No, really… it sucks.
In my opinion, pumping was the absolute worst part of breastfeeding. For me and so many other working women, it is a necessary evil if one intends to continue breastfeeding after postpartum leave runs out. Women pump for a whole range of reasons. Yet, regardless of the why we all feel the drudgery of it’s call.
It is just ONE. MORE. THING. to do when you are so bone tired you sometimes forget your own name. Pumping during the postpartum period feels like a relentless cycle of feeding, pumping, feeding, pumping, washing pump parts, feeding and pumping some more. We dread it and guilt ourselves as if hating pumping was synonymous with with hating our babies.
We have all had those moments of resenting pumping down to our core.
Like that time when your baby FINALLY falls asleep in the crib and all you want to do is flop on your bed and drift away into unconsciecness. You close your eyes, you feel your body start to relax for the first time in what seems like a year, and you think “this is going to be soooooo good,” when your eyes spring open in a jolt of memory. YOU FORGOT TO PUMP. You contemplate the idea of skipping pumping (just this time) until the mommy guilt starts hissing in your ear just loud enough to erase all traces of sleep. So you heave your weary ass out of bed and go pump AGAIN.
Then you are back to work after what seems like the fastest 3 months of your life and you are pumping throughout your workday. You know you are supposed to be pumping every 3-4 hours but you are so behind at work and it feels like slacking to take a “pump break.” So you ultimately pump less than you should and then spend the whole ride home flagellating yourself because now you don’t have enough milk to leave your baby tomorrow. That mommy guilt again starts with its hot breath in your ear, “You should have pumped more. You should have been able to do it all. Maybe your not cut out for all this motherhood jazz? Maybe your not cut out for your job either?”
Then it is 11:30 pm and you baby is finally asleep (not in your arms) and you are standing at the sink washing your pump parts thinking FML I am so done with this. Does this sound familiar?
The worst part about pumping is that it feels like an obligation. Breastfeeding can be hard. It can take work. But ultimately it is a labor of love we do for our children and even a little bit for ourselves. Because when breastfeeding is good… It is SO GOOD. Those quiet times while feeding when your kiss your babe’s hand as they fiddling your nose and they rewarded with the purest unadulterated smile. It is enough to make your heart explode with love and you think, “This is so worth it.
Whatever the reason you are pumping, whether it be low supply, to supplement your baby, feeding multiples, going to work, clogged ducts, or you are exclusively pumping (God bless you… you are a special rare kind of human), it is done out of obligation. No one looks at their pump with a sense of love and longing. We do it because we love our babies and we want to breastfeed and the pumping becomes a means to an end. This is why it is so essential we make pumping as productive and painless as possible. Anything you can do to cut the PIA (pain in the ass) factor feels like a major win at the end of the day
This post is part of a series of posts covering all the ins and outs of pumping. I go deep in depth on techniques to help maximize your pumping output along with pumping tips to make it just a little less loathsome. Today, I want to talk about packing your pumping bag. What should be in your bag, what features you want your bag to have, and how having a well packed and functional bag makes pumping just a little less painful.
Women who work are the ones who mainly find themselves looking for a highly functional (and yes it would be nice if it were fashionably) pump bag. Pump on the go is a day in day out reality and for all the reason’s I just listed, it needs to be a streamlined well oil machine to help you meet your pumping goals during a busy work day.
There is nothing worse that breaking away for a pump break and realizing your forgot to repack the tiny little diaphragm that pops on the collection head valve after washing your gear the night before. Or when you pull the flange off and don’t realize there is residual milk in there and it spills all over your nice business attire. Ugh, super professional right? Or how about those of you who pack a stellar pump back but it looks like you are packing for a 3 week vacation in the carribean every time you come into work.
Some pump brands have bags you can opt to pay extra for when getting your pump covered by insurance. The bag is not free. You want the goods, you have to pay for it. There are three major pump brands so lets review each of their bags to discuss their high and low points.
Medela makes four different bag styles and they are all functional but utilitarian. Three are over the shoulder style bags and one is a backpack style. They all include a cooler with ice pack probably my favorite Medela bag feature).
I loved having a cooler with ice pack perfectly sized for the collection bottles that I could use to discreetly store breastmilk in the company fridge. Beyond the cooler, they are really just bags without any bells and whistles with a slot for the pump to fit in. Not many bells and whistles and no real attempt to be stylish.
A major problem I have with the Medela Tote is that the pump is actually VELCROED in the bag and is not meant to come out. When you pump you have to move the whole bag around to move your pump. It is cumbersome and kinda of a pain if your pumping accommodations are not plush. The pump can come out, but it is not easily done.
This bag is Medela’s attempt at style but the bag leaves a lot to be desired. It is too small to fit much beyond your pump and collection kit. In fact most reviews state the buyers have a hard time zipping the bag even with just the basics in there. It also is just an open bag inside. There is no pouch or casing for the pump so everything is rolling around free in the bag. Again really just a glorified bag they are calling a “pump bag” with no special features to set it apart.
