The Working Mom’s Survival Kit

Being a new parent is an amazing, completely life-changing experience.  Those first few weeks with your baby are some of the hardest and most rewarding of your life.  You’re exhausted, sleep-deprived, filled with a mixture of love, anxiety, happiness, the desire for a few hours to yourself.

You start to get the hang of things as the first month rolls around.  You’re growing more confident with each day.  But right as you and your baby are developing a great routine, the prospect of going back to work sneaks up on you.  Is it really 2 weeks away?  You start to freak out.

That was me.  I never actually intended to go back to work after my first, but I got an offer for a promotion right as I was going on maternity leave.  It was the job I really wanted.  Had I not gotten the offer, I’d have stayed home with Dylan – but as much as I wanted to be with him every second of the day, I didn’t want to leave the career I built so early.

So I did it, I accepted the promotion and got to work preparing to go back to work.


Since we weren’t planning on both working, the hubs and I hadn’t done any daycare/nanny research.  This was step one.  We looked at 5 facilities in the area near my office and while some were high-tech with apps and photo updates by the hour (Bright Horizons), we opted for a daycare with a more old-school approach because they really seemed to care about Dylan’s development.  The other facilities would have been fine, too, but they seemed like they were more like babysitting operations.

Working Mom Gear

For Feeding

I breastfed Dylan and because of his crazy appetite, had to do some supplementation with formula.  The formula feeds also helped me stock up on breast milk ahead of daycare.  Here’s the basic system I planned for and stick to today:

At Work

You schedule 3 times per day, around when you’d normally feed your baby, to step into a private place in your workplace to pump.  This can be hard to achieve in practice but it’s really important to set expectations and boundaries right away with your bosses and colleagues.

Then you store the milk in bottles either in a cooler (my preference, for privacy) or in a refrigerator.  You bring them home and transfer to freezable milk bags (unless you’re planning to use the milk the next day – then you’d just use the fridge).  I like to keep a couple days’ stash in case of emergencies.

At Home

The night before work, I take what I need from the freezer (take the oldest first) and put it in the fridge to thaw overnight.  I run the dishwasher to clean all the bottles from the night before.  In the morning, I’ll prep the 4 bottles (4-5oz each), take the ice packs from the freezer and pack my bag.  Clean, empty pump bottles also get packed.

Here was my shopping list:

  • 1 primary breast pump, travel friendly with a tote or storage.  Bonus if it’s not terrible-looking
  • 1 secondary pump to keep at work (to avoid lugging it around all over – more of a convenience thing)
  • 2 coolers with ice pack – 1 for pumping at work and 1 to store the day’s milk at daycare
  • Stock of milk bags
  • bottles for pumping (smaller) and feeding (larger)
  • 1 backpack with some extra supplies
  • 1 baby shusher for screaming car rides

Breast Pumps – Medela Pump in Style

Medela Pump in Style
The Medela Pump in Style – great reviews, and came with the cooler and build into a tote so it doesn’t *look* like a breast pump bag. nice.


Milk Bags – Medela

Medela Milk Bags
Medela milk bags – did the trick, nothing fancy here

You don’t have to stick with the same brand here, but I just bought a bunch when I got the pump.

Note: This article is a work in progress, so I’ll be back to update with more soon!

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