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The Best Gear for Pumping at Work
February 12, 2024

The Best Gear for Pumping at Work

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The Best Gear for Pumping at Work.
The Best Gear for Pumping at Work

Heading back to work if you’re breastfeeding or pumping feels daunting for many new parents. Pumping at work can be challenging, especially when you’re also trying to adjust to work life post-baby and all that comes with it.

Being prepared with the right gear can make pumping at work a lot easier. You’ll be able to pump more efficiently, stay organized and stay on track for however long you decide to express milk for your little one.

Milk Storage and On the Go

One of the first things you’ll need if you’re planning to pump at work is a cool place to store your milk during your commute and, if you don’t have access to a refrigerator, a spot to keep it cold after you pump. Most breast pump brands make a corresponding container and cooler and kit, which is an option, but we think there’s a better way: the Ceres Chill.

Think of this innovative breast milk storage system like your favorite water bottle. It’s a large, double-walled stainless steel bottle that can keep up to 24 ounces of milk cool for over 20 hours. It’s a lot easier than carrying around (and remembering to pack) bottles, lids, ice packs and a cooler bag, and it’s a lot more useful, too. It’s travel-friendly, dishwasher safe and has multiple uses. You can pump directly into it, either with the included adapter if it works with your pump or with a separate one, and it works as a bottle warmer when you’re not using it to store milk. You can even use it as a hot or cool water bottle when you’re done nursing.

If you prefer to go the cooler route, ditch the standard one and opt for a PackIt bag instead. This collapsible cooler bag doesn’t require any separate ice or gel packs; instead, they’re built right into the walls of the cooler itself. Simply pop the entire thing into the freezer for about 12 hours, toss it into your bag and you’re good to go.

This model is designed to hold four five-ounce bottles or two larger bottles. If you find you need more space, PackIt makes larger bags, too.

Next up: breast milk storage bags. They’re a critical part of the pumping process as they’re responsible for holding the liquid gold you’ve put so much effort into expressing. The bags you choose should be sturdy and leakproof—and these Lansinoh bags check both of those boxes. They feature a double zipper to prevent leakage and reinforced double-sealed seams for extra protection. Remember to always freeze breast milk bags flat for compact storage.

If plastic isn’t your thing, silicone bags are an eco-friendly alternative for storing your pumped breast milk. These reusable bags each hold up to six ounces of milk and are leakproof , freezer-safe and BPA free. They can be washed with a bottle brush, in boiling water or in the dishwasher. You can also repurpose them for food storage once you’re done pumping.

Get ready to build those arm muscles, because as a pumping parent you’ll be hauling a lot more to and from work than you did pre-baby. A good backpack can help.

While you can use a regular diaper backpack or tote, bags that are designed specifically for carrying a breast pump and all the accessories that go along with it will make your schlep a lot easier. This is one of the trendier breast pump backpacks around and one of the most smartly designed. It’s packed with pockets, zippered compartments, a padded area for a laptop and a roomy lower compartment designed to hold a large breast pump (or shoes, clothing or whatever else you need to carry if you’re planning to use the bag after you’re done nursing). The interior and exterior are water resistant and wipeable, another plus.

If a tote is more your style, Sarah Wells makes some of the best. All Sarah Wells breast pump bags are designed for pumping parents, by pumping parents, with lots of input and feedback from the pumping community. This tote features a classic look and all-in-one functionality. We especially love the thermally lined pockets that keep milk cool for up to six hours (with the addition of an ice pack), the easy-to-clean nylon material and the leather straps.

A great way to store your pumping parts and keep them separate from the rest of your stuff is with a wet/dry bag. (A Ziplock also does the trick if you prefer a disposable option.) This one features a waterproof lining that keeps liquids from seeping out. It wipes clean easily but is also machine washable when it’s time for a more thorough cleaning. Once you’re done using it for pumping, these bags are great for storing things like dirty diapers and wet clothes or bathing suits. It’s also recyclable! Once it’s at the end of it’s life, cut off the zipper and strap and throw it in your recycling bin.

