Pump Breaks & Online Support: Breastfeeding Tips For Doctors
When I started my residency in Ob/Gyn there was no maternity or paternity policy let alone breastfeeding policy, so it’s been wonderful to see the transition happen to a time when breastfeeding is supported by other physicians and the medical community. Why is it important to support breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding babies have a lower risk of everything from asthma to leukemia, obesity, ear infections, eczema, diarrhea, respiratory infections, SIDS and Type 2 diabetes. It also benefits moms by lowering their risk for breast and ovarian cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Females make up 60% of physicians under 35 so it is important to look at how we can support women physicians who want to breastfeed for the recommended 1 year.
Since my kids are grown up, I reached out to my colleagues to learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to breastfeeding and working. It was amazing to read about all the different things that women do to maintain that connection to their baby and give them the best start possible. Most of the advice was of the following types:
Make sure you have a cordless pump and multiple pumps so you can pump anywhere and don’t have to drag a pump back and forth. Brands that were recommended were Willow, Elvie, Freemies and Medela. Pump anywhere you can including your car, your office while charting, in the OR. One doctor mentioned pumping at 3am while driving to the hospital for a delivery!
Hands-free pumping bras are the bomb! Many women mentioned using them to discretely pump on the run.
Build in breaks during your day. If you are in an outpatient setting block 2-3 20-30 minute breaks to allow time to pump and don’t let anyone take that time away from your schedule. If you are in patient see if the hospital has a lactation space and use it. Pump before rounds and then pump again while charting or answering calls and emails. Surgeons mentioned pumping between cases while the room was being turned over.
Normalize the idea of pumping and breastfeeding so that your colleagues understand the importance of taking those breaks. As one physician in Physician’s Mom Group said – “Take no crap and insist on time in your schedule” while another one said “Make a culture where it is acceptable to pee/eat/pump”
Dr. Milk and PMG (Physician Moms Group) are online support groups within Facebook. Talk to other Moms that are breastfeeding and learn what works for them. Find out what policies are in place for your work place and what resources are available for you. The ACA has mandated that insurances cover breast pumps, counseling and a private space to breastfeed.
In summary, breastfeeding is best for baby and mom but as others have said it can be challenging and difficult. Don’t feel guilty if it doesn’t work for you as that will make you feel worse. Use technology like pumps and hands-free bras to make it easier on yourself. Create a work environment that is supportive to the needs of working physician moms who want to breastfeed.
In honor of National Breastfeeding awareness month share this with a colleague.