Pack Your Pumping Bag Like a Pro
How to Pack your Breast Pump Bag Like a Pro

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If you’re getting ready to go back to work after baby, then you’re probably also wondering “what the hell do I need for pumping?”

Well you’re in luck! I’ve put together the perfect list of things you need. This is based on my experience and what I learned from my other working mama friends!

Going back to work was super stressful for me but not because I wasn’t prepared for pumping! 

Follow this guide to setting up the perfect pumping bag!

PUMP AND PARTS

This is the first thing you should figure out because this affects all the other things you’re going to need!

You will need:

  • Pump
  • Power cable
  • Breast shields
  • Valves
  • Tubing
NOTE: I would bring an extra set of breast shields and valves and keep them in the bottom of your pump bag in case you forget your main pair! Believe me, you will forget at least once. 
 

If you live in the US, I would start by checking your insurance policy because you should be able to get a free pump! You definitely want to check how and where you can get your free pump. Each insurance company typically has a very specific list of instructions on how to do this.

As a disclaimer though, the options for the free pumps are usually generally pretty old technology and there are a lot of advancements with new pumps. Unfortunately, most of the newer advanced pumps are not available through your insurance. So I would do some research and figure out what pump is best for you and if you can afford to get one outside of insurance (many are HSA/FSA eligible too).

I’m working on a whole separate post all about different pumps so keep an eye out. But for now here’s the summary of what I used:

MY PUMP SUMMARY:

I used a Medela Pump In Style (free through my insurance) and I also bought the Willow wearable pumps using my HSA (so worth it). I ended up using both types of pumps for various reasons throughout my breastfeeding journey. I plan to use them both again!

I used my Medela most of the time at work because I was sitting in a separate room regardless so being plugged in wasn’t a big deal. It allowed me to pump more milk in one session without having the change out the bags.

My Willow pumps I used most often at home so I could clean or cook or change diapers without having to be plugged in. Each pump only holds up to 4 oz. of milk (without having to change out the bag) so I used this to build up my supply with extra pumping sessions. Typically, I didn’t use these for my main pumping sessions because I thought it was kind of a pain to change out the bags.

But It looks like they just came out with new reusable milk container that you can use instead of the bags. This makes me much more excited to use them again!

LIQUID GOLD

Pack Your Breast Pump Bag Like a Pro

You’re going to be spending a pretty large amount of time pumping, transferring, and measuring your milk. So make sure you find the best milk storage solution for you!

The two most common ways are 1) pumping into bottles for the next day or 2) rotating milk from a freezer stash. Depending on which option you go with (you might switch back and forth between the two), you’ll need a milk cooler to accommodate. 

BOTTLE METHOD

I thought it was easier to pump milk for the next day instead of thawing from my stash. I pumped into bottles and stored over night in bottles. BOOM, they were ready for daycare in the morning. If I had some extra milk from any of my sessions I would put them into storage bags and into the freezer. I kept 5-6 storage bags in my pumping bag for this reason.

Your pump should come with the right bottles but you will probably need to buy more to have enough to do the bottle method. I pumped either 2 or 3 times but rarely filled both 5 oz. bottles at each session. So I would consolidate bottles to reduce the amount I had to bring. If you like to keep everything separate OR you pump a lot of milk, you will need at least 2 bottles for every session. And bring at least one extra. 

For me, this usually translated to 5 bottles + 5 lids. I typically only filled 3.5-4 of them but I always had an extra just in case. 

BAG METHOD

There are plenty of mamas that thaw milk from the freezer for the next day. This is going to totally going to come down to preferences. Personally, I thought the thawing and freezing rotation added a few extra steps but that’s just me!

But you’ll also need bottles for pumping. Most pumps are designed to pump directly into a bottle so you’ll need the bottles for your initial session then you can transfer to bags. I would bring 3 bottles, 2 for pumping and 1 extra just in case.

Most of the storage bags hold up to 8 oz. You should fill your bags in increments that you would want to thaw. It’s better to round down than up. 

For example: if your baby typically drinks 4 oz at a time, you shouldn’t put more than 4 oz in each storage bag. Since you should use thawed milk within 24 hours, this makes sure you don’t have any extra milk go to waste! You can always thaw out more if you need it but you can’t refreeze it once it’s thawed!

So depending on how many sessions you plan to pump and how much you typically make you should bring that many bags. Bags don’t take up much space so I would throw some extras just because. 

 

KEEP IT COOL, GIRL

Bottles take up more room so you’ll want to size up a bit on your cooler and pumping bag if you plan on using the method that I used!

I bought this really cute breastmilk cooler from Sarah Wells on Amazon. There are some really cute colors (I got the green Mosaic print). It worked perfect for me. It comes with an ice pack too! I could easily fit 4 full Medela bottles in here which is exactly what I needed. 

I also got a Skip Hop bottle cooler from Target. It’s a bit smaller so if you plan on using storage bags, you should be able to use this one! I switched back and forth between these bags depending on my plan for the milk. For example, on Friday’s I put directly into storage bags because there was no daycare the next day! 

KEEP IT CLEAN

Alright, now that you’ve checked out the CDC guidelines, here’s what I did for my pumping sessions to keep things nice and clean. 

SANITIZERS

Hand sanitizer is the most convenient option to make sure you are clean before you start pumping. Everything you touch is crawling with germs, eww. Even if you washed your hands 10 minutes ago, you should definitely wash or sanitize again right before you start touching your pump parts and bottles. 

I love the little PocketBac hand sanitizers from Bath & Body Works. I buy a handful of them every time I walk by a store. I keep these in almost every random place I can, including my pumping bag. They come in all kinds of scents, my fav is the Stress Relief scent. 

Medela makes a pretty convenient sanitizer spray and a sanitizer wipe. I bought both of these to put into my pumping bag and they were great to have. Because there was a sink available in my pumping room, I didn’t use the wipes very often but I used the spray after rinsing my parts. 

PUMPAROO

Okay, so this is one of those major time saving hacks that I’m so glad I found before I returned to work. Pumparoo bags (called wet/dry bags sometimes) are waterproof bags that you can get to store your wet or dry pumping stuff and bottles (without milk) in between sessions. The idea of these bags is to avoid having to completely wash, dry, sanitize every part after every session. 

I used this bag after every session to store my pump parts until I could completely wash and sanitize them at the end of the day. There’s some caveats to this though:

  1. If you have a refrigerator or cooler available, you might not need to rinse and wash everything every time. You can just load everything into your pumparoo and throw it in the fridge until your next session. This is what I did. Just make sure the fridge is cold enough to store milk otherwise you’re at risk for bacteria!
  2. If you do not have a cold place to store your parts, you should wash and sanitize your parts after each use but can use your pumparoo to avoid contamination between sessions. No more washing before AND after pumping.

I bought this Sarah Well’s one to match my breastmilk cooler and I loved it. Definitely read the directions on proper care for this though to make sure it stays clean and yucky free. I have had zero problems with mine and it is still as sparkly clean as when I bought it. I used my Medela sanitizer spray on it all the time and it worked great.

LOOK MA, NO HANDS

Being plus sized then adding breastfeeding into the mix and you have a recipe for bra troubles. I’m pretty sure that I tried them all with more than a few fits of rage.

Obviously, this will be very dependent on your breast size and tolerance for annoying things. But after trying basically every type of bra out there, I ended up getting this Brauxiliary Hands-Free Pumping Band. I was super skeptical but was fed up with trying all the other options out there that I just had to give it a go.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked and would definitely recommend it if you’re on the bustier side. 

It clips onto your bra (obviously use a nursing bra) and it holds up your breast shields. Boom, done. 

The important thing to note is that they are still a bit loose. If you bump your bottle or tug on the tube by accident you might have an issue. But for me, it did the trick because I could still work on my computer easily while pumping and it was way faster and easier than dealing with any other pumping bra I had used. 

Pack Your Breast Pump Bag Like a Pro

SNACKS

Breastfeeding takes a lot of additional energy. In order to keep up your milk supply, you’ll likely want to eat a few snacks throughout the day to stay energized. You might actually need more calories than when you were pregnant! I always kept a few extra snacks in my pumping bag to keep me going. 

You’ll want to pick healthy, nutrient dense snacks to really maximize your calories. Protein and granola bars that are low in sugar are good options. Nuts, low sugar fruits, and dark chocolate are great too!

Finding some lactation treats can really help boost your supply! I found these ones from Milky Mama and had to try them. I tried both the Emergency Brownies and the regular Lactation Brownies and both were wonderful. They don’t taste quite as good as grandma’s homemade fudge brownies but they did the trick. Personally, I did have a noticeable increase in my milk supply when I ate these consistently. You can also make you’re own there’s plenty of recipes on Pinterest!

And of course WATER. Lot’s and lots of water. While you’re breastfeeding you should try to keep a water bottle with you at all times! You’ll need it for real!

JOIN THE COMMUNITY!

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EXTRAS

Here’s some other random things I made sure to always having my bag. 

    • Chapstick
    • Nursing pads
    • Phone charger
    • Lotion
    • Nipple balm
    • Tissues

 

THE PERFECT BAG

Alright. Now you have your gear, you just need your bag!

Finding the right bag is important in order to maximize your pumping time. You want something that can be organized so you don’t spend half your time just fumbling around in a big bag. 

Buying a pumping specific bag is recommended but not necessary. There’s plenty of options out there that have the functions you need without being made specifically for pumping.  I would pick a bag AFTER you’ve picked out your pump so you can make sure you’re getting one that’s big enough or works correctly. 

Let’s break down what you’re going to be looking for:

  • space
  • pockets
  • durable
  • straps
  • cute…obviously 🙂 
Pack Your Breast Pump Bag Like a Pro
Pack your Breast Pump Bag Like a Pro
WIDE OPEN

Obviously, you need a bag big enough to fit all your stuff. But at the same time you don’t want to lugging around a suitcase with you. This is one of the reasons why I recommend finding a pumping bag, because they’re made to be the right size! But a medium/large sized purse/bag/tote is generally going to be the right size. 

An important thing to consider when picking your bag size is if you will be storing your milk in bottles or in storage bags. If you’re storing in bottles, you’ll need more room to fit a larger milk cooler. If you’re going to be transferring directly into bags, then you can save a lot of space! (FYI: Mine was too small to fit my cooler, so I had to carry my cooler separately)

IT HAS POCKETS!

Find a bag with a few different pockets so you can keep things organized. 

In general you want different pockets to store your pump, bottles/bags, breastmilk, snacks, and cleaning supplies. 

You’ll want pockets of all sizes especially depending on the type of pump you get. Most pumping specific bags have a separate compartment for the pump and other smaller pockets for organizing. Did I mention that I love pockets?

ROUGH AND TOUGH

You’re going to be lugging this bag back and forth.  Like, a lot. So you definitely want something that will last you through your whole pumping journey. 

My JuJuBe pumping bag definitely fits this category. The inside fabric is specifically made to resist bacteria and the outside is treated with Teflon so it’s tough and easy to wipe clean. My bag looks almost just like new after 6-8 months of running around.

STRAPPED

I think the straps on any bag are a key deciding factor for me. I’m pretty particular about my straps.   You’ll want to find a bag that has the right straps for your lifestyle. They have bags that are backpacks, messenger bags, totes or ones that can convert! SO MANY OPTIONS!

My JuJuBe bag has shoulder straps plus a longer messenger strap as well which worked perfect for me. I use a backpack for work with my laptop and other things I need for work.  So I needed something that I could easily carry with my backpack on. Otherwise, I would have opted for a backpack option instead. 

HELLO, GORGEOUS

I like pretty things. I bet you like pretty things too. So don’t despair, there are a tone of really cute pumping bags out there! 

I love love love the look my JuJuBe bag (I got the Queen of the Nile pattern). If I’m being honest, it was one of the main reasons I chose this bag. 

I ended up loving it. Win, win if you ask me.

If I were to have to do it all over again, I probably would pick out something a bit bigger (because I pack bottles I needed the extra room). I couldn’t actually fit all my stuff and my milk cooler so I just carried my milk cooler separately. 

I’m still pretty happy with this bag and will be using it for round #2 for sure. 

ROUTINE

Well, now that you have your pumping bag packed, you just need to keep it packed! The trick to not forgetting any of these things is to just get into a routine. I’m pretty anti-routine. I hate routine. BUT it’s the only way to keep this stuff together. So I’m not saying this lightly. 

Even if your mind was a steel trap before. Now that you have a baby, you will be surprised at how many things you forget! Get in the habit of cleaning, restocking, and repacking your bag every night. Believe me, it just takes one missed alarm to be running around in the morning and forgetting half your stuff!

Don’t worry, mama. YOU GOT THIS!

If you follow this list, you’ll be a Pumping Queen in no time! What did you mama’s use for pumping that you couldn’t live without??

Pack Your Breast Pump Bag Like a Pro