Juggling work, parenting and pumping is a lot, and many parents look to simplify things whenever and however they can. These bottle connectors allow you to pump, store and feed without having to transfer your milk, ever—which means less stuff to pack and less stuff to wash at the end of a long day. These are designed to work specifically with Spectra pumps, but most breast pump brands make similar adapters or connectors. (You can go with a generic version, too.)

Find yourself a little thirstier than usual? Staying hydrated while nursing or pumping is important, so be sure you leave room in your bag for a water bottle. This stainless steel Hydro Flask comes in 24, 32 and 40-ounce options and keeps beverages cold for up to 24 hours and warm for up to 12. The straw lid is leakproof so you won’t have to worry about spillage.

Cleaning

As activities go, we’re sorry to report that dealing with cleaning your pump parts at work is fairly low on our list of things we enjoy. But it’s an important step to ensure everything stays clean and mildew-free, so the right accessories are crucial.

Dapple is a plant-based cleaner designed especially for cleaning baby gear. It does a fantastic job of removing the hard-to-tackle residue that breast milk can leave behind on bottles and pump parts.

In case you can’t wash your parts with soap and water, having a pack of cleaning wipes in your pump bag comes in handy. These remove breast milk and water residue in a pinch and are made with natural ingredients like grapefruit essence and baking soda. They’re also thicker and bigger than most other pump parts cleaning wipes so you won’t go through a ton after each pumping session.

One more addition to your supply list: a portable bottle brush and drying rack. Since pump parts should be fully air-dried after cleaning, you’ll want a dedicated space with good air circulation.

This set has special ridges and prongs to help keep your parts elevated for a faster dry time. It comes with a full-size brush and folds compactly so it’s easy to store either at work, if that’s an option, or in your bag.

Although not a must-have, we recommend throwing a few of these microwave sterilizer bags in with your pumping supplies just in case. They’re a quick way to sterilize bottles, pump parts and anything else you think may need a quick clean while you’re at work—and you don’t need anything other than a microwave. This set includes six bags that can be used up to 30 times each.

Pumping Bras, Pumping-Friendly Clothing and Accessories

There are a few bra options for pumping at work: a pumping bra/tank or a nursing bra. If you choose the latter (or prefer a regular, non-nursing bra), a hands-free pumping bra like this one is essential, and the Simple Wishes is the best.

This pumping bra can be worn right over any type of bra; just fold down the flaps of your nursing bra (or pull down the straps if you’re in a regular bra) and slip it right over everything then zip it into place. It’s tight enough to keep everything securely in place but isn’t uncomfortable to wear while you pump, and it leaves your hands free to do whatever else needs doing while you express milk. The adjustable back fits different body types and the bra is machine washable for easy cleaning.

A hybrid nursing and pumping bra is another option for pumping at work. Bodily’s Do Anything bra, aptly named, really does do it all. Simply slip your flanges through the slits on each side of the bra for pumping, or clip down the flaps for nursing. The Do Anything is a lot less bulky than most nursing and pumping bras and is made from soft, silky material that’s comfortable and looks good under clothing. The v-neck design means the bra is easily wearable with almost any top and the strap sliders up front (rather than in the back like many other bras) make for fast, convenient adjustments.

If you need a nursing and pumping bra with a bit more support, Kindred Bravely’s Sublime Hands Free Pumping Bra is a favorite. It’s bulkier than the Do Anything bra but definitely is more supportive.

If tank-style bras are more your thing, there’s an option for that, too. (And it’s a really awesome option.) The Larken is unlike any other pumping bra on the market. There are no wires, elastics, clasps or tight straps. Instead, it slips on like a racerback-style sports bra and has two layers of soft material in front that crisscross to hold your flanges in place in an oh-so-cool way. (There’s a how-to video to help.) The bra is comfortable enough for all-day and even overnight wear and can easily be pulled down for nursing, too.

