Well, the time has come that you have to leave the house, and you have to bring your pump stuff. Regardless of where you’re going, you typically need to bring the same things most of the time. Whether it’s to work, or out of the house with kids, you’ll be bringing at least the bare minimums!
I will give you my very basic packing list and add in my own personal supplies and a little bit about why I recommend them. I’m not telling you that you need the same things- I’m just showing you what I have and that I love it.
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I am a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist. However, the advice and tips on my pages is not personalized individual medical advice and you should always discuss concerns with your healthcare provider or seek the help of a lactation professional. I do not currently offer consults or counseling, just general information and advice.
For some of the brands mentioned, I have discount codes available. I will put these down at the bottom of the page all in one place! Scroll down if you happen to need them. You can also check my full link page here!
No time to read? Here's a very short list of what you need to have in your bag.
Pump parts like flanges/etc. FULLY ASSEMBLED so you do not forget any
Something to hold those parts in (wet/dry bag)
Something to hold pumped milk in (cooler or chiller bottle)
Something to clean your parts with (brush and rack or wipes)
Extras like charging cords, massagers, lubricant etc.
Packing your pump bag
First and foremost you’ll need a proper bag. You can use something like a grocery bag or a tote bag if you really want to, but having proper padding around your pump could save its life. Bigger is often better because he would be surprised how quickly things accumulate that you need to bring with you when you go out. It truly boils down to personal preference but in my case I think that a single bigger bag fitting more things is better than two smaller bags fitting the same things. It's important to keep your pump safe, especially if it's your only one.
I have quite a few bags, if you know me you know that I have entirely too many pump bags, diaper bags, and a handful of weekender bags. I have a list of breast pump bags by budget here, and my personal favorites here.
As of recently, my two personal favorite pump bags are the Fiona backpack by Sarah Wells (neoprene) and the Ren Organizer by Mimi and Pal (vegan leather).
When I originally wrote this post, my favorite was the Norah by Sarah Wells, which has a wire frame opening (this is pictured at the top of this post!). I also loved the Lizzy which is a tote, not a backpack.
I have some videos looking over those two bags on my instagram, the Lizzy here and the Norah here. You can always reach out to me for more questions and “does ___ fit?” kind of stuff. I’m happy to test if it’s something that I’ve got!
Typically if I go somewhere where I have to pump I also bring my three children, and there is no "one bag to rule them all" for me. I need to have a separate diaper bag and pump bag, I cannot possibly shove it all into one
Your bag choice really comes down to budget, what style you like and how much stuff you have, and I’m not gonna tell you what you need- because you probably already know what you need.
Once you’ve gotten your bag situation figured out, keep in mind that you will need to put a smaller bag inside with your parts, and some type of milk storage system. Whether that be a chiller bottle or a cooler bag.
When shopping for your pump bag try to envision what fits inside if you want to keep it all in there. It helps to see capacity beforehand in reviews and videos, which is exactly why I make videos showing that for all of the bags I’ve collected! It’s hard to imagine things without testing it out, you may assume something fits but then come to realize it doesn’t.
The next thing to think about is your flange set up and what you’re going to keep it in. For a long time I used Ziploc gallon bags which was annoyingly wasteful. I truly didn’t think I needed to buy a special bag, but I ended up getting a wet dry bag which I found to be a lot nicer and even more durable. The one that I have is the Sarah Wells Pumparoo (video here) which has a snap on and off staging mat for assembling and disassembling your parts. You can find other wet/dry bags around, I’ve tested and made videos on a cheap Amazon brand here, Motif here, and Idaho Jones here. Sarah Wells is still my favorite because of the material and hardware quality, and the way it folds up perfectly compared to some other brands that seem to.. Have trouble.
A tip to keep in mind by the way, when you’re packing everything make sure that it’s fully assembled. You don’t want to get where you’re going and not have your duck bills because you left them on the counter! I always put my flanges together with the bottles, duckbills, and backflow protectors. At the same time that I’m doing that, I make sure to get the tubing into the bag as well.
So after you have figured out your pump bag and your parts bag, you’ll want to consider where you’re going to keep the pumped milk. Some bags have a built-in insulated area but it’s typically not as safe/long lasting temperature controlled as an actual cooler itself or a chiller bottle.
This one is up to personal preference. A Ceres Chill can fit up to 24 ounces of milk inside and keep it cold for over 20 hours and has become a very popular option lately. I have one and I much prefer it over the idea of something that requires battery/electricity to keep the milk cold- I freeze my inner chamber ⅔-¾ of the way full with water and it works well. Do NOT freeze the entire chamber solid, it will expand and break or bulge out. The manual says do not do this.
Tip: If you’ve put 7 ounces of milk or less into the larger chamber, close the lid and flip the bottle so that the milk touches the cold inner chamber. Otherwise it won’t cool as quickly! I have an ultra violet and a plum colored chiller, and they're both gorgeous.
Update summer/fall 2023: Ceres Chill released a smaller version called the Demigoddess, which holds up to 16 ounces of milk and is a smaller bottle that fits into cupholders and some bags a bit better than the full sized chiller. PS, flip your full sized chiller upside down to fit in your cupholder!
Quick tip on FLYING with ceres chill - due to the pressure changes with flying on an airplane, open and close your chiller periodically during the flight! Otherwise it may get completely stuck shut. If you have an issue with this, reach out to their customer service team! I didn't know this was a thing until my friend took hers on a plane and it was completely sealed and unable to be opened.
