I’ve always wanted to do a “What to Pack in Your Pumping Bag” post but I never pumped at work so I’d be at a loss. All I would tell you is to tape Work. Pump. Repeat. book I knew I had my gal because, man, does she know her pumping. Also be sure to watch her TED Talk at the end of this post. I was so inspired by it that I nearly ran out in the street screaming “better maternity leave for everyone” in a banshee battle cry but then I remembered that I had to pick up the boys from school…..and I live in Canada.
Among the zillion other things you have to do when going back to work from your maternity leave, figuring out what goes into your breast pump bag should not be allowed to keep you up at night. My particular brand of anxiety is usually quieted by over-planning, so I’d recommend overstocking that thing – in other words, the list below is long. But this way, you have everything you need, and as you learn the ropes of pumping at work, you can slowly pare down the contents.
So, without further ado, get packing:
- Your pump and its power cord and tubing (seriously: double-check) (Editor’s note: here’s a post on picking a pump too.)
- 1 reusable lunch bag or small cooler bag. (If you have a shared fridge, you can use this to store your milk without getting shade from co-workers. Consider bringing another opaque bag for my favorite hack of all: you can throw your pump parts, completely unwashed, into a Ziploc and into the fridge between pumping sessions. It’s totally sanitary. But again you will probably want to put the Ziploc into an opaque bag so Tim from Accounting doesn’t freak out.)
- 4 pump bottles, with lids
- 2 connectors with membranes intact
- 1 package of extra membranes (These are way more important than they look, and will be specific to your pump type)
- 2 flanges/horns (I am a huge proponent of Pumpin’ Pal flanges, which are compatible with most pumps and can increase comfort and supply)
- 1 battery pack with batteries (Some battery packs have two sides – check yours to be sure!)
- 1 Medela or Ardo microwave sterilization bag
- 1 small bottle of hand sanitizer
- 4 extra breast pads (Try Bamboobies or Lansinoh brands)
- 1 small pack of wet wipes (for spills)
- 10 breastmilk storage bags and a Sharpie to label them
- 5 gallon-size, slider Ziploc bags
- 1 hands-free pumping bra – check out Simple Wishes for starters
- 1 more-stylish-than-what-your-pump-came-with pump bag. (Nurse Purse makes functional, wipeable bags that can fit a laptop. JunoBlu and Sarah Wells make pump/diaper bags that look like actually trendy big purses.) Here’s a Sarah Wells bag review too.
- 1 stack of Post-It Notes (Here’s why: when (not if) you find yourself having to pump in a public bathroom, you can stick a Post-It over the auto-flush sensor on the toilet to stop it from flushing on your clothed butt)
- A couple of individually wrapped, fragrance-free pantyliners (If you run out of breast pads, you can cut one in half and use the adhesive to stick it inside your bra – stick with fragrance-free to avoid giving yourself a rash)
- Healthy snacks (Avoid bananas, unless you like forgetting about them and having them smashed into everything inside the bag)
- A copy of my book – Work. Pump. Repeat! (I was so frustrated that every new working mom had to learn to pump at work from scratch that I interviewed hundreds of working moms myself, and wrote the practical, no-judgment survival guide myself. Read it, cover it in your own notes, and pass it down to the next new mama at work.)
And…if that isn’t enough, here are a few back-up items to carry on your phone or stuff in your desk:
- A flashlight app on your phone
- Photos and videos of your baby on your phone, to help with let-down
- 1 hand pump
- 1 extra set of tubing
- 1 cardigan for whoops-I-leaked-through-my-blouse days
Now that I’ve encouraged you to spend your life savings on this “free” breastmilk adventure…it’s time to go forth! Talk to your boss about your boobs! Pump in strange places! Get moo’d at by a co-worker! There are millions of us on this crazy journey alongside you, and we think you’re a bad-ass for giving it a shot – no matter how it turns out.
Jessica is a featured writer and interview subject on breastfeeding, pumping at work, women’s rights in the workplace, and America’s ridiculously crappy approach to maternity leave. She writes regularly for The Bump and has been featured on The Huffington Post, Working Mother Magazine, BlogHer, and Every Mother Counts. Check Jessica out on her blog, and be sure to check out her TEDx Talk below!