Must-haves for your pumping bag when you return to work

If you want to continue breastfeeding when you return to work, you’ll need to prepare for pumping at work. There’s so much stress on your mind about returning to work from maternity leave as it is – make yourself a solid checklist for your pumping essentials and your mornings will go much smoother. Note that many of these things can be kept in your desk or workspace if that’s available to you. I would even keep my pump at the office Monday-Friday, so the only thing I was carrying was the day to day necessities. All of that changes if you’re traveling, but that’s a post for another day!

This post includes affiliate links for your convenience to my must-haves for your pumping bag. These are tried and true (or on my wishlist) – clicking the link affects you in no way, but I might make a few cents if you make a purchase.

Must-haves for your perfect pumping bag, when you return to work! Via

Your pumping bag essentials:

1. Pump & accessories // one of the most popular breast pumps is the Medela Pump in Style Advanced, but the Medela Freestyle and the Spectra S1 also have great reviews. I had good success with the Medela PISA so I didn’t have the need to switch. Pro tip: contact your insurance to see if your plan covers a pump. Many plans do, and it’s a huge cost savings. I personally used Aeroflow and had amazing experience with them. I submitted a quick online form around 32 weeks then had a response within a few days. They shipped the pump and accessories to me really quickly, and they also sent me additional supplies every few months because apparently my insurance plan covered it. (#notsponsored)

2. Pump bag or large tote – I used a large fashionable tote bag, which was a far cry better than the conspicuous looking “pump totes” that Medela offers. It fit my pump, extra bottles, regular purse stuff, and laptop. Then I just carried a small lunch cooler for the pump parts and milk storage. Next time I’m going to invest in an all-in-one pump bag…I’ve got my eye on these gorgeous bags on Amazon, especially the Sarah Wells pump bags:

3. Hand-pump or silicone pump // these are both great options to keep with you. If you forget your power cord (I did on my first day!), or there’s a power outage, you can easily either hand-pump or use a silicone pump. Some ladies have just as good of success as their manual pump, but I found them best to relieve some pressure or hand-pump in the car. I have used the Ameda hand pumpand also really liked my silicone pump

4. Cover // depending on how exposed you feel in your pumping location, you might feel better to wear a cover like one of these:

5. Lanolin cream // it takes a little while to desensitize yourself to nursing and the same is true for pumping. Lanolin cream was my favorite, and I’ve also heard good things about coconut oil. Fun fact: I kept a mini tube of Lansinoh lanolin cream in my purse for the first few months!

6. Sharpie // I preferred to pump into the same two bottles all day, and pour milk directly into milk storage bags. You might already have a permanent marker at your desk, but if not, grab one and stick it in your pump bag for labeling.

7. Hand sanitizer // either wash your hands or use some hand sanitizer before you start pumping. No need to spread germs unnecessarily with your baby!

8. Breast pads // I used both cloth (reusable) pads and disposable ones. My preference was the disposable option because I didn’t really find a discreet cloth option (read: they were pretty obviously seen through my shirt if wearing a thin bra…no bueno). I tried Medela, Nuk, and Lansinoh brands, but my favorite by far were the Lansinoh. They never leaked and tapered around the edges so it was discreet. I wore these almost the entire time I breastfed, until Little M weaned from daytime feedings, so I stopped pumping.

9. Work.Pump.Repeat. by Jessica Shortall // I read this handy guide from front to back during my maternity leave and gleaned SO many great tips.  I cannot recommend it enough.  Buy the ebook version and read during your long nursing sessions.  You’ll be glad that you did!

10. Picture of baby // You probably won’t have a shortage of baby pictures and videos on your phone, but it really helps to have a picture – both with your letdown and pumping results, but also just helps to make you feel better.

11. Car power adapter // If you will be using your electric pump in the car, you’ll need a power adapter that plugs into your cigarette lighter.  This is a great option for traveling moms, but can also be a good way to boost supply.  In addition to your regular pumping sessions, try squeezing in an extra session on your morning and evening commutes (even if just 10-15 minutes!)

12. Hands-free bra // I typically adapted my nursing bra or used the LactaMed Simplicity Hands Free Pumping Bra.  Depending on your setup, you might choose to work while pumping, read a book, or browse the interwebs.  Either way, you’re going to want to be hands-free.

13. Cooler bag // if you get a tote or pumping bag with built-in storage, this isn’t necessary.  However, if you do a regular tote or purse, then you’ll probably also want a cooler bag to transport milk in and store during the day

14.  Storage bottles // you’ll use these to collect the milk.  Some of my coworkers used a mason jar during the day to fill up, or a couple of large bottles. Alternatively, I would pump into two bottles that I directly pour into milk bags when done.  My favorite bags are the Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags and the up & up™ Milk Storage Bags

15. Bag for pump parts // I kept my pump parts refrigerated during the day in a wet dry bag or plastic baggy.  These wet dry bags are great with two pockets and easy to clean – just toss in the washer, then dryer no problem.  I bought two bags so I didn’t do laundry every night. I’ve used them also for pool days or when traveling.

16. Freezer packs // keep an ice pack or bag of ice in your cooler bag with your pump parts, and there’s no need to use the fridge!  I always just kept my cooler bag under my desk during the day, and it was fine until I got home

17. Water // stay hydrated during the day by keeping a reusable water bottle or tumbler at your desk

18. Snacks // high protein, healthy snacks are required!  You will likely eat like a horse, especially at first.

19. Wet wipes // use these to wipe your desk area, or for clean up purposes in the event of a spill (yes, you will cry over spilled milk)

20. Burp cloth // I kept a burp cloth handy in my desk to protect my lap from any spills, drips, or splatters.  Breast milk has a kind of fatty base, and leaves a slight stain like a grease stain until you wash it.  This is a bad combo when you’re wearing gray!

Other posts you might enjoy:

My top 5 tips for pumping at work

Returning to work after maternity leave


There you have it – my 20 must-haves for your pumping bag!  This will look different for every nursing mom, but go make your list right now, and start reading Work. Pump. Repeat.  Being prepared will really help fight your frazzled nerves when it’s time to head back to work.  Good luck mama!


11 thoughts on “Must-haves for your pumping bag when you return to work

  1. These are great tips! I am sharing for my friend who is getting ready to go back to work after maternity leave.
    Being a stay at home mom, I’ve not had to pump. So many good points in here that I would have never thought about.

    1. I absolutely agree! I laughed at the idea of a hands-free bra in my pre-pumping days, but I would’ve went crazy if I couldn’t be handsfree.

  2. Great list! Most of these are what I kept in my bag too. Luckily for me my old job had a mother’s room with lockers to keep my stuff in and a fridge with a freezer.

  3. Very detailed, I admit I often avoided pumping simply because I never took the time to get organized. Great post for pumping mama’s!

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