Pumping In Public (How to Pump in Public?)

Everything You Need to Know About Pumping In Public

When I went back to work, I knew it was going to be tough at first.

I had a really good thing going in regards to nursing my son. And, I also got comfortable with pumping.

I knew I planned on expressing my milk during my work day, so everything fell right into place.

But one thing I wasn’t necessarily planned for was pumping in public.

When in the comfort of my own home and secluded office at work, pumping was easy and also convenient.

But, before I knew it, I found myself venturing farther and farther away from my home, for longer durations of time.

I remember having a fun girl’s night out one evening, and will never forget the pain I started to feel as I filled up.

I knew the day would come when I’d need to pump away from home, but was I really ready?

I pretty much had no choice!

So, pumping in public it was.

But, there are definitely some things I should have considered prior to actually doing it.

If pumping in public is new to you (and slightly scary), you’re not alone.

All first time nursing moms struggle with this concept from time to time.

Read on to learn everything there is to know about doing it, and gain some helpful tips and suggestions to make sure it goes smoothly!

A Couple of Things to Consider

Much like other moms, I obviously prefer to pump at home rather than pumping in public.

In fact, I’ve delayed it a bit by a half hour or so, a time or two.

But, there are times when you just can’t wait!

How to Choose the Best Breast Pump

When you're pumping in public, you're going to need a great pump. Check out our guide to choosing the best one for your needs.

If you hit massive traffic, if a meeting runs late, or if you’re far away from home, sometimes you just need that release.

Plus, keep in mind that if you regularly neglect your scheduled pumping time, your milk production could suffer, affecting your overall supply.

And, you certainly wouldn’t want that.

So, with that being said, I always kept a spare, manual breast pump in my purse (but a car works too).

They don’t take up a lot of room, are easy to use, and they run on battery power.

But, if you’re planning on being away from home, you should obviously be using your preferred pump (and for most moms, that’s a hands-free electronic version).

Knowing Your Rights

Many moms are afraid to pump in public. Some moms are bashful, while others think it’s downright not allowed.

But, the answer about pumping in public isn’t exactly clear.

While nearly 49 states have granted moms the right to breastfeed in public, there’s not much literature out there about pumping in public.

While some argue the two actions are synonymous, there’s actually no specific language outlined in regards to pumping in public spaces.

Each state has specific legal language, so it’s not a bad idea to see what your state has to say about it.

If you can’t find anything about pumping in public, it may be wise to adhere to keeping your nipples fully covered so you don’t teeter on any indecent exposure acts.

In my opinion, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

So, most moms generally find a space that grants them privacy in some form—a gazebo, a restroom, a car, or even behind a tree, all which provide some sort of shield.

Some moms even utilize a nursing cover to make sure they gain some privacy when pumping on the go, allowing them to do so more freely.

Pumping on the Go

Once you master the art of finding a private spot, you can pump away.

Your next priority when pumping on the go is making sure you have on-the-go accessories that allow you to keep your milk safe and transport it with ease.

If I know I’m pumping away from home, I never leave home without:

  • Extra batteries
  • Carrying case
  • Cooler bag with ice packs
  • Pump wipes (for cleaning purposes)
  • A manual pump (back up only)
  • Nursing Pads
  • Nursing Cover

If I’m going to be away from home for an extended period of time, I generally also bring a/an:

  • Car power converter
  • Extra pumping bra
  • Spare batteries

4 Steps for Pump Preparedness

1. Use a Good Pumping Bra

The first thing you want to do to prepare to pump in public is to make sure you’re wearing your pumping bra.

Most moms use a hands-free electric pumping system, so a pumping bra is the most efficient undergarment to wear underneath your clothes.

But, if you don’t feel like wearing one all day, or you find yourself in an impromptu pump situation, your nursing cover will suffice!

2. Set Up a Nursing Station

Next, I used to set up a nursing station the night before I’d leave for work (or wherever else I was going if it was for a longer duration).

I’d set out my pump, it’s accessories, and travel bag.

I’d leave a note to not forget the ice packs in the freezer, and to make sure I had clean containers ready to go.

