How to Choose the Best Bag for your Breast Pump

Article By:
Natalie Hale
Review Editor, BabyGearLab

Last Updated:
Saturday

Working mom desperately needs to downsize her bags into one for work  one for daycare. There is clearly too much going on here.
Working mom desperately needs to downsize her bags into one for work, one for daycare. There is clearly too much going on here.
Most moms do not realize they have options when it comes to different modes for carrying their breast pump. With the popularity and affordability of breast pumps on the rise, we thought this new market for bags was worth exploring, which is why we set out to test seven of the best bags on the market, some designed to carry a breast pump and some not, to help new moms select the bag that would be just right for them.

In 2013 the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released some interesting data about working moms. The labor force participation rate of working mothers of children under the age of 18 was 69.9%. Participation rate of mothers of younger children, specifically infants under a year old, was 57.3%. The popularity of breastfeeding has begun to rise because of its known health and cost saving benefits. Labor laws protecting working moms mandate proper facilities be made available for pumping, along with adequate time to carry out the task, without a strike against the employee. Now that health insurance companies cover the cost of breast pumps, many working moms are choosing to try and continue to express milk for their babies when they return to work.

Why should I consider buying a special bag for my breast pump?


In all honesty, this review was born out of personal frustration with the Medela Pump In Style On the Go Tote. When I purchased my breast pump 18 months ago, there were a few different breast pump bag options on the market, but all of them were out of my price range. I loathed the fact that when I went out the door in the morning I had to carry so much- I felt like a pack animal. Between the baby in his car seat, his full diaper bag (which had to be left at daycare), my purse, the Medela in its bag, and a lunch, I was weighed down. Getting out the door those first few weeks were difficult and I cannot help but imagine how much easier life would have been had I been able to pack everything I needed for myself into one bag- no need to drag both my purse and pump bag with me to off-site meetings. It could all be consolidated into one discreet and professional looking bag, which would have decreased my frustrations each morning.
The not-so-discreet Medela On the Go in use with the electric Medela pump. While this duo was literally made for each other  there is little room for anything else  plus people can spot it from a mile away.
The not-so-discreet Medela On the Go in use with the electric Medela pump. While this duo was literally made for each other, there is little room for anything else, plus people can spot it from a mile away.

I also think having a more discreet and professional looking bag to carry my pump in would have made the transition back to being an employee easier. While the support I received for my efforts to pump was overwhelmingly positive, it would have been nice to not have fellow co-workers (or even strangers for that matter) be able to recognize that the bag I carried contained my breast pump. And this recognition cannot be helped. The plain, black Medela bag is so popular and recognizable that practically anyone who has encountered a breast pump knows what it is simply by the bag. Part of me was so proud of myself for pumping unabashedly until my child turned 7 months, but another part desperately wished I could keep this very private act to myself. If I did not have a good sense of humor I probably would have been more mortified when a stranger saw me walking down the hall and said, "good for you for pumping." While I can appreciate the support, sometimes I just wanted to keep the business of my boobs to myself. I do not think that is too much to ask for on behalf of all working mothers out there.

So how do I know which bag is right for me?


The lineup of bags we tested. From left to right  front to back they are: the Juno Blue Esalen  Medela On the Go Tote  Sarah Wells Maddy  Ness Mamie  OiOi Hobo  Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. Legacy  and the Nurse Purse.
The lineup of bags we tested. From left to right, front to back they are: the Juno Blue Esalen, Medela On the Go Tote, Sarah Wells Maddy, Ness Mamie, OiOi Hobo, Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. Legacy, and the Nurse Purse.
When you head back to work having decided you want to pump, you are going to face the decision of how to carry it. We think there are four obvious options: trying to fit the pump you bought into a current bag you own, use the bag provided by the manufacturer, invest in a designer bag meant specifically for carrying a breast pump, or, try to find a bag of your liking that might be able to suit your needs.

We pulled in four top of the line designer breast pump bags, two diaper bags, and the Medela On the Go Tote to compare just how well they could handle the demands that we think moms, and particularly working professionals, will force them to face. We selected 5 categories for comparison: ease of use, quality, weight/bulk, features and style. We think these five areas represent the key elements of what moms might look for in a bag that will carry their breast pump. We spent several months seeing just how well these bags would measure up. We compared the top scorers from our Best Breast Pump Review, the Medela Pump In Style, Spectra S1 Hospital Grade, and Medela Harmony Manual to see how well they fit in the bags, in addition to a laundry list of items we think moms will likely want/need to carry.

The list of personal items we selected features a wide variety of possible essentials because we wanted moms to know specifically what could fit in the bags. Because these bags are not readily available in stores to see in person, we thought it was important to showcase what a bag might look like and how it performed packed with all of these items.

Here is the list of personal effects we tried to fit in the bags:


-Large set of keys
-Wallet
-Cell phone
-Water bottle
-Snacks
-iPad
-Laptop
-Lipstick
-Eyeglasses case
-Pen
-Hand sanitizer
Here you can see the Ness Mamie with the Spectra S1 Hospital Grade Pump  its accessories  and personal effects we think moms might want to carry. EVERYTHING pictured above was able to fit into the bag and there was still room to spare.
Here you can see the Ness Mamie with the Spectra S1 Hospital Grade Pump, its accessories, and personal effects we think moms might want to carry. EVERYTHING pictured above was able to fit into the bag and there was still room to spare.

There are not many options for bags made specifically with carrying a breast pump in mind, which we see as a neglected area in the handbag market for professional working moms. With the growing number of moms choosing to pump at work, we don't think it will take long before the market for multi-purpose handbags will boom.

You need a bag that is going to work as hard as you are


On average, pumping at work takes between 15-25 minutes a session, three times a day. That means you are going to utilize this bag often. It will go with you just about everywhere. You cannot afford for it to fall apart prematurely or look bad because of the heavy use. We found it is worth spending extra money to buy a larger, higher quality bag to accommodate your personal needs and style.

A balance between weight/bulk and size is vital


On the way to work. We were not kidding when we said this bag was huge!
On the way to work. We were not kidding when we said this bag was huge!
We found that just because a bag offers a lot of real estate does not mean it will be useful, and also, higher quality materials will weigh more, but they don't have to weigh you down. After our testing, we felt the sweet spot for width was about 15 inches, depth between 8-10 inches, and height, about 11.5-12 inches. Most of the bags we tested fell within these ranges, which is telling that there is a "right" size for this kind of bag.

So which bag should you buy?


In the end, it is a combination of personal preference, necessity, and budget. For the working professional, we recommend the Juno Blu Esalen. For a less traditional, more casual option that can be used as a diaper bag, go with the Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. Legacy. On a budget and planning to get a Medela electric pump? Go with either the Nurse Purse or Sarah Wells Maddy. Want a fun bag that can carry everything your heart desires and more, and you don't mind lugging around a little extra weight? Go with the Ness Mamie.

Breast milk truly is "liquid gold", and like the precious metal, it is a scarce resource that new moms work hard to provide for their babies. Leaving your baby for an extended period of time while breastfeeding is difficult. Packing a breast pump can be the solution to keeping your supply up and preserving this important resource for your little one. We have already vetted the best pumps available on the market and the bags to carry them in. Now all that's left for you to do is decide which combination will work best for you.

Natalie Hale
About the Author
Natalie Hale is a working mom of one happy little dude, from Salt Lake City, Utah. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and recently completed a Masters of Science degree in Ancient History at The University of Utah. Natalie believes strongly in parental rights and the importance of disseminating factual information to new moms and dads about products on the market geared towards them.

 
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