Whoever said breastfeeding is the most convenient way to feed a baby obviously never pumped. It’s true, if your baby is with you and breastfeeding is well-established, there’s no faster way to feed your child. But, if you need to leave your baby for longer than a few hours and intend to breastfeed exclusively, you have to pump.
It’s a pretty simple process once you get the hang of it. After thousands of pump sessions, I’ve learned the key to success is preparing for the worst: Power outages, forgotten pump pieces and early let down are just a few contingencies to consider. Then there are all those invisible microbes to combat.
If, like me, you’re the only lactating woman in your workplace, I suggest stocking your pump bag for Armageddon.
If you’re fortunate enough to work for a company with a lactation room, you’re a step ahead of everyone else. You have a place to pump and, if your company is big enough to warrant a designated lactation room, you may have coworkers to help out in a pinch if you forget disposable storage bags.
But if, like me, you’re the only lactating woman in your workplace, I suggest stocking your pump bag for Armageddon. Keeping these essentials on hand can help prevent pumping mishaps and keep everything as clean as possible in the office petri dish:
1. Bra pads
Even if you never had an issue with premature letdown before you returned to work, do you really want to risk it during your first team meeting?
2. Disposable breast milk storage bags for freezing milk
These are also handy if you forget or drop a bottle (which happened more times than I can remember).
3. Masking tape
A cheap yet effective way to label bottles. (It’s also a great way to tape printer paper onto those tiny door windows. Yep, I did that.)
Most daycares require that all human breastmilk be marked with the infant’s name, date it was expressed, and the number of ounces.
If you pump long enough, you will, at some point, do it in an interesting location without the benefit of an electrical plug. I once pumped in a traffic jam on the Capital Beltway, riding shotgun, of course. (Before the haters flood the comment section, I covered up and my hubby was driving. But if you’re ever somewhere and need to pump, go on ahead, cover or not. You do what you got to do.)
6. A towel or washcloth to lay over your lap
This one sounds weird, but trust me, it’s essential. The goal is to catch every drop IN the bottles, but sometimes your body keeps going once the pump stops. Plus, if you happen to knock over the bottle of milk you just expressed—and I REALLY hope this never happens to you—go ahead and cry, and then use the towel to sop up the mess.
7. Cleaning wipes for pump pieces
The alternative is to hand wash the pieces between pump sessions. In most offices, you have two options: the bathroom (um, no) or the shared kitchen. Personally, I found it a little awkward to soap off pieces of plastic that were just on my boobs while my coworkers made coffee. Granted, most of my colleagues had zero idea what I was doing, so after a half dozen awkward questions, I decided it was best to buy wipes.
8. Microwavable sterilizer bags
These are fantastic for when you drop something on the floor—clearly, I’m not the most coordinated person on the planet—and need to zap away germs.
9. An extra set of pump pieces (or two)
They aren’t terribly expensive and if you’re pressed for time, it’s faster to use fresh pieces at each session than clean between (especially if someone else offers to clean them when you get home). As great as the wipes are, I felt the cleanest pump parts were those that had been washed in soap and water and then sanitized—a process that takes WAY too long for a brief pump break. Even if you’re not as OCD as me and never intend to use the other set, they’re good to have if you commute any distance to work. You don’t want to MANUALLY express breast milk because you left a pump piece behind. (Or take your lunch break at 10 a.m. so you can drive home, pump and return with the pieces you need for your afternoon pump session. Yes, I did that too).
10. Quart-sized zipper baggies or reusable baggies to store pump pieces
They keep the pieces clean when they’re clean and prevent milk from getting all over your bag when they’re not.
11. A cooler with a freezer pack
This is necessary to keep milk fresh during your commute home. I kept the freezer pack in the freezer during the day and stored my milk in the cooler, inside a fridge. If you don’t work in an office (or don’t like the idea of storing your milk in the communal fridge), be sure to find a freezer pack that will remain cool during your entire shift as well as your commute home.
RELATED: Exclusively Pumping Moms Exist, Too
It may sound like a lot, but even after buying all of the above and a pump that costs more than a designer handbag, you’re still saving a ton over formula. Happy pumping!