All of these items would sit next to my purse. And, on some very exhausting weeks, I’d even place my keys literally in the travel bag so I was sure I wouldn’t forget anything!

Yes, this seems like a lot of planning and preparation (and it was), but it was certainly worth it in the long run.

I always felt confident and prepared when I had to pump in public.

3. Where to Pump?

Next, you want to consider your pumping place.

Will it have outlets?

If not, make sure your batteries are charged up and ready to go (also bring a spare set).

I also invested in a car adapter so I never really found myself in a pinch if my device started to power down.

4. Getting Your Parts Together

Finally, you’ll want to make sure all of your pumping parts are connected to your bottles and storage containers and place them inside of a baggie for sterilization purposes.

This way, all you’ll have to do is put your pump parts onto the breast pump itself (takes less than a second) and you’re good to go.

Additional Pumping Tips

In addition to the basics, here are some more helpful tips when it comes to pumping in public:

  • Dress the part. Loose fitting shirts are always helpful, as are button down blouses. Actual nursing shirts or dresses are preferable, since they already have discreet, easy access cut outs/access. Regular dresses can be a bit tricky, as can jumpers or turtlenecks. So, it’s best to avoid difficult and pesky outfits.
  • Consider utilizing milk bags. Once your milk is expressed, you have to decide what you want it to be stored in. Milk bags were designed specifically for direct pumping, so they’re compact, easy to use, and leakproof. Just never try to transfer milk from a bottle to a bag (or vice versa) while you’re on the go to avoid waste and a mess.
  • Once you have access to a fridge, use it! Cold packs are great and they keep milk fresh and cold for awhile, but it’s always a better idea to place milk right in the fridge as soon as one becomes available.
  • Don’t skip a cleaning. It’s tempting to skip a cleaning session, but it literally takes a minute to wipe down your pumping equipment—especially if you plan on pumping multiple times when away from home. Invest in some wipes and pay attention to the details of the device when cleaning.
  • Consider setting up a nursing drawer. This was very helpful to me when I went back to work. At work, you don't want your colleagues to view or touch your breast pump and equipment. So, clear out a drawer in your desk, so you have a safe space for all of your stuff. Every accessory and spare item that you need can be housed there, which also keeps you sane for organization purposes.
  • Stock up on nursing pads. If your pumping bra has holes in the nipples without an encloser on top, and you plan on wearing the bra throughout the day for ease of access, then just make sure you have an ample supply of nursing pads to cover up the holes. This will ensure you avoid embarrassment and you protect your clothing since breast milk can stain.
  • Pre-set your pump. Figure out how often you plan on pumping throughout the day and switch to an efficient setting on your breast pump so it’s all set up and read to go.
  • Keep nipple cream in your purse. You’ll never know when you’ll feel tender or irritated. So, to make pumping a pain free experience, keep the cream near by.
  • Ask for a pumping room. By law, your employer has to provide an area for you to pump. If you share an office or space, and you don’t feel comfortable pumping even with a nursing cover on in front of colleagues, a lockable space can and should be freed up for your pumping sessions.

Forgot Your Cover?

A friend of mine once forgot her nursing cover and she frantically called me and asked for some instant advice.

So, we put our heads together and surveyed available “resources.”

It turns out that if you forget your nursing cover, a large scarf makes a pretty great shield, as do baby blankets.

Just tie their ends together to make a sling of sorts, and assemble it around your neck and shoulders.

Heck, even a long roll of paper towels will do the trick!

So, if you forget your cover, don’t panic, just get creative (and resourceful).

Wrapping Up

Pumping in public happens!

While it may not be ideal for you, there is always a way, place, and method to get the job done.

You’ll not only physically feel relieved, but you’ll be happy to keep up the routine and will appreciate your steady milk supply.

While it may seem like a lot of planning and preparation, keep in mind that you won’t be doing this forever.

So, pump discreetly, comfortably, and effectively by following the tips and tricks above!


Hi there, I'm Kate! I started Maternity Glow to be a place for new and expecting moms to come to for practical pregnancy advice, parenting tips, and baby care tricks.

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