Your first-day-back-at-work breast pump bag packing list

Woman walking down the hall at work with her breast pump bag packing list and equipment

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:

Breast pump bag packing list:

  1. Your pump and its power cord and tubing (seriously: double-check)  (Editor’s note: here’s a post on picking a pump too.)
  2. 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.)
  3. 4 pump bottles, with lids
  4. 2 connectors with membranes intact
  5. 1 package of extra membranes (These are way more important than they look, and will be specific to your pump type)
  6. 2 flanges/horns (I am a huge proponent of Pumpin’ Pal flanges, which are compatible with most pumps and can increase comfort and supply)
  7. 1 battery pack with batteries (Some battery packs have two sides – check yours to be sure!)
  8. 1 Medela or Ardo microwave sterilization bag
  9. 1 small bottle of hand sanitizer
  10. 4 extra breast pads (Try Bamboobies or Lansinoh brands)
  11. 1 small pack of wet wipes (for spills)
  12. 10 breastmilk storage bags and a Sharpie to label them
  13. 5 gallon-size, slider Ziploc bags
  14. 1 hands-free pumping bra – check out Simple Wishes for starters
  15. 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 (the one in the picture is the ‘Kelly’) make pump/diaper bags that look like actually trendy big purses.) Here’s a Sarah Wells bag review too.
  16. 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)
  17. 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)
  18. Healthy snacks (Avoid bananas, unless you like forgetting about them and having them smashed into everything inside the bag)
  19. 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.



Our next recos:

The CDC Wants You To Get Serious About Cleaning Your Breast Pump

Milk Stork Takes the Stress Out of Pumping and Traveling

The Mile-High Milk Club: Your Guide to Flying With Breastmilk


If you're going to be pumping at work be sure to check out this AMAZING breast pump bag packing list for a checklist on what to bring.

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 PostWorking Mother MagazineBlogHer, and Every Mother Counts.  Check Jessica out on her blog, and be sure to check out her TEDx Talk below!

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  • I also packed one of my baby’s swaddle blankets! I loved having her scent and I was able to cover up with it….I was always freezing!

  • Great list! I use the Medela Pump and Save storage bags. They are a bit more expensive than the Lansinoh bags, but in my opinion it’s worth it to not carry bottles and storage bags.

  • I kept an extra cheapie nursing cover in there. It folded up very small and was great in places I thought I might get walked in on, or pumping in the car.

  • An aside to #15… Why has no one designed the same type of bag but in a roller version!? My back is breaking carrying my pump, my computer, my lunch, etc. every day. If they were really thinking about working moms, someone would remember that after we carry all of our crap to and from the office, we go home and have to carry our little ones around. Wheels, man. Wheels!

  • Where was this four years ago when I was still pumping at work???? Love the fun approach…and I totally thought at first the post-it notes were just for writing notes on while you’re pumping.

    Isn’t that when the best ideas came? I’m guessing the idea for this blog post came along while pumping in the men’s shower – not that I’ve ever done that ;).

  • I think this is a great "all inclusive" list, but I’m kind of a minimalist. I’m lucky, I work in a hospital, so I have access to a great pump at work that I don’t cart back and forth to home. So I pack in my medium sized insulated lunch bag: 2 pumping sets (flanges, connectors, membranes, etc. connected to 2 5oz bottles, tubing, small ice pack, hands-free pumping bra, and a 16oz screw-on lid Nalgene bottle. I keep a nursing cover in my drawer at my desk. I double pump 3 times while at work. I pour the milk from each pump into the Nalgene and rinse the pump parts and return to the bag. I store the whole kit (minus the bra) in the refrigerator. Because it is refrigerated, I can use just the one double set of pump parts for the whole day. The large Nalgene means I don’t have to cart a million little bottles with me. When I get home, I transfer the milk into 2oz portions in bottles or freezer bags. I wash one the parts and sterilize. It gets packed right back in the bag for next time.

