Useful Pumping Paraphernalia for the Working Mama – A Comprehensive List

As a first time mama, one of the major stressors was figuring out breastfeeding, figuring out pumping, and going back to work while pumping. Pumping = hours of effort = not too much fun. It took many several months of trial, error, and experimentation to get my pumping setup optimized for me. I could have gone with everything that was out of the box but I kept tweaking and optimizing until everything was streamlined as much as possible! So now here’s my list of useful things to make pumping suck maybe a little less.

1. Optimizing the pump parts.

I use a Baby Buddha pump (link) which is awesome (full review on that later). But the pump parts it came with were not awesome. They were large, bulky, and had wayy too many parts to wash each time. Here’s what I use instead.

The Kiinde system is amazing. Basically I don’t use bottles and never have to wash them and neither does my husband, who otherwise does all the dishes and would be stuck washing bottles too. The pouches screw into the pumping collection system, and you can store/freeze/feed directly out of them. The nipples are easy to put onto the pouches and never leak. The bags are not too much more expensive than regular milk storage bags which I would have had to buy anyways. The bags are recyclable which assuages my guilt about using single-use products. I just got the starter set which includes a million adapters to use with all different kinds of pumps, as well as a useful milk storage shelf organizer thing (seriously, it is useful when you have lots of bags in the refrigerator) and a useful milk warmer thingie which is a hot water bath for the milk pouches.
I spent a long time trying to figure out the right size pumping flange for me, because of what i thought were my abnormally small nipples. I bought a million different kinds of flanges from different manufacturers. Finally I settled on these Pumpin Pals flanges.
I like that they came in a set of 3 so I could try them all out and figure out which one was best. I also like that because of the way they are shaped, they are “forgiving” in size – i.e. a range of sizes will be comfortable for a variety of nipple sizes. Also, they are comfortable. And, I discovered through this set that even though silicone flanges sounds awesome in theory, in practice hard plastic turned out to be more comfortable for me.
The pumping flanges fit into these collector bits – I just went with universally commonly used Medela PersonalFit for this. Then the Kiinde adapter twists into the bottom collection part and the Kiinde pouch twists into the adapter.
It turns out I really disliked the native Medela valves though – they are difficult to get on and off, and the membranes are flimsy, and I hate that it’s two different pieces. These valves from nenesupply are much better.
They’re easy to get on and off, they provide strong suction, they’re all one piece, they don’t take up a lot of room.
Now, with this setup, I only have a few parts to wash for each side – the flange, the collector part, the kiinde adapter, and the valve (I don’t always take off the valve for each rinse during the day, so it really feels more like 3 pieces).
Depending on if your pump is a closed system or not (mine is), you might need a backflow protector. This is a barrier between the milk collection part and the tubing/pump which has a flexible silicone diaphragm which moves back and forth which transmits the suction power. These long-stem backflow protectors are nice and plug right into the Medela collector.
Finally, another flange/collection option is the Freemie cup collection set.
I only just started using these, and the nice thing is that you can tuck them into your bra for more discreet pumping. I plan to use these when I have to pump in more semi-public places (like, say, on an airplane for my upcoming trip). They are surprisingly easy to use and comfortable. I just transfer the milk to the Kiinde pouches afterwards. The BabyBuddha tubing can plug in directly to the cups after pulling off the white connector piece at the end. Depending on your pump set up, you might need to use the closed system version which can be gotten directly from their website (link), which is what I use.

2. Useful stuff for the office: pumping bras, cover-ups, and a sign  

A hands-free pumping bra is super important so that you can double-pump without having to hold the above apparatus manually to your boobs with both hands. You can then type/work, or just scroll Facebook and Instagram to pass the time. I’ve tried a bunch of different solutions for the pumping. My favorite hands-free pumping bras is the Simple Wishes D-Lite.  

  I like that it’s one-size fits most, and it’s very comfortable and sturdy. Its adjustable nature means you can get it to hold the flanges as tight up against the boobs as you want (I like ’em tight, as I find that gets me the best output). The zipper makes it easy to get on and off. Since it’s one long strip, I can get it on without taking my arms out of my shirt sleeves. It washes up well in the machine. I bought two so that I could always have a clean one on hand.   I flirted with a few other options, including the Rumina Pump n Nurse tanks and bras.  

  Theoretically, you could wear this type of bra (or similarly-built tank) all day long, thus eliminating the need to have an extra pumping bra like the Simple Wishes on hand. However, I found the bra to be bulky under my clothes and not super comfortable to wear all day. Also, I pump before going to bed while wearing my pjs, and I’m not typically wearing a bra then usually. To use this I’d then have to take off my shirt, pull this bra over my head, then put on my shirt again (maybe) and pump. It just wasn’t very practical. The fit wasn’t as adjustable either, and somehow I was always leaking milk every time I took off the flanges. Also, the many layers kept getting in the way and I would find that I’d often start pumping and frustratingly couldn’t get suction because some layer of the bra had gotten caught under the edge of the flange. No bueno.   This pumping nursing bra by Momcozy was a better option for all-day wear which also accommodates pumping.  

