How do you store breast milk at work?
Continuing to breastfeed after returning to work can be challenging, to put it mildly. Especially if you’re in a fast paced job, a job where no one else has breastfed before you, or a job like nursing or teaching where it’s hard to take breaks.
Not only do you have to modify your schedule to pump at roughly the same times that you would typically nurse your baby, but there’s also the matter of finding a private place to pump and a way to store your breast milk when you’re finished. Not to mention figuring out how to transport breast milk to daycare or determining how long is breast milk good in a cooler bag.
Depending on your work environment, a place to refrigerate your liquid gold isn’t always readily available. Then there’s the comfort level factor, not every professional momma wants her business put out there like that. Believe me when I say I’ve been where you are!
Breast milk coolers are a discrete and practical alternative to the refrigeration dilemma, and I’ve put together a list of the best breast milk coolers for working moms to help you find the one that fits your style and individual needs.
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As you know by now, breastfeeding isn’t always as simple as 1-2-3. It takes work, sometimes tears, and a whole lot of patience. This isn’t uncommon when it comes to learning a new skill. Just like you had to learn how to breastfeed, you’ll also want to start learning what it takes to pump at work. T
Trust me, this isn’t something you want to wait and figure out on your first day back, this is something you want to practice and perfect while you’re still at home. Doing so will save your sanity and your much-needed milk supply!
The best way to learn how to pump at work is by learning from an experienced and certified lactation educator. No, you don’t have to go anywhere or spend a bunch of money either. You can learn the necessary information to pump and work successfully from the comfort of your own home. Use that info along with having a good cooler bag and you’re almost guaranteed to always have a stash of fresh milk at the end of the day!
Take the Ultimate Back to Work Pumping Class that helped me pump and work for over 2 years.
Must haves for your breast milk cooler
Regardless of what breast milk cooler solution you choose to keep your breast milk cold, every breast milk cooler bag should have these basic features:
1. Easy to Clean
Spills and leaks are the facts of life for every nursing mom, so you’ll want to make sure your breastmilk cooler can easily be wiped clean on the inside and, at the very least, leak-resistant. Your time is limited, especially at work and when you get home
It’s best not to choose a cooler for looks alone. Check to make sure that the exterior fabric is wear-and-stain-resistant. Some coolers for breast milk are also machine washable, which is an added plus. Having a shoulder strap can also add to the durability of the cooler.
3. Discrete Design
When I was pumping at work, it wasn’t something I necessarily wanted all of my coworkers to know. If you have similar reservations, a tote-style or briefcase-style cooler might be just right for you.
4. Size of the Bag
Depending on what kind of work you do, there may be times where you find yourself pumping at work over the course of a 12-hour shift. You may even be fortunate enough to be a mom of multiples. Both of these scenarios would require you to have multiple bottles of milk. You’ll want a bag large enough to accommodate your milk bottles and an ice pack.
Don’t forget about your pump parts! Most working moms choose to keep their pump parts refrigerated too because they don’t have time to clean them in between pumping sessions. You want your cooler bag to be able to fit your pump parts too.
There will be an adjustment period once you return to work after maternity leave. There may be a lot of catching up to do plus you’ll have to navigate this new world of pumping at work. You want a breast milk cooler bag that will allow you to do this with ease and not much fuss.
At the end of the day, you want your breast pump cooler bag to simplify pumping at work.
Best Breast Milk Coolers for Working Moms
Best Overall Breast Milk Cooler:
Why I love it: This little gem comes in two sleek designs and is made of sturdy, tear-resistant canvas material. I love that it has an inner strap so that you can hang breastmilk storage bags as well as bottles. The size is perfect for a day at the office or to take to your daycare.
It is leakproof, has a wipeable bottom, and very well insulated. It’s large enough to fit 6 tall bottles, checking off everything on our must-haves for your breast milk cooler bag check list.
Possible Drawbacks: It doesn’t come with an icepack. Definitely not a deal-breaker, though! Tons of icepacks are compatible with this breast milk cooler bag.
Best Breast Pump/Cooler Combo:
Why I love it: If you’re looking for a breast milk cooler bag that can also carry your pump, this stylish tote is for you! The cooler has a wipe-clean, leakproof lining, and the bag itself comes with multiple storage pockets along with enough room to hold your pumping snacks and treats.