  • And for a hands free pumping bra I just got a comfortable sports type bra and cute two slits in it so I could stick my flanges through. Made 3 for under $30 and they work great. I wear normal clothes and just throw a swaddle top. No need to waste your money on nursing/pumping clothes unless you already have them

  • My goodness that list is way too long and slightly overwhelming if you didn’t know what you really need. I pump 3 times a day and everything I need conveniently fits in the bag the pump came in. (PISA tote) . . . Save your money on a new bag and buy enough flanges/adapters that you don’t have to wash your stuff at work. In my tote: 6xflanges/adapters/bottles put them into a wet bag that had two compartments (get an ALVA baby one for $6 on Amazon). Once you use a set throw itno the other compart so you have clean stuff in one and dirty in the other. Use the cooler and ice pack that came with and don’t worry about the fridge (it’ll stay good for much longer than you work on ice). Stick the battery up on the side pocket in case the electricity goes out. And thrown in a swaddle to cover up with. Extra to have – Muslim burb cloth to wipe up breasts and parts with. . . Wear your pumping bra and breast pads and your good to go. . . And if your electricity goes out and your batteries run out. Go home!

  • The flashlight app on your phone is an unexpected good one…I found myself running a remote meeting while pumping in the handicapped stall of a restroom at a customer site (multi-tasking at its finest!), and the lights were on one of those timer/sensor things, so the lights all went out halfway through. I couldn’t get out to turn the lights on, so I just had to work by the light of my laptop monitor. Phone flashlight would have been very useful!

  • Thank you for sharing this. As a "lucky one" with 12 weeks PML and a nursing room at my disposal I am led to believe that if I complain it isn’t enough I am a jerk. This is an American issue and having such a factual case in my quiver is just what we all need.

  • Too much! I bring the pump, flanges, bottles, and hand sanitizer. No need to bring everything. However, never forget the phone to entertain yourself for that time.

  • Great post, thank you! Just downloaded the book on my kindle, so I am not sure if the answer is in there, but I was wondering if you have any tips or resources for moms who work in a field-based job and have no office to pump in. I am a traveling Clinical Educator, and my job entails me driving between various doctor offices to see patients and health care providers. Other than pumping my car, are there any other resources for people in my position when I return to work after baby? Thanks!

    • So sorry for my late reply. The book does have a chapter called Pumping in Strange Places that addresses a lot of the on-the-go job types. You car is going to be a big part of this, I’d guess. But I wonder if you can get friendly with some of the offices you frequent regularly and set up a system where you can pump there?

    • I’m an auditor so I had to pump in a different client office every week or two. When I got to the office on the first day of fieldwork, I’d buddy up to thr receptionist and mention that I was breastfeeding and is there by any chance an empty office or a pumping room? Usually, there was something. If they got sheepish, I would mention that all I really needed was a plug and a door that shut. If I knew it was a smaller office, I’d email the controller or cfo ahead of time to see what the situation was. I did pump in my car a lot, but it wasn’t so bad. I’d pick a car over a bathroom any day of the week.

  • If you have a place to leave it, I found having a super large zip front hoodie is great- you can zip it up over yourself and your pump if you are wearing something where you need to pull down/ off your top. I also find it’s great if you pump while driving to afford a little extra privacy (not that you NEED to, only if you want to). Also, the room I pump in is chilly, so it’s just kinda nice to feel warm and cozy while pumping.

  • I use a clean tupperware container to store my parts in the fridge every day. It was killing the treehugger in me to throw out a plastic ziploc bag every day. For clean parts going into work I use a gallon ziploc, but I reuse the same one for several weeks until I feel I need a fresh one.

    Also, some lanolin is a must in my book. Putting some on your flange or breast before pumping adds a little lubrication that helps avoid sore tatas.

    If you have a dedicated pumping room, we (the other moms that use it with me) have Lysol wipes, tissue, a cup of pens and sticky notes, and we’ve put photos of our babies and motivational quotes on the wall. Sometimes we leave each other treats like lactation cookies. . It’s nice to have a little camaraderie if more than one person in your workplace is pumping.

  • I don’t actually think the hands free pumping bras work. I think the new freemie cups work soooo much better (

    I also TOTALLY 1 million billion percent agree that actual nursing clothes make life easier and less likely that you’ll just cover yourself in breast milk. In this arena I cannot recommend enough the brand Momzelle ( Their clothes will make you look like a million bucks!

  • Also, I found actual nursing clothes makes it so much easier! Instead of carrying extra layers and cover ups. I found some cute styles @ a good investment, especially if you are considering getting pregnant again 😉 This list definitely helps!

  • I’d add a hands free pumping bra. And ice packs in your cooler bag for the drive home. (Another good reason for the ziplocks, when you inevitably forget the ice packs, just fill with ice).

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