Some pumpers prefer the look and feel of a supportive tank rather than a bra. This one from Storq is a bit of a splurge, but we love the versatility (most nursing tanks don’t let you nurse and pump, but this one does both) and the super soft modal jersey fabric. The slim fit also means you can wear it under another shirt.

While not all nursing parents like or need nursing pads, some do, and these reusable pads top our best-of list. The thin, contoured shape keeps them discrete—not always the case with all nursing pads. The outer layer is made from an anti-slip material to keep the pads in place. They’re also super absorbent and fast-drying thanks to a unique wicking material.

If you’re going to invest in one piece of nursing- and pumping-friendly clothing, a jumpsuit is the way to go. This one from Hatch Collection is a classic. The buttons make pumping a breeze; pair it with a pumping bra and you won’t even have to take down the sleeves to express milk. You can also dress it up or down, wear it to work or through the weekend.

And speaking of freezing cold offices… Even if your workplace has a dedicated pumping room, it can still feel uncomfortable to sit in an office setting with your top off. Toss this nursing cover in your pumping bag and use it whenever you need a little extra privacy. The best part? The knitted material is stylish enough to make it a part of your everyday outfit.

Pumping Accessories

A manual pump takes time and effort, so most pumpers don’t make it their first choice. But what if your pump is out of battery and you forgot your charging cord at home? Or if your wearable suddenly stops working out of the blue? Or if you forgot your flanges? Keeping a manual pump on hand is key for those just-in-case moments.

This popular pick from Medela is compact, efficient and easy to use. You can store it in your car, desk, locker or bag so you always have access to it if you need to pump on the go, don’t have access to an electrical outlet or don’t have time for your usual pumping route and have only a few minutes to spare. We like that this one comes with a bottle stand to prevent spills and features an easy-to-grip handle.

Lactation consultants recommend using traditional flanges for the majority of your pumping sessions. That’s because they do the best job at fully emptying your breasts and protecting your milk supply. But if you’re only pumping once or twice a day at work, or if milk output isn’t your number one priority, you may want to give collection cups a try. Many pumpers find them more comfortable than flanges and easier to wrangle.

With breast shields made from food-grade silicone (as opposed to hard plastic), these cups are compact, portable and hands-free. They’re compatible with most major brands of breast pumps and each collection cup can hold up to eight ounces of milk.

Repetitive pumping can at times get uncomfortable. Your nipples can also go through periods of pain or discomfort if your little one’s latch is off, they’re in a biting phase (always fun), your period is returning and your breasts are sore or for lots of other reasons. Stashing some nipple cream in your bag is always a good idea. Earth Mama’s is our all-time favorite for soothing relief. It’s organic, so you don’t have to wash it off before you pump, and it’s not sticky at all, unlike many other nipple creams.

More milk in less time? Sign us up. Featuring heat paired with vibration, pumpers rave about these rechargeable lactation massagers that aim to help improve milk flow and encourage letdowns. They can be especially useful if you’re pumping in a, let’s say, less than cozy environment like a workplace. They slip easily into your bra and feature two heat modes and can be used with or without vibration. They’re also useful for relieving pain from engorgement or treating a plugged duct.

And last but definitely not least—cookies! These bite-sized treats are packed with ingredients that may support breast milk supply like oats, flax seed and brewer’s yeast. Will they increase your supply of breast milk? Maybe, maybe not. Should we use this moment as an opportunity to eat cookies regardless? Yes!


Jen LaBracio

Senior Gear Editor

Jen LaBracio is Babylist’s Senior Gear Editor, a role that perfectly combines her love of all things baby gear with her love of (obsessive) research. When she’s not testing out a new high chair or pushing the latest stroller model around her neighborhood, she likes to run, spin, listen to podcasts, read and spend time at the beach. In her past life, she worked for over a decade in children’s publishing. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and their two boys, Will and Ben.


Briana Engelbrecht

Assistant Editor

Briana Engelbrecht is Babylist’s Assistant Editor, where she brings her passion for early childhood development and the perinatal period, plus experience as a mom of two to Babylist articles and guides. A former preschool teacher, she loves children’s picture books, cats, plants and making things.

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