Somebody shared some inspirational quote about how they breastfeed because it’s free and they are broke, and while yes, breast milk is cheaper than formula, it’s “free” in the way that running is free. It’s free, but the right gear makes it so much more possible. So what do you need? I’m going to break this into “must haves” and “nice to haves”.
- A pump. Preferably, two pumps, one for home and one for work. Your insurance should provide you with a double electric breast pump for free. I opted for the Medela Pump in Style. I acquired a secondhand Medela pump from a friend, but I’m not sure how many kids its been used for and the motor is definitely wearing out. If you acquire a secondhand pump, just buy new tubing and flanges. It costs around $20. My understanding is most of the risk of milk back flow and contamination is from people who share a single-user electric pump.
- Bottles. I wish I had known that many of the bottles fit the same flanges – so if you have a Medela pump, it also fits the Ameda bottles and some Evenflo glass bottles and Tommy Tippee makes an adapter for their bottles. I would have gotten more different kinds of bottles instead of the 18 Medela ones we have.
- Freezer bags. The Medela ones are nice because you can pump right into them with the adapter that comes with them, but they are crazy expensive and really annoying to pour out. The Nuk and Lanisoh ones both seem perfectly durable and are way cheaper. The Kiinde system seems like a better deal if you want to pump into bags. I have a starter kit from them coming and will report back.
- Tupperware. You want a big tupperware container that you can keep your pump parts in, because you want to store them in the fridge between pumping sessions. If you refrigerate your pump parts, you don’t need to wash them between pumping sessions. My favorite advantage is that you can use the tupperware container as a wash basin for your pump parts (at the end of the day, I put a little soap in the bin, fill it with hot water, and put the lid on and shake my pump parts, then drain and rinse.) You can actually also use it as a bit of a drying rack for them for the next day.
- Hands-free pumping bra. I have four, two each of two different types. Two are the Simple Wishes D-Lite, which is fantastic and I highly recommend. I just pull my shirt down over my regular bra, unclip the nursing bra, and then put the hands free bra over everything else I’m wearing. It saves a ton of time and makes it really easy to work and get things done while I’m pumping. I also have two bras that work as regular bras and as hands free pumping bras. They are mediocre as both hands free bras and regular bras, but when I’m pumping at court or on the go, it’s much nicer to not have to put on a bra. Motherhood no longer sells the one I have, but I would recommend looking for something like this if you are going to have to pump on the go a lot.
- Full extra set of tubing and flanges. If you have a second pump, it can live with your pump. If you are carrying your pump back and forth, leave the extra tubing and flanges at work and it’s one less thing to carry, or you can bring the dirty ones home and bring clean ones in the next day and wash them at night. My general rule is the less things I can forget, the better.
- Burp cloth. Milk gets messy. You’ll want to spread a burp cloth on your lap when you pull the flanges off, or have it up higher to catch any spillage. If you are particularly concerned about germs, you can also have a burp cloth for your desk.
Nice to have:
- A cooler. This is not strictly necessary if you work in a regular office and have a fridge and don’t mind storing your milk in the fridge. Medela makes an expensive cooler that has an ice pack and perfectly fits four bottles. If you are going to be in a situation where you will not have a fridge, I recommend this setup. (It’s great for court days.) Otherwise, I would say that a plain old lunchbox and ice pack will do, and just keep it in the fridge. Some of my pumping coworkers have commented that our office fridge is “gross” and they won’t store milk in it. Uh, okay? Apparently I’m gross and have low standards for cleanliness, I have zero problem storing my milk in our gross office fridge in my cooler bag.
- Mini fridge – if you have an extra one at home or can pick up a cheap one, having your own fridge when you are pumping is basically the dream.
- Drying rack – I have the Oxo Tot Travel drying rack from a friend, it’s great for work, I just keep it on top of my filing cabinet and dry my pump parts up there.
- Microwave sterilizer. Your pump parts don’t actually have to be sterilized, I recently discovered, but our water at home takes forever to get hot, so I just wash my pump parts with cold water and then run them through the microwave in the sterilizer to sanitize them. You can get a sterilizer for really cheap at a totswap or baby consignment sale or yard sale.
- Bag. The Pump in Style used to come in a tote bag that fit either your cooler or your pump parts, but now you just get a pump and can spend extra $$ on an ugly bag that makes a horrible scratching noise. I recommend a big canvas tote bag that fits bottles, pump parts in your tupperware, and your pump, but maybe one that is super fun. You could actually spring for this one and it doubles as a cooler! Very cool. I spent some time looking for something exactly like this when I found out the Pump in Style no longer came with a bag, and couldn’t find anything, so I think it’s recent.
- Spare membranes, valves, tubing, etc. just in case something breaks. My office is really close to a Target, so I have figured I will just run out in an emergency and get replacement parts. For court, I bring my hand pump as a backup.
- Hand pump. I’m really happy with the Medela Harmony. I had an Ameda one from the hospital and it broke the first time I tried to use it.
- Labels. We use these and write the date on them to keep track.
- Quick Clean cloths – these would be nice to have if you have to pump on the go. I could have used them at court. I don’t own any though, so I can’t speak to them, but my supervisor mentioned she really liked them.
- Car adapter. I drive a Vibe so I actually have a regular outlet in the car, but if you don’t, you will want the car adapter for your pump. Even if you don’t see yourself needing to drive someplace and/or pump in your car, it will happen that you have a meeting or you have to go to a wedding or something else where you need to pump in the car.
- Big sister. If you don’t have one, adopt one. You can complain to her when you need to bitch about pumping, you can ask her for advice, and she will tell you what you do/don’t need and all the tips and tricks.
Also, watching videos and looking at pictures of your baby will help with your supply, supposedly. I haven’t noticed a difference. But those are my gear thoughts, and if you are shopping for somebody for a baby shower, I recommend just buying all the pumping/breastfeeding stuff on their list. It was the thing very few people got for me and fortunately then my sister filled in the gaps later when she realized how short I was of necessary pieces. Everyone wants to buy the baby cute outfits and fun toys. Nobody wants to get you nipple butter or extra flanges.