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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Teaching Motherhood is not a medical professional, and advice on these pages should not be taken in place of proper medical advice. If you have concerns for lactation that require a medical specialist, please reach out to one. The advice of Teaching Motherhood is not credible as a lactation professional at this time. I am not an expert.
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. I use the Pumpables Genie Advanced, which fits beautifully almost anywhere because it's so itty bitty compared to a giant Spectra.
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.
Typically my first choice for a pump bag is the Lizzy by Sarah Wells, with a shoulder strap and carry straps, followed by my second choice Norah who is more structured and has backpack straps. I like the Lizzy because it has a ridiculously large capacity and a shoulder strap.
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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 two children, so I am going to need a diaper bag as well. I have been able to fit everything I needed into the Lizzy but it was tight. I like to split it up between one diaper bag and one pump bag, but I feel like that’s probably not normal and nobody else does that! To each their own. In that case, I’ll use Lizzy as a diaper bag and Norah as a pump bag.
My third runner-up (which a lot of people prefer the minimal/neutral style of) is the maximalist pump bag by Onepumpedmama. This one has vegan leather and comes in 3 neutral tones that tend to go with a lot of things- and fit a more “corporate” lifestyle (a term I’ve heard used.) The Minimalist bag is great if you only have a portable pump but it doesn’t very well fit larger pumps like spectra S1, s2, and gold. You could finagle it down through the top of the bag and then snap the pocket liner around it- but I haven't tried!
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Your bag choice really comes down to 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 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 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.
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! I have an ultra violet and a plum colored chiller, and they're both gorgeous.
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A cooler bag may not hold temperature 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 like 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, 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’ve seen these very popular folding bottle rack/brush sets and I’ll be getting one myself to take a look.
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 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 huge risk for bacteria growth and the CDC advises against it, so I will never direct anyone to do that. It’s up to you and whatever you’re comfortable with!
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 Coboo Spray, Lavie Massagers, and as far as snacks.. I eat anything I can get my hands on. I’m starving 24/7.
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You can use the code TEACHINGMOTHERHOOD for 10% off at Lavie!
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. I think it doesn’t even run without the cord but I’m not certain. You know your own stuff! If it has a battery, bring the cord.
If you have your baby with you 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 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 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! My friend Brittney over at Liquid Gold Goods bakes the BEST cookies I’ve ever eaten. Don’t even get me started on her brownies. Breastfeeding moms deserve ALL the extra yummy calories, no matter the form. Eat the chocolate, mama. I've made a few reels showing off the different flavors, here's my most recent cookie box.
If you wanted to try her sweets- you can use the code TEACHINGMOTHERHOOD for 10% off! I promise you won't regret it.
To sum it all up in one pretty graphic-
Just starting out pumping? Take a look at some of my other resources here:
I can also help you pack your diaper bag, hospital bag (if you've got another on the way!) and even give you tips on where to make a baby registry, what to put on it, and what gift bags you can get for free from them!