Some are obvious. Some, I learned by trial and error.
by Kim Chappell, Milk Drunk Editor
Going back to work after maternity leave is an anxiety ridden moment for any new mom. There is the emotion of leaving your precious little one, the hurdle of childcare, the angst of coming back to a job and feeling a little misplaced. Combine these professional and personal hurdles with the fact that if you’re a breastfeeding mom, you’ll be spending some real quality time in the lactation room at work pumping your day away.
In my personal experience, the mother’s nursing room at work starts out as a nice little break from the grind, but slowly morphs into a burden that interrupts your workflow and becomes less and less rewarding as your milk supply starts to dwindle over time.
To help ease the transition and make the most out of the lactation room and your time pumping breast milk, here are 10 things to have in your bag when you return to work.
An easy access pumping bra
If you’re like me, you don’t want to base your wardrobe off of a button down and elastic-y outfits that are most optimal for pumping. You want to wear your favorite outfits and get out of the clip down nursing bra. This doesn’t have to mean taking off your bra or getting undressed to pump at work. My usual protocol for pumping was to just pull my bra/shirt/dress up over my breasts, use a strapless, elastic pumping bra like this one that gives a really secure fit to your pump parts. Without that tight grip of the pump part to the nipple, you may not extract the same amount of milk. Be sure to readjust the tightness of the velcro on the pumping bra every few days to keep it secure.
Plenty of breast milk storage bags
Just bring a boatload of these because if you try to remember every day or even every week, guaranteed you’ll forget. I found myself in this situation while pouring 9 ounces of freshly pumped breast milk into a to-go soup container from the work kitchen because I had no way of transporting the milk home. I preferred these Twist bags by Kindle because they were more sturdy for transport, store easier in the fridge and freezer, and lead to less spillage when transferring to a bottle, but they are pricier and plastic heavy. Pro tip is to just order a box of your preferred breastmilk storage bags to your office so you don’t have to think about it.
Your own cleaning sponge, dish soap, and labeled ziplock bag
If you work in a large office like I did, the Mother’s lactation room was a heavily trafficked spot. I wanted to know that the sponge being used to clean my pump parts wasn’t being used on the pump parts of other moms. I’m a bit of a germaphobe and this just freaked me out. I bought an extra bottle sponge on Amazon and had it shipped to the office along with a ziplock bag with my name on it for storage. I also brought in a bottle of the Method dish soap I preferred to use to wash my parts 3 times a day and kept it in my storage cubby. This gave me peace of mind that my parts were as sanitary as possible in between pumps.
Labels (for everything)
At one point in my first pumping journey I had the Mother’s room all to myself. It was blissful. If I was running late, it didn’t matter. If I wanted to leave some stuff hanging around, no one would know. But after my second baby, it was a different story. The lactation room was booked solid the entire day. This meant there were about 6 new moms utilizing the space, which is great but also makes it easy to get parts mixed up. I highly recommend writing your name in Sharpie on all of your items or even buying those little dishwasher safe labels to ensure that no one is using your tubes, plastic parts, sponge, bra, you name it.
Don’t forget to leave an extra pair of headphones in the nursing room so you can disconnect with your favorite Spotify list to optimize your letdown or even be hands free for the online meeting (don’t forget to turn off the video before you join!). Dialing in while pumping is not ideal, but will give you a brief high of being a multitasking badass mama.
A small mesh cooler that can fit in your purse
Look, you don’t need a YETI for your milk supply. I suggest a small mesh cooler that can easily fit into your work purse or a tote. Remember, this is something you’re going to have to bring along on your commute every day so keep it lightweight and simple. But you also want to make sure your milk stays cool and is safe from a pen puncturing through it in your work bag.
Drips from the nips are going to happen. It’s just a part of pumping. It’s good to have a few stain remover wipes in your arsenal to do a quick clean up on a silk blouse or shirt so you don’t go to your next meeting with odd stains around your boobs.
Is it just me or does pumping make you super hungry? I love to have some Kind Bars, dried mango, or easy to travel snacks ready to go during pumping sessions. Just try to bring some in on Mondays and leave them there to graze on throughout the week. Also, might be worth labeling those, too! Or better yet, leave some out for the next hungry pumping mama!
Album of favorite photos and videos
It’s always nice to try and connect with your baby digitally whilst pumping. To make it easy I started an album on my phone of all the sweetest newborn videos and pictures to help take me back to those early days and let my mind just leave work and remember those sweet smells and coos of a newborn.
An extra outfit
I hope you are not as clumsy as me. Truly. There was a day when I tripped on an extension cord walking to the sink in the lactation room and spilled several ounces of freshly pumped milk all over myself. I WISH I had brought an emergency back up outfit to change into. I ended up splashing water all over it and dabbing it down with a damp cloth, but I looked like a hot mess walking out of the room. It was a lesson learned- a basic cotton dress on standby could have really saved me!