A cooler bag may not hold the same temperature quite as long as 20 hours, and you have to keep in mind the size of the cooler for the storage bottles that you use. For example, my Sarah Wells Cold Gold does not fit a Junobie milk box inside so that is something to keep in mind if that’s a brand you use, or something tall like the big dr brown’s bottles. It’s always best to find the dimensions of a cooler and compare it to that of your storage bottles! The cooler is still great because it fits quite a few storage bottles in it, and a large ice pack. It also doubles as an excellent lunch box that matches your pump bag (if you’re into that!). I have a video on that Cold Gold here!
After you’ve got the bag, parts storage, and milk storage figured out, the next thing to consider is how you’re going to clean those parts if you need to do it while you’re away. If you’re only going to pump once before going home to wash, I wouldn’t worry about it. But pumping multiple times I would get those parts ready to rock again after the first session.
Some workplaces have a sink available, so you would want to bring a travel brush, something to lay parts on (even a towel) and soap if that’s the route you’re going to go. I have one of these small travel racks that I brought to use in the hospital when I had my third baby and it worked GREAT. Ceres chill also makes a portable wash basin bag that's really popular. You do not want to wash your parts in a dirty sink, so grab some kind of portable basin if you can, or wash one at a time in your hand as a last resort.
More often, pump wipes are used no more than one to two times before washing the parts but are a great water free option if you’re not around the sink. I have tried Dapple and Medela and they both work well. Medela seems to be a bit more 'sudsy' and the parts are required to sit 10 minutes before you can use them after wiping, but the dapple wipes do not say that which I find a little interesting. I prefer Dapple, but I have a ton of Medela to use.
Whatever you pick, make sure it’s in the bag before you go! It’s never a great idea to say “screw it” and pump with dirty old parts.
A note: a lot of moms use the “fridge hack”- which is storing used parts in the fridge or cooler for the next use(s) for up to 12 hours, sometimes more. I personally have done this in the past, but it presents a risk for bacteria growth and the CDC advises against it, so I will never put in writing that's my recommendation. It’s up to you and whatever you’re comfortable with!
Some moms will do the "fridge hack on the go" with a cooler and ice pack. I personally do not do this, and it's up to your own discretion.
You may want to add any extras that you may or may not have such as pump lube spray, massagers, snacks, your keys, your wallet, whatever you keep with you. My picks for “extras” are nipple butter, spare milk bags, and as far as snacks.. I eat anything I can get my hands on. I’m starving 24/7. Don't forget something to drink and chapstick too!
Some pump bags even have the room for a laptop- but I personally do not mix liquids and electronics where I don’t have to so I would not do that myself. All of the bags that I recommended have a laptop pocket. I would also only keep mine in a structured bag rather than one that’s more “floppy”- so of all of my options I would only trust my Norah and still be super nervous.
Anything electronic that you have with you- you need to remember the chargers if you’re going to be long enough where the battery might die. This includes your pump itself, even if you think you’ve got enough battery! You never know. Your other things like massagers, perhaps you use one of those electric cooling cups, you’ll need the charger for that as well. If it has a battery, bring the cord. Fun fact, pump batteries will still deplete even if you don't use it. So if you have fully charged a pump and then put it into storage, the battery will still die. Don't grab a pump from storage and toss it into the bag without checking that it's got some battery to it!
If you have your baby with you and you exclusively pump, you will need to remember the nipple portion of the bottle, I almost forgot that once and it would’ve been a very tough day.
Something that I like to do while I’m packing is assemble everything and then triple check that I’ve got it all. There’s nothing worse than getting where you’re going and all of a sudden you don’t have any tubing or duckbills and you have to go to target and PRAY they’ve got something that works for your pump, or turn around and go home.
Other things to remember are if you’re someone who doesn’t wear your pumping bra 24/7 you’ll need to pack that as well. It might be worth it to keep a couple of plastic milk bags tucked in a pocket somewhere in case for some reason you forgot a lid to a storage bottle. I’ve stuffed a few bags here and there in my bag when I go out, just in case!
Some other things that are very popular to bring in pump bags are hydrating beverages such as electrolyte drinks, and lactation snacks such as cookies.
As I say everywhere else, I would like to add a little bit saying that those do not work wonders for everybody but only for some people and on top of adequate milk removal, nutrition and hydration. But they sure are good! The extra calories and lactogenic ingredients in these items are what really can make a difference.
My favorite non-water 'hydrating beverages' are either Bodyarmor Lyte, or Liquid IV (our Costco switches up the flavors often but yuzu pineapple and strawberry have been my very favorites!) My favorite “special lactation snacks” are usually things like protein bars or nuts, and lactation cookies with ingredients like brewers yeast, oats, chia or flaxseed, etc. Every time I bake cookies (or muffins, or brownies) I find myself adding oats and flaxseed just because! I feel a lot better about eating them when they've got a little extra 'nutritional value' to them.
To sum it all up in one pretty graphic-
Discount codes for brands mentioned: Sarah Wells Bags - TEACHINGMOTHERHOOD15
Mimiandpal - TEACHINGMOTHERHOOD
Ceres Chill - TEACHINGMOTHERHOOD
Check out some of my related posts for more info on milk supply and exclusive pumping!
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