Ameda has three bag options and they are pretty similar to Medela. The basic bag is the Carry All Tote. It is cheap and boasts no features. Reviews say it is hard to even get your pump, collection kit and cooler all in the bag. There upgraded bags are an over the shoulder tote and a backpack style bag. Both are very similar to the medela versions. They are meant to fit your pump, collection kit, and cooler and not much else. Not many pockets and no extra perks.
As with everything Spectra is doing, they stand a head above the rest. They actually try to be functional and stylish and do a decent job. Instead of trying to make their own bag, they partnered with Sarah Wells to offer their Lizzie bag in conjunction with the Spectra pump. When offered with insurance, there are two pattern options.
The bag comes with a cooler and a wet dry bag. The Lizzie bag is a nice over the shoulder bag. But remember, insurance is paying for your pump… not your bag and accessories. This bag kit retails for close to $150. The interior of the bag doesn’t have many pockets or features but there are two thermally lined pouches on either side of the bag made for milk and pump storage. The main problem many users are experiencing is that there is no structure to this bag and the side pouches. If your bag is full of stuff, it is a real hassle to get things in the side pouches because the contents of your bag are weighing them down.
My biggest complaint as a user of these bags was that they were really only made to carry my pump and it’s gear… and not much else. I found myself hauling my pump bag, my personal bag, and my lunch in to work everyday. I would trudge in like a pack mule with three bags hanging off my body. It gets old, real fast.
Then I tried to squeeze ESSENTIALS (like my keys and wallet) in the pump bag so I could ditch my personal bag. Inevitably, I would forget to transfer my wallet back to my personal bag when I was not at work. There was even a day I took my two toddlers to Chick-fil-A (30 minutes away for us country bumpkins) and realized my wallet was still in my pump bag! I about cried… and my kids did cry… when I had to embarrassedly ask the teller to cancel my order because I forgot my wallet. My point is, it sucks to have to carry multiple bags for different purposes.
My other major complaint for most of these bags is the lack of storage to even stock your pump bag with necessaries for pumping. A well stocked pump back is elemental to successful pumping at work. There is more to pumping than sticking a flange on your boob and pressing go. Having the right gear can make a world of difference for an already taxing and stressful scenario.
I’m so glad you asked! I made this handy dandy check list to help you stock your pump bag with every thing you need to make pumping at work a success. You can get a copy of this printable list along with some other pumping related handouts I created HERE.
First off, I like to carry a spare set of pump parts in my bag. You never know when one of those tiny white diaphragm pieces is going to break or go mysteriously missing. More than one time I forgot a piece in my dishwasher and did not realize it until I was at work. If you have a spare set that lives in your bag, your butt is covered.
Some people like the second set so they don’t have to wash the collection kit between pump sessions ORRRRRR you can get sanitizing wipes that are made to wipe down pump parts between pump sessions. Another option is microwavable sterilizing packs. Some moms prefer to bring dawn soap so they can rinse and dry their pump parts between sessions. If you are that kind of woman, get a water proof roll up mat to allow your parts to dry on.
Another option many women are embracing is putting their collection kit in a ziplock bag and placing it in the fridge between pump session. The fridge prevents bacteria growth during the day and then the pump parts can be thoroughly cleaned at the end of the work day. This is not considered “best practice” but is deem reasonably safe if you have a healthy term infant.
Another piece of pump equipment that comes in handy is the battery pack many of these pumps come with. If you find yourself in a pumping situation where an outlet is not handy, it is nice to be able to still pump. Don’t forget the batteries!
PUMP SESSION GEAR
Lets talk about the gear you need for the actual pump session. As we know, having a routine helps with oxytocin release and milk let down. You need to make pumping a little relaxing ritual in your work day. I understand this is not always possible but if you do this right, you can cut down your pump time while getting the most milk possible so you can get back to work.
Many women away from their babies all day enjoy making their pump time about their baby. Looking at pictures or videos of your babe helps get your milk to drop and can be a balm if your are missing your baby during the work day. Other women like to listen to relaxing music, a podcast, or scroll their phone to relax. Great! You do you. Do what works. Just remember a phone charger on your checklist.
It is important for breastfeeding moms to eat and hydrate. Pack some snacks and pull out your big old water bottle and use pump time as a reminder to care for yourself during your busy work day.
Heat has been shown to increase the efficacy of milk removal from the breast. Warming dilates the milk ducts allowing for quicker and more efficient removal of milk. One can warm their flanges by heating them in a hot water bath before pumping or you can use warming packs. My favorite brand is Lil’ Buds.