If you’re a corporate pumping momma, then you’ll definitely love this cooler bag because it has a dedicated spot for your laptop too!
Possible Drawbacks: Depending on how much you put in the tote, you may have to pull most of it out to get what you need for pumping and storing your milk. This can be solved by purchasing organizing inserts.
Best Breast Milk Cooler with Most Stylish Design:
Why I love it: For all my professional mommas out there who love the combination of beauty and functionality, this cooler bag for breastmilk is a must-have. The performance nylon exterior comes in a variety of lush colors, and the bag itself keeps your breastmilk cold for up to 8 hours.
If traveling is a big part of your job, this bag will be perfect for you. The sleek design makes it easy to maneuver and it won’t take up too much space. A huge plus is that it can even fit in your breast pump bag.
Possible Drawbacks: While not the end of the world, the bag does not come with a shoulder strap, which would make it easier if you’re carrying multiple bags into your workplace. However, you can use the buckle on the handle to strap it to another bag to make transporting it a breeze. If you’re exclusively pumping, you can even buckle it to your diaper bag when you’re out and about with your little one.
Breast Milk Cooler Bag with Best Insulation:
Why I love it: The PackIt breastmilk cooler’s innovative design means that you’ll never have to worry about forgetting an ice pack again. The bag itself is insulated with freezable gel, and the interior has a removable divider to keep bottles and bags secure regardless of number. I can’t tell you how many times I mistakenly left my ice pack at home! A bag like this would have been a lifesaver.
Possible Drawbacks: The fact that the bag is freezable means that you’ll need to add “putting it into the freezer” to your nightly checklist. It’s not that big of a deal but it is one more thing that you’ll need to remember.
Best Breast Milk Cooler with Most Bang for Your Buck:
Why I love it: The value of this breast milk cooler bag is undeniable–you get the bag, a cooler, and four storage bottles for under $20. It’s small enough to stick inside your pumping bag or briefcase, and it keeps milk cold for 8-9 hours.
Possible Drawbacks: For those searching for an eye-catching bag, this is rather plain. For those searching for pure functionality, this hits the mark.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Breast Milk Cooler Bags
1. How long can you keep breast milk in a cooler bag?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can keep your breast milk in a cooler bag for up to 24 hours as long as you are using ice packs to keep the milk cold. If you’re traveling with breast milk, most ice packs for breast milk will keep your milk frozen to slushy for up 24 hours.
If you’re concerned about keeping your milk cold at work, it’s always a good idea to store your breast milk cooler in a refrigerator at work if you can. That way you never have to worry about your milk reaching room temperature. If you have a private place to pump, like your own office, consider using one of these to store breast milk too. Then you can just use your freezer pack to transport the breast milk home.
2. How do you pack breast milk in a cooler bag?
There are several ways to pack breast milk in a cooler bag. The important thing is to always make sure that the milk is in contact with the frozen ice pack. Most of the best cooler bags will be insulated but you still want the milk in contact with the freezer pack.
The other thing to take into consideration is if you’re going to use milk storage bags or breastmilk bottles to store your expressed milk. I used both but preferred using the sealed bags over the bottles as there wasn’t much clean-up involved. If you do use the storage bags I would avoid the lansinoh bags. They don’t work well for freezing and caused me to lose over 24 ounces of precious liquid gold.
On the other hand, I really loved these breast milk storage bags. They didn’t take up the whole bag and they were the perfect size to get me through an 8 hour workday. The best part is that you can pump directly into these bags and the baby can drink directly from them as well.
Keep the bottom of the bag free and clear, place your ice pack in the middle, and surround it with your storage bags or bottles of expressed milk. From here you can use a ziplocked bag to place your personal items like your pump parts and have this next to the milk. This way everything you need to keep cold will do so easily.
3. How do you store breast milk at work?
You can store breast milk inside large bottles in a cooler bag, in the work refrigerator concealed in another bag, or in your own personal cooling device.
Best Breast Milk Cooler Bag
You now know everything you need to know to find the best breast milk cooler bags. As a pumping mom, the right bag is going to be vital to your pumping success.
Use the must-have list to help you narrow down the best choice for you. If you discover a cooler bag we didn’t mention, be sure to come back and tell us all about it!