Monday, May 3, 2010

Nursing Mama Hacks - How To Pack Your Pump Bag

(The issue with the photos being cut off seems to be fixed. Nothing I can do about them being out of focus!)

It's FINALS week! That means just a few more weeks of work and I'm "off" for the SUMMER! Wow, I have schlepped my breast pump with me to work four to five days a week since August. Except the days I forgot it (or parts) and had to call someone in a panic to bring them to me.

This morning while packing my pump bag, it occurred to me that that I have developed a pretty streamlined system. Everything in its place. There was a little bit (or alot) of trial-and-error involved. So I thought I would do a post on how I pack my pump bag - kind of a show-and-tell for any mamas getting ready to schlep their own pump to work every day. For a year.

(OMG, I had NO IDEA how out-of-focus these pictures were until I put them on here. And wow, that pump bag needs a cleaning!)

I got a Pump In Style Advanced as a gift. Actually, I got a much cheaper double electric pump from Wally World as a gift, then I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital where I told it was a piece of c$@p so I returned it. Then when asked what I still needed by a co-worker (who teaches Nursing, and is a veteran breastfeeder and milk donater, so would understand the need for a "high quality" pump) I said a Pump In Style Advanced. And she made it happen.

I have the backpack style. It is the cheapest of the PISA's. And the smallest. So you have to be streamlined to carry your essentials. And extras, since with Mommy Brain you may Forget Something Important.

The bottom of the main part of the bag is formed by the case around the actual pump mechanism. This means there is space on either side of the pump. Space where stuff can fall. And be lost. And sit for months. It's amazing what little crevices the lids and the lid inserts can get into. My solution: that's where I store the small bottles from the freezer kit. (1) It fills up the space so lids and small stuff don't end up falling down there and (2) you're carrying extra bottles with you, so you don't ever have to worry about getting stuck without bottles. I also have slipped a tube of lanolin in there. I don't use lanolin much, but it's there when I have needed it.

In the back of this pocket I keep some of the freezer pouches. Again, that ensures that even if you forget your daily bottles, you have something to pump into. This is also a good place to keep bra pads. I just kept a big box in the bottom of my filing cabinet at work, but keeping some spares here is a good idea.

Caps go in the mesh pouch. I don't normally have this many with me. But they're all clean and I decided to be a showoff. The Evenflo bottles I have come with a two-piece lid. This is good if your little one takes a bottle (mine doesn't) with a standard-size nipple. You can use the collar and insert after you pump, and then the baby can be fed from the same bottle by removing the cap insert and using the collar with a nipple. Since my Wee One never took a bottle, this just means I have to keep up with TWO pieces of a cap instead of just one. But they were cheap.

That stuff all stays in the bag all the time, so no matter what you have backups. Now to pack the bag.

Don't forget the freezer pack. I forget it about a fourth of the time, but I have a fridge in my office so it ends up not being a big deal. I have heard a mama say that she puts her keys in the freezer at night next to the freezer pack so she has to remember it the next morning.

I also pack four bottles. I prefer the big Medela bottles because they hold more than 5 ounces. Today all I have clean are some Evenflo cheap ones I got at Meijer, they hold more than 4 ounces.

The outside of the cooler has a place for a photo of your little one. Take advantage of this. It's amazing what a difference gazing at a photo of your little one does for your letdown. Take a deep breath and smile at your sweetheart. It's a welcome break in your day. Behind the photo I have put a card with my contact information. Some days I leave the pump bag in my office and just carry the cooler home. I tend to carry the cooler with me to my last class of the day, and just in case I were to leave it somewhere, I would want the finder to be able to contact me.

The cooler has a double zipper. When you put the cooler in the pump bag, zip it so it will open on the right. That way you don't have to take it out of the pump bag to get to the bottles or to put the bottles in. Saves a few minutes of time. Also tuck the handle to the back so its not in the way..

ALWAYS put the cooler in right-side up. For a while I was in a hurry and would put it in with the back of the cooler facing downward. Until the day that I didn't have the caps on the bottles tightly enough, and 5 ounces of milk spilled down through the bag and onto the floor in my office. Now I put the cooler flat AND check the caps.

Push the cooler all the way to the left. Now you have space on the right. On the bottom goes a prefold diaper, or burp cloth, or whatever you use to dab off the last few dribbles of milk so they don't drip on your pants and you smell like sour milk the rest of the day. (Not that that's ever happened to me or anything.)

On top of that goes one of these - a hands-free pumping bra. YES, you need one. Two, actually. No, you can't really use them for any other purpose after you wean; No, you probably won't get your money's worth; No, you probably can't sell them online for more than 5 bucks a pop; but YES you need them, and YES you need two.

I only have one. I have been afraid to take it out of the bag and wash it, because I know I won't remember to put it back in the bag. So I've been using it all semester and I just washed it last night. It was pretty gross. Having two means you can alternate - one in the bag and one in the wash.

On top of that will be your breastshields and connectors. Have at least two sets of these also, unless you want to be washing every night. My hospital gave me a kit when I left that had an extra set of shields, connectors, tubing, bottles, and caps. It was awesome. Ask your hospital before you leave what kinds of extras they will give pumping mothers.

I only pump once a day. So I only use mine once, then they are washed at home. If you are pumping more than once a day, you need to clean your shields/connectors between pumping sessions. If you have a pumping room at your work (LUCKY!) then you may have access to a sink where you can have some dish soap and you can wash your parts right after use. Otherwise, Medela makes some disinfecting wipes that you can use to wipe your parts. You will need to do this if you are using them more than once while at work.

If you have a fridge in your office, put your parts in a bag and put them in the fridge. The milk that is on the parts won't spoil in the fridge and you won't have to worry about washing in between use.

The tubing* is coiled up and put in the pocket on the outside, along with a Sharpie for marking dates on freezer pouches. I don't put dates on bottles since they are usually used within a day or two, but if you pump into the small freezer bottles you should date those before freezing. If you pump only one side at a time, coil your tubing separately so you only have to grab one tubing.

There are small pockets on the sides that have Velcro closure. These are good for storing that tiny little envelope of those thin membranes. The membranes are essential for how the pump works (that's how it draws suction) so if you get to work and one has come off in the dishwasher, you're screwed. Keep the extras in your bag. This is a good spot.

The back has a big pocket to keep the instructions with your pump. And apparently, it is a good place to keep loads of crap. I had no idea I had all this crap in this pocket.

There you have it, ladies, the perfect way to pack your pump bag. Well, maybe not perfect. But tried-and-true, that's for sure.

* Another tip I figured out this weekend for cleaning tubing: take a syringe (like you give liquid medicine with) and a bowl of hot, soapy water. Use the syringe to inject the soapy water into the tubing. This will fill up the tubing and ensure that the soap hits the entire length inside the tubing. You can then do the same thing with clear water - although running water from the tap usually rinses it well, it's getting the soapy water in that's usually the challenge. Do NOT pull the ends out of the tubing, you can NOT get them back in. My dad did that day one, and I had to go buy new tubing. They will dry if you hang them from a cabinet doorknob. If not, connect them to your pump and run it for a couple of minutes.



MommieV said...

Testing, testing, 123 ...

Laraf123 said...

Looks like comments are working! I like the blue background--and what a cute photo of your little girl sleeping so peacefully!