  The Momcozy bra is definitely comfortable enough to wear all day, and easy to use. The downside is that it doesn’t hold the flanges as tight as my Simple Wishes Bra.   I also like these nursing/pumping/maternity tanks from Nom Maternity (link). They are comfortable enough for all day wear, easy to use for pumping, and wash up well. I wear them at work under some drapey nursing tops and I can pump easily with minimal disturbance to my wardrobe. The only downside is, again, they don’t hold the flanges as tight to my boobs as the Simple Wishes.   Sometimes I have to pump in semi-public places, like the women’s locker room. In those cases, I sometimes feel better having a cover on. This type of nursing cover from Bebe au Lait is my favorite.  

  I like these because the top contains a flexible part which automatically tents the cover open away from your chest. That way you can look down easily and adjust your pump parts (or your baby) with both hands, without the cover flopping down and obstructing your view. It doesn’t prevent the whole cover from folding down small either. The corners of the cover are also lined with terry, which is a bonus for mopping up little droplets of milk that are inevitable with taking the flanges off.   My office building does not have a dedicated lactation space, which is ridiculous for a large two-story clinic building. Instead I have to make do by occupying random unused spaces throughout the day. To prevent people from walking in on me, I like to use this door sign:  

  It’s cute! It’s sturdy! What’s not to like?  

3. Transporting the parts and the milk   I don’t have personal storage space at work (yet) so I bring all my parts to and from to work every day.  

  This is a really nice waterproof pouch that fits all the pump parts. I like that it has a secondary zipper pocket on the outside to keep some other items that you might need to keep together with the pump parts. My pump actually fits in that pocket, so I keep it there along with the tubing and my hands free pump bra for when I don’t feel like wearing a pumping bra or tank all day long (see above). It comes with an attached/detachable “staging mat” which is a small waterproof rectangle that you can put down on a table and then put your pump parts on it while you are assembling the bits. That way you always have a clean surface to “stage” or set up for your pumping session. Genius!   This bag from Itsy Bitty is a good option too.  

  It also has multiple pockets (although no staging mat – when I use this I just use a towel instead). I like that it’s insulated, which mean the bag is slightly padded for extra protection of my pump parts and pump.   There’s no dedicated milk storage fridge (comes along with not having a dedicated lactation space), so unfortunately I have to use the break room fridge for my pumped milk.  

  I like to use this Pack-It cooler bag to keep my daily pumped milk. It is small and therefore portable. It has ice packs built into the side walls of the bag, so I don’t have to bring separate ice packs – I just pop the whole thing into the freezer every night. I will say, if I weren’t keeping this in the fridge all day I wouldn’t use this bag, because it doesn’t stay frozen at room temperature for long. But it works for milk storage for commutes and such.   For times when I know I’ll be out all day with no access to a fridge, I like to bring something a little more heavy duty. After a lot of research, I settled on this soft cooler by Polar Bear.  

  The 6-can size is their smallest size and it’s enough for a day’s worth of milk plus ice packs. The walls are super duper thick and it keeps ice (and milk) cold all day! Like, really cold. This thing feels indestructible.   Inside the Polar Bear Cooler I like to use Techni-Ice.  

  Techni-Ice stays cold forever and keeps my milk cold reliably all day in this cooler. I never have to worry about it. And, the flexible form factor is useful for fitting into any space and wrapping around my milk from all sides.  

4. Random other useful goodies  

I like to have a bag of these Medela quick wipes which can wipe and sterilize my pump parts on the go, just in case I’m in a situation without quick access to a sink.  

Hand sanitizer is also a must to clean the hands before pumping.  

  My pump runs on a USB-rechargeable battery. I like to have an extra portable battery to recharge it during the day just in case it runs down.  

  Anker makes super reliable, well-built, and reasonably price battery packs.  

These little lights from Lactalite have also turned out to be surprisingly incredibly useful. They clip onto the flange and provide some backlighting which makes it SUPER easy to see your milk spray. You can tell easily when your letdown has started and when it has stopped, so you can stop pumping or switch back to letdown mode on the pump to keep going efficiently. They are useful for middle of the night pumpings, of course, but I find them useful during the day too, especially if I’m also wearing a nursing cover which makes the view to the flanges dim often.  

Finally I really like this digital kitchen scale to measure the milk. I can tare it with an empty storage bag and measure exactly how much milk I’m storing. It never needs batteries, and it looks sleek on my kitchen counter.

So this is why I carry so much stuff to work now, and need a work bag that can hold it all! The search for that continues and will be well-documented too.   Hope that helps, pumping mamas!