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The Best Breast Pump Bag

The Juno Blu Esalen comes close to Mary Poppin's bag of tricks. This sleek bag holds a lot while looking good all the time.
By
Tuesday
Most nursing mothers are very familiar with the art of pumping. So, here's a question. What do you do when your breast pump needs to leave the house with you? Let's not kid ourselves; packing a pump and pumping supplies in addition to everything else you need can be a major hassle. In hopes of lightening your load, we've selected seven bags, some specifically designed breast pump bags and some diaper bags, to see just how well they could handle the task of carrying it all. And, for the more discretionary mom, we paid close attention to function and style to see if any of them could easily disguise their purpose.

Analysis and Award Winners


Editors' Choice Award: Juno Blu Esalen


The Juno Blu Esalen.
Editors' Choice Award

Price:  $185.00 List

The top scoring breast pump bag was the Juno Blu Esalen. We were tremendously impressed by all it had to offer and think it represents the best option for moms who desire a quality, stylish and discreet bag to carry their breast pump in. We appreciated details such as the metal feet on the bottom of the bag and the many interior compartments that kept lost items at bay. We found the hidden breast milk storage cooler to be brilliantly clever.

So what is the downside? Price. At the time of review, the Esalen was offered to consumers at $185