Lil Buds are all natural breast comfort packs that can be heated or cooled for treatment of engorgement, clogged ducts or mastitis. They are also super handy to wear while breastfeeding and pumping because they fit snuggly in your nursing bra. There is a lavender infused option that smells divine and can be part of your relaxation routine.
While your eating your snack, watching baby videos, and using breast massage for greater milk yield, you may feel like you need more hands. Nope, you just need a hands free pumping bra! Bring/Wear one to work and let the bra do some of the work. My favorite brand is Simple Wishes. You can click the Amazon link or go to this blog post for more info!
Don’t forget some nipple balm or pumping lube to help give your nips some TLC. Pumping is rough on your nips. Click here for more Tips for your Nips so you don’t get nipple fatigue (its a real thing… I just made up the cool name).
After you pump, you need to have a storage plan for your milk. Some pump bags come with a handy cooler. If yours doesn’t, buy one! It is so handy to have a cooler that fits nicely in your bag and safely contains your milk. Being able to store your milk in the company fridge in a discreet container is an added bonus. I also recommend bringing a few storage bags. You never know when you are going to have a super producing day and it is the pits to not have a container to store your hard earned milk in.
A wet dry bag is another must. At the end of the day, it is handy to place your damp milky pump parts in a bag and keep your bag clean. It can also be used for any soiled rags, breast pads, or shirts.
Lastly, I like to bring a towel for easy clean up. I have more than once spilled my milk after pumping at work. It is handy to have a rag for clean up. I recommend placing the rag on your lap while pumping to guard against leakage or spills. For this reason, a spare shirt can be a good idea. Walking around work in a milk stained shirt is not fun.
Lastly, bring some Bamboobies nursing pads. It is a good way to prevent leak through pre and post pumping. Work is busy and we don’t always get to pump on schedule. Some women will leak milk if they get off schedule pumping. Bamboobies do an awesome job containing the mess without being obvious through your shirt.
Working and pumping is never easy, but with the right tools it becomes manageable. In my opinion, the key to pumping success is all about making the process more efficient to help you produce more milk with less inconvenience. Having the RIGHT pump bag is the final piece of the puzzle.
As many of you know, I am an affiliate for Idaho Jones. This is not a decision I made lightly. I choose to represent this bag because I really love their product. Let me tell you why.
First off, their bags are really cute. I was given the Gallavant Diaper bag to review and it looks very similar to the Chertsey Breast Pump Bag. I am complimented almost daily by other moms on my “cute diaper bag.” Fashion isn’t everything BUT it doesn’t hurt when your pump bag is also stylish.
Fortunately, the bag has a lot more to offer than just good looks. The bag has tons of FUNCTIONAL and WELL THOUGHT OUT storage options. It clearly was created by a mom who saw a need in the market and decided to fill it. You can watch their video below for a good look at all the features this bag has to offer.
What I love is that this bag can function as a pump bag AND a personal bag for work. There is an insulated side pocket that fits all portable and some hospital grade (including symphony) breast pumps. There is enough space to house your breastmilk cooler. The bag is very well structured and does not collapse in on itself the way the Sara Wells bag does. This allows for ample storage in the main bag compartment without compromising the side pouch.
In the main compartment there is a second flap that is made to store a laptop. Perfect for a working mom on the go. There are numerous exterior pockets for your wallet, cell phone, etc. One of the pockets is velvet lined. I really like that pouch as my sunglasses and cell phone pocket because it keeps my valuable safe from scratches and makes them easily accessible.
The bag is both a carry bag and a backpack. I love that it looks like a stylish bag but it has a backpack function so when I load it to the max I am not breaking my arm.
The Idaho Jones Chertsey bag is an elegant combination of style and function for the working pumping mom. It simplifies life by giving you enough useful storage to streamline your bag situation and make it possible for you to get all your personal and pumping gear in one bag. HOUZZA! The $85 price tag is the cherry on top making it comparable in price to the bags provided by insurance. The only difference is that this bag will actually make your life easier.
Because I am an affiliate for Idaho Jones and you are oh so special to me for reading my ramblings here at Born and Fed, you are eligible to get a 10% discount by using my link for purchase.
Click THIS LINK and at checkout use the code bornandfed10 to get a 10% discount!
I will get a portion of the proceeds at no extra cost to you and you will get the savings as a special thank you from me and Idaho Jones.
So if you are getting ready to get a breast pump, I want you to first read THIS BLOG POST all about how to get it paid for by your insurance or WIC and then I want you to spend you money wisely and opt for the Chertsey Bag by Idaho Jones instead of the crumby substitutes offered by the pump brands. Get yourself the right bag, load it with the right gear, and read the whole pumping series I wrote for you and you will be ready to return to work and PUMP LIKE A BOSS.
*Full disclosure- I am an affiliate for Idaho Jones and was compensated for this honest review of the bag with gifted product. I earn a commission at not extra cost to you for any sales made through these links. Thank you for your support.!*