I don’t feel strongly enough about breastfeeding to go through the hassle - pumping is SO much work! Thanks for sharing your experience and also thank you for mentioning all mamas are great regardless of feeding methods :)

  2. I should also mention only about half of his milk is breast milk. We supplement with formula! There is no way I can keep up with his needs through just pumping. Our breast milk and formula combination works for us and it’s always encouraging to hear how whatever a mamma and baby do works for them!

  3. I'm just a M3 but in my surgery rotation and pumping. I've struggled with asking to pump. I have ended up pumping once in the car on the way to the hospital (4a) and then usually get to pump one more time around 1p. One of my chiefs has been good at getting me 15min to pump before we started any case that was going to be longer than 6hrs but otherwise people seemed to think that one time should be plenty (no other med student or any of the female surgical residents have kids). I usually pumped one side on my way home since I'd be so full, it'd be enough for baby on the other side. I tell all my friends, thank goodness this is baby #2, I struggled so much with my milk supply with baby #1 but this time, my supply seems more resistant to poor nutrition/hydration and lack of opportunity to pump. Baby is 7months and we're thrilled to still be going strong! It is a lot of work and I hate pumping so very much but with the long hours I'm gone, its a way I can assuage some of my mommy guilt and have some "insta-bonding" time with baby when I'm home. But I am so happy to hear of other mothers in medicine pumping and the support you have received in your program, I hope the trend and the acceptance continues because sometimes I feel a little disheartened about that lack of acceptance at times.

    1. Wow! I can't even tell you how impressed I am that you are able to pump as a medical student on a surgery rotation. Not only does being in surgery cases make it intrinsically difficult to pump, but being a student must be so hard too since you're often at the mercy of your residents. I'm so proud of you for speaking up- I know I would have struggled with that as a student. Keep up the AMAZING work!

  4. I love how you were committed to pumping and not giving up! AWESOMENESS!


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