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After Maternity Leave: the Best Gear to Bring

March 7, 2019 2 Comments

A week ago was all about the working moms in my office!

On Tuesday I ran into a mom on her first day back from maternity leave. It’s her second child, but the first time she has left a newborn at home to go back to full-time work.

The next day at work I met a woman who is 39 weeks pregnant with her first and is planning to continue working after maternity leave ends.

And then I also talked daycare with woman at work who is 41, just had her first child in September, and has accrued a ton of sick time that has enabled her to have a very flexible extended maternity leave situation, but now needs to get serious about finding childcare.

It’s fascinating talking to moms in their different stages of working mom-hood because there are similarities we all share because we’re mothers, and there are differences due to our personal circumstances. And I want to learn from all the moms further along than me!

One of the common questions about maternity leave that expecting moms and new moms getting ready to return to work ask is–What do I need?? We’ve had 9 months to prepare the house and car with all the baby gear, but what gear does a mom need when she goes back to work?

What gear do I need to bring to work after maternity leave

        This post contains affiliate links. That means at no extra cost to you, I make a small  commission on products ordered.


The Bag.

It’s not that I’m cheap, I just don’t like to waste money. When my sister had her first baby, she got the Medela pump with the bag and all the extras. It didn’t take long to find out that she wasn’t going to be able to breastfeed. So she hung onto that thing and gave it to me with my first! It was so nice to not have to pay for another thing, but I think there are better options. If I ever need to pump at work again, I’d go for a professional backpack style like this one. It’s a great price and the more hands free, the better!

If you don’t love backpacks for work (I get that), there are several handbag styles as well. This one doesn’t look too diaper bag-like and has great reviews.

The Stuff. 

I bet you didn’t know that there’s a crap ton of stuff you need just to pump. It’s crazy.

  • Breast pads. Luckily, I never had a leaking problem during the day, but so many do. You just don’t know when they’re gonna go. #glamorous right? Make sure you at least buy a small pack to start off! If you buy reusable ones, make sure you’re washing them so they don’t grow mold!
  • Pumping parts wipes. These were actually super awesome to have on hand for cleaning parts. Not everywhere I’ve pumped has had a sink available  and I wasn’t particularly fond of washing them off in the break room sink. These helped a ton!
  • Lanolin. Breastfeeding really hurts at first. Even after you’ve been at it for several weeks, it can still be uncomfortable occasionally, or your baby might bite you. Enter nipple cream. I used Lansinoh lanolin frequently, but I’ve since learned that lanolin can contain pesticides, so I might go a more organic route. I’ve never used this Organic Nipple Butter Cream by Earth Mama before, but I have used and liked other products by them, so I’d try this.
  • Steam sterilizer bags. These are pretty cool and helpful! Apparently you can sterilize your parts in the Instant Pot (who knew?), but you could also throw them in these microwave bags too.
  • Milk storage bags. You definitely need a way to store your milk! Bags like this take up little space in the fridge when you lay them down flat.
  • Breast pumping bra. Full disclosure: I cut holes in a sports bra and poked the cones through and it worked just great. Cheap or thrifty? Meh, I can be cheap. Sure beats holding those freaking things up the whole time because you don’t have a bra! I’ve forgotten it a few times and it’s the worst!


Insurance plans are required to cover the cost of a breast pump for each pregnancy, but there isn’t a mandated type. They could give you a manual one if they wanted. Contact your insurance company to get a list of the approved pumps you can choose from and they’ll tell you how to order it and when you can get it. I used a Medela Pump in Style (btw pumping is, in fact, not stylish) for both babies and it was good and strong.

I have heard good things about the Freemie hands-free pump. You can wear it underneath clothes, which even in a locked office sounds nice. Can’t tell you how many times I got nervous when someone knocked on my door and I was in my office with my shirt off and the cones out. Freaking pumping.

I also think it’s valuable to have a manual breast pump kept at work for emergencies. I’ve forgotten a part a time or two, which has left me unable to pump at work. It is so uncomfortable I’ve had to hand express into the bathroom sink to get some relief. We were so broke the previous times with my kids that I didn’t buy one, but if I have another kid, this will be on the must-haves list.

What you need to successfully pump at work. #workingmom
So much work!
Pumping at work is worth it!
But it was totally worth it.

Everything Else

So pretty much the pumping gear is the main concern and requires the most, but there are a few other things I think are important to have with you at work after you go back.

Extra shirt.

This is kind of a good idea for everyone, but especially returning moms. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten to work and realized that my kid smeared something on me or spit up on me while I carried her into daycare. You can end maternity leave, but maternity never leaves you (or your clothes)! And I have spilled breast milk on myself, which is sad and leaves a mark. And there’s always the potential of leaking breasts. So yeah, bring an extra shirt or cardigan to throw over the shirt.


You need to eat. That’s extra true if you’re trying to nurse. It’s really easy to forget to eat at work, so make sure you’re bringing nourishing food to keep that supply up. Even if you’re using formula, your body is still likely all out of whack from pregnancy/childbirth hormones, and you need to nourish yourself. My favorite snacks are cottage cheese and fruit, cheese and nuts, trail mix, and rice cakes with peanut butter. You could also bring some pre-made lactation cookies or find a recipe online to make your own–check with your doctor about ingredients before you try any though! And probably throw some chocolate in your purse while you’re at it.


Make sure you bring a water bottle, don’t just rely on a drinking fountain in your office. I don’t love drinking room temperature water, so I like the insulated stainless steel ones. I don’t really care too much if my water bottle is cute, but if you do, I think Iron Flask has really cute colors.

Framed Picture.

You are going to miss that kid, no question there. I find it a lot less distracting to look at framed pictures than to just keep them on my phone. Once I get on that camera roll I can scroll forever through the million pictures of those chubby cheeks. A framed one on the desk is ever present, but less distracting for me.

#workingmom is a great example to kids
And it’s so much fun when they get to visit me at work!

For those who have been in this position before–did I miss anything?

Honestly, each time I came back from maternity leave I realized that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It’s not easy, but it’s also not the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. You can get some broad tips on returning to work from this previous post, use today’s to plan ahead with some of the gear you need for a successful transition back to work, and then you can focus on the time you have with your baby!

Tip: If you have other children, this is a great learning opportunity to learn and grow closer together! You can adapt these suggestions according to their age/development:

  • How your roles in motherhood and work overlap.
  • How your body is feeding the baby. This is such a good time to teach kids about bodies! There are a lot of books that can help you teach about bodies in an age-appropriate way! Try this one for little kids, this one for early elementary school, and this one for elementary school age.


  • Tread Lightly, Retire Early March 8, 2019 at 4:09 am

    We took a trip when the kiddo was fifteen months old and it felt SO GOOD not to bring my pump to work after we got home.

    • Katie March 13, 2019 at 7:16 pm

      Yeah, the first day pump-free was a glorious day!

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