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.
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?
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
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
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.