EMT, firefighters, and security personnel and other first responders have a few challenges of their own to deal with, including frequent patrols, guard duty, emergencies, and fires to respond to. You’ll have to be ready to find time to pump whether you have a day in the office doing paperwork or a shift on patrol with a partner.
At the firehouse, you might just be getting ready to pump when the alarm sounds, and there is no chance you’ll be able to pump. Many personnel in these jobs work rotating shifts, which can wreak havoc on your milk supply, so breastfeed as often as possible on your days off to help keep your milk supply up. Talk with your partner if you’ll be on patrol together and need to pump, or schedule your pumping right before patrol and right after, and then stick to it. If you have guard duty, you should be able to squeeze a quick pumping session in as you rotate on and off duty at the gate. Mothers in the fire station need to pump whenever possible, as you won’t know when you might get a chance or if the next alarm will sound in 10 minutes or two hours. Try as much as possible to stick with a schedule, but squeeze in a pumping whenever you can. EMT personnel in an ambulance or FLA usually have electricity, water available, and the ability to close the doors and make a private place to pump. This link, written by a civilian paramedic, offers some great tips on pumping while on the job.
Security personnel and firefighters have to wear or carry a lot of heavy gear, including bullet-proof vests and turnout gear, which can put pressure on the breasts. Make sure that you do not develop any plugged ducts from the constant pressure. Consider moving up a size, if that’s not possible, be sure to take off the gear whenever possible and massage any lumps out when pumping.
If you will be handling weapons or spending a lot of time on the firing line/range as part of your daily job, be sure to wear PPE as appropriate and consider being extra cautious and donning gloves and a mask to reduce lead exposure. Check the HAZMAT page for more information about lead exposure and follow the precautions listed. Firefighters also come into contact with a number of hazardous materials, including carbon monoxide, and while you will be wearing a breathing apparatus, the toxic smoke invades your clothes, hair, and skin. With any of these job specialties be sure to thoroughly shower before going home, and wash all work clothes separately from your family’s laundry. Wash your hands thoroughly and wear gloves when pumping. As with most hazardous materials, some may transfer into breastmilk. However, the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks of the possible exposure.
With a little preparation, being a first responder doesn’t have to mean the end of your breastfeeding relationship.