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Everything you need for a well-stocked pump bag. Plus a free download and a giveaway!
Pumping at work can be one of the biggest challenges facing a working mom. However, with a well-stocked pump bag, it doesn’t have to be! I pumped at work from the end of my maternity leave around 10 weeks until each kid was just over a year old. Between 2 kids, I’ve pumped at work for more than 18 months total and here’s how I survived! You can too! I’m going to go through what’s in my pump bag and share my best tips for pumping at work.
I made a printable checklist for you. Enter your email address in the box below for immediate access to download the file. Mama, when you’re first going back to work, you will have SO much on your mind and you WILL forget things. Download my handy checklist and put it on your fridge or tape it on the inside of the cabinet where you keep your bottles and gear so you will always be prepared!
Love free stuff? At the bottom of the post is a chance to win a jar of Nip Dip from Beautiful Carcass!
Alright, so let’s jump in to look at what’s in my pump bag and what should be in yours!
The Breastpump Bag Itself
- Invest in a cute bag, it’s worth it!
Mama, if your pump comes with a plain black bag, ditch it. And if you have a sad, saggy random tote bag for your breast pump, ditch that too. With my son, I carried the standard Medela bag for 3 or 4 months. Then I saw a beautiful Petunia Pickle Bottom bag (now discontinued) and swooned. I shared it on Facebook and my hubby bought it for me as a surprise anniversary present. Initially, I was irritated because it was $$$$$$$ and I’m super cheap. But then I started carrying it every day. It was SO nice to have a beautiful, professional bag. Your gear will be organized and you’ll feel put together. You’ll be lugging that bag around every day and digging in it 2-3 times per day at least, so you might as well get one that you love.
Sarah Wells – A Great Option
When I was nursing the first time, breast pump bags were a novelty and hard to find. Now there are lots of great options! This time around, I went with a Sarah Wells “Lizzy” bag in Navy. There’s also a floral print and a grey geometric pattern. There are more options for Sarah Wells bags on Amazon in different styles and even more if you go to the site directly, sarahwellsbags.com. The photo above is my bag after 9 months of daily use. It’s held up great! If it gets messy, it’s easy to wipe up. The light-colored lining makes it easy to see and find contents. The zippers still pull fine. It’s even big enough that when I’ve been at a conference, I can fit my laptop, a small notebook, the conference program, and all of my gear in the 1 bag. Admittedly, it was heavy, but it was better than schlepping around multiple bags in conference sessions.
The Pump and Hardware
- Look at all the options you insurance offers and consider an upgrade.
- Have portable power options.
- Choose the horns/cups that work for you. I recommend the Freemies!
- Pack extra diaphragms or duckbill valves.
- Use a food storage container to keep your gear cold in between pumps.
Okay, so your breast pump. First, check with what your insurance will cover. Generally, your big options are going to be a Medela, a Spectra, or an Ameda. With this last baby, I got my pump through https://pumpingessentials.com/. It could not have been easier. They will work with your insurance company for you. I think the whole process for me, from filling out their form to having the pump in hand as under 2 weeks. Really painless. I love that they also have discounted bundles of accessories and supplies as well as options to upgrade.
With my son, I had the trusty old Medela Pump in Style Advanced, or PISA as you’ll sometime see it referred to. I liked it and it worked fine. I pumped 3x a day Monday through Friday for 9 months. I also struggle with low supply, so I pumped when I first got home with him as we worked through latching issues and I frequently pumped at night after he went to bed. It maintained power the whole time and I handed it down to a colleague’s daughter who continued to use it and it was all good. The downside of the Medela PISA is that it’s definitely a little louder than the Spectra. It also has to be plugged into a power source. You can get a battery pack and an AC adapter for your car so you’re not always tied to the wall, but those things all cost extra and are extra pieces you have to pack.
This time around, with my daughter, I got the Spectra S1. My insurance would have paid for a Spectra S2 entirely, but the S1 was available as an upgrade with just a little more money, under $50. I LOVE my Spectra. It’s really quiet. It has a built-in light with two brightness settings which have been super helpful when pumping at night or early in the morning in my car. It has a built-in battery so I don’t have to be plugged in. Once fully charged, it will last 9-10 pumping sessions before I need to plug it back in again. I can adjust the settings for how fast it cycles and how strong the suction is so that it’s comfortable and efficient. I can trigger the let-down mode with a button and switch it back. This pump is definitely worth it!
Whichever pump you pick, it will come with the necessary hardware to get started – the horns, tubes, etc. Follow the directions that come with your pump to get everything clean and sterile the first time around. If you find that the horns aren’t comfortable, they may not be the right size. Your nipples shouldn’t rub the sides of the wall during pumping and there shouldn’t be much more tissue than just your nipple in there either. A great resource to help you check your fit is available from Medela.
When I’m home, I use the horns that came with the Spectra S1. When I’m at work, I use the Freemie Closed System. The Freemie System allows me to wear my own bra and not have to mess with a pumping bra at work. The cups fit fairly discretely under my own clothes and allow me to pump in the car when I’m driving or even at the conference table with my team in meetings. With my son, I hated being isolated while I was pumping. With the Freemies, I don’t have to feel like a pariah. They do take a little bit of practice to pour the milk from the cup into the bottle, but that’s a minor inconvenience.
At the time of this posting, you could only get the Freemie Closed System via the Freemie site but the older, open system is available on Amazon and Target. I wouldn’t get the open system. A colleague of mine has them and they’re noisier and more prone to spilling. Also, the closed system is more hygienic and reduces the risk of contaminating your milk.
Tips and Tricks
If you don’t use the Freemie cups, you’ll need a hands-free pumping bra or 4 hair rubber bands for my all-time favorite trick! Dealing with the hands-free bra is such a pain at work. But with 4 hair ties, you can make a little harness and ditch it! Once I found this trick, I went back to wearing my regular bra at work as nursing bras are never as flattering. Without the Freemie cups, you may also want a nursing cover in case you have to pump somewhere that isn’t as private, like your car.
You’ll need to bring the hardware that came with your pump, all the tubes and valves, etc. Pro tip: Keep an extra set of membranes if you’re using Medela or duckbill valves if you’re using the Freemie. These are the pieces that create suction. They WILL wear out after a few months and you’ll notice that you’re not getting as much milk production. Keep a spare set in your bag for when it’s time to change them out.
Keep It Cool
I keep my Freemie cups (and kept my Medela flanges) in a plastic food storage container during transport and storage during the day. In between pumps at work, I toss everything into the fridge to keep it cold. I only wash the pump parts when I get home from work. This saves a TON of time during the day. You can also get pump part wipes or spray but the easiest thing is to just wait until you get home. Also, remember that breast milk is fine at room temperature for 6 hours, so sometimes you can make it two pumps before you need to clean.
Bottles and Milk Storage Options
- There are lots of bottles to choose from!
- Have a cooler and ice pack for when you need it.
- Consider freezer bag options for extra milk.
Once pumped, you’ll need options for storing your breast milk. The standby is the trust Medela storage and transport kit which has 4 5-oz bottles, a contoured ice pack that will stay cold ALL day, and a bag to keep it all secure and compact. I’ve used this system for both babies and it works. I only use the ice pack if I’m going to be away from the fridge for the day but when I’ve needed it, it has stayed cold for more than 18 hours. I love that it’s contoured so the bottles nestle right up to it and stay cold. I also like the bottles that came with my Spectra S1. The lids are two pieces, a ring and flat disk. This lets you get into every crevice and make sure they’re super clean.
I was gifted a Kiinde kit that allows you to pump directly into the bags and then those can have a nipple popped onto them to make a bottle. Honestly, I never used it. I have such low supply that one boob never made a full bottle. I also really loved the Freemie cups. However for breast milk storage in the freezer, I LOVE the Kiinde bags! Unlike the zip-top breast milk storage bags, these will NOT leak or split. They’re sturdy and super easy to use! With my son, I lost a few frozen bags along the way to leaks. With the new baby, I’ve lost zero! When you’re fighting for every drop of liquid gold, that’s priceless. They are pricier than standard breast milk storage bags, but again, I have low supply so I don’t have a huge freezer stash to worry about.
- Keep a pen, paper, and post-its.
- Consider a supplement to help boost you on low flow days.
- Nipple balm and coconut oil are a must!
So, what else is in my bag? I always keep a notepad and pen in case I’m using my pump time to brainstorm, make lists, or make phone calls. I also keep a pack of Post-It notes for the same reason, or to make a make-shift “Do Not Disturb” sign if I’m pumping in a random place. God forbid you should ever get stuck pumping in a public bathroom, but if you do, the Post-It can go over the automatic sensor on the toilet and stop it from flushing the whole time. I also keep some business card, because you never know when you might need one and I’m always hauling this bag around anyway.
As I’ve said, I deal with low supply. To combat this, I take domperidone under the advisement of my lactation consultant. It’s pretty much the last line of what to do if you have low supply, but it works for me. Using domperidone can be controversial as it isn’t FDA-approved even though it is approved and widely used worldwide. For more information, I’ve relied on information from Dr. Newman, the International Breastfeeding Centre, and KellyMom. If you’re struggling with low supply and considering domperidone, I urge you to reach out to a certified lactation consultant.
I also keep a few packets of UpSpring MilkFlow in my bag for really tough days. At some point, you will also have a low flow day because of stress or dehydration, etc. Keep something on hand to help give you a little production boost when you need it. There are lots of supplements you can take, from bars to teas. I like these because they mix easily with water and don’t taste terrible. I try to use them sparingly as they contain fenugreek. Fenugreek has been known to interfere with thyroid function. I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and take medication daily but a sparing use of the fenugreek hasn’t caused me any issues. Again, if you have concerns, reach out to your doctor or lactation consultant!
Balms and a Giveaway
Finally, I keep a little bottle of hand sanitizer for clean up on the go, a small jar of coconut oil, and a container of Nip Dip nipple balm from Beautiful Carcass. Pumping can cause sore nipples, especially at first, or can make sore nipples worse if you’re struggling with a teething baby or latch issues. Coconut oil can be applied prior to pumping to both your nipple and the inside of the horn or cup to lubricate both. Nipple balm after soothes and heals irritation. And both make for a great moisturizer for dry cuticles or chapped lips! You can pump AND get a little self-care time in.
Nip Dip is the creation of my amazing friend, Diane, who owns and operates Beautiful Carcass, an organic skin care line AND is an amazing working mom. She says, “Nip Dip is like a little jar of Mama’s kisses for
What’s not pictured? My water bottle – you’ll need to stay hydrated so find one you love. It’s also a good idea to keep a quick snack, like a pack of almonds or a protein bar, for when you get hungry. With the items I’ve listed, you’ll have a well-stocked bag! These have kept me going for 18 months. I know you can do it too! Download the checklist I’ve made for you to help keep you organized.
So, mama, tell me, what else you recommend packing in your pump bag?
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