Pumping at work can be stressful before you even start…
But I’m here to take all the stress out for you! I’ll be honest though… breastfeeding and pumping at work is not for the faint of heart. But if we are being honest, the majority of parenting is tough, but we get some amazing tiny humans out of the deal, so I kinda think it’s worth it 😉
Pumping at work has some challenges such as environment and privacy, to go along side the normal work stresses and the new stress of being away from your child. It can be emotionally taxing, but I’m here to tell you that you can do it mama! YOU ARE ENOUGH. If your goal is to breastfeed, you can make it happen.
Trying to figure out what you need to pump at work and how to pack it efficiently can be a legitimate nightmare. For my first couple months back to work, I took 3-4 bags to work each day. I had a pumping backpack, cooler, lunch pail, and purse/laptop bag. Seriously… this is TOO MUCH! Organization and efficiency are key.
Here’s what you really need
1. A GREAT pumping bag
This is so important for a couple of reasons. First, the more organized you are, the easier it will be to keep your bag replenished with all the pump supplies you need. The last thing you want is to run out of milk storage bags because you thought there was another container of them somewhere in the abyss of your tote bag. Second, having a bag that is large enough to fit all of your supplies for pumping, your milk storage and work items/laptop will cut down all the items you have to carry so you don’t end up toting a million bags around like me. Trust me… it’s not worth it.
This pumping backpack is my best friend at work! My friends got it for me for my birthday and it was a game changer! It has a designated area for all of the items I need and fits all of my pumping supplies, milk cooler, and work supplies with room to spare. I can’t rave about it enough. But if you aren’t quite ready to commit to this one, there are many options out there. Just make sure to find something with a large insulator pocket to fit a full milk cooler!
2. Cooler and ice packs
When pumping at work, you will need to have reliable cooler and ice packs to transport your milk home. Depending on your commute and your work setup you may have different needs for your cooler storage. If you have a freezer at work, you have the option of freezing your milk in bags immediately after pumping. In this case, as long as your commute isn’t extreme, a small ice pack would do the job. If you don’t have access to a freezer, you have a few other options. You can store the milk in bags if you prefer, or you can store in bottles and bag it when you get home.
I have a freezer at work and alternate between freezing immediately and bottling until I get home. I love this Medela cooler pack which fits perfectly in my pumping backpack. It has bottles and a fitted ice pack for when I need to store the milk bottled, but is the perfect size to fit my frozen packs of milk if I chose to go that rout. Either way, it’s a win! When choosing a cooler for yourself, make sure to find one that fits in your bag appropriately and can fit the appropriate milk storage vessels.
3. Zip top gallon bags or a reusable sealable bag
Are you ready for the best tip I can possibly give you?!
You don’t have to wash your pump parts after EVERY session!
Yes, really! All you have to do is throw your pump parts into an airtight bag and store them in the refrigerator between pumping sessions. Then you can wash them at the end of each day rather than in between each session! This saves so much time and energy at work. And if I never had to wash a pump part again for the rest of my life, I could die a happy girl. So, I always keep a stash of gallon size ziplock bags so I never have to do any unnecessary washing! Your other option would be an airtight food storage container that is large enough to fit all your parts or a reusable wet bag. If you go the wet bag route, I would highly recommend getting 2-3 so you don’t have to wash it every day.
4. Pump cleaning and sanitizing supplies
Inevitably, you will need to clean your parts at work every once in a while. If you are anything like me, sometimes you may drop a part (ugh!) or forget to wash them at home the night before. Either way, you need to be prepared! The last thing you want is for this to affect your pump schedule. My must haves in my bag are Medela’s quick clean micro steam bags, Medela’s quick clean wipes, a small bottle brush and dish soap.
Before using any sanitizing products, make sure to wash the parts with warm / hot soapy water. I like to keep a travel size dish soap and small bottle brush with me for this. The space saver sizes are perfect! The problem I have with washing at work is there is no hot water. I’m extremely lucky if I get lukewarm out of the tap, so I like to be extra careful with getting everything properly sanitized post washing. I use the cleaning wipes when I only need to clean 1 or 2 parts. If I have a full steam bag of parts, then I will steam them all at once rather than meticulously wiping each part. Each one is great for different reasons!
5. A pumping bra which is also a nursing bra
When I started looking for pumping bras, I really struggled to find one that would fit my daily needs for pumping and nursing. Why is it that so many pumping bras are designed for the sole purpose of pumping without any regard to daily life? So many of the options are not realistically wearable underneath your clothes. Some of them have holes for the flanges that would leave your nipples exposed or have some sort of weird cross over which exaggerates your nipples, neither of which are appealing. Then the other struggle is that I don’t want to change my bra when I pick up my baby or during work. This severely limits your options.
But, I am here to tell you, the perfect one does exist! I love this pumping bra I found on amazon. It fits comfortably, doubles for nursing with clip down cups, holds the flanges securely and doesn’t give you any weird lines or exaggerations under your clothes! I love this bra and have made it my daily go-to.
Here’s what you should skip
Take it from a former LOVER of lactation tea, it seems like the perfect go to, but it can actually negatively impact your supply. As these are considered supplements, speak to a doctor before making any changes to your diet. Generally speaking, the supplements which are recommended for lactation may be okay in moderation, but concentrated amounts as in the teas and bars can cause diarrhea, dehydration, and lower milk supply in mom and fenugreek has been known to cause excess gas in babies. Make sure you do your research and talk to your doctor, pediatrician and/or lactation consultant before choosing to add any of these supplements to your diet.
The best thing you can do…
…to increase and regulate your supply is nurse, nurse, nurse your baby! The more you nurse, the more you will produce. Milk is purely a supply and demand business, so create the demand and the supply will come. Make sure baby is at the breast often and you avoid bottles when you are with baby. When you are away from baby make sure not to go longer than 2-3 hours without pumping to keep your supply up. When you are pumping at work, make sure to keep to a schedule so your body can regulate to that schedule. If you’re having issues with your supply, check out this article to help you work through any problems. It may be hard, but I promise, mama, it’s worth it!
Keep up the good work, mama! You’re doing great!
Do you have any other products you love to have in your pumping bag? Let me know in the comments!
This post contains affiliate links. If you use my link to make a purchase, I may make a few dollars to pay for diapers, but you won’t pay anything extra. See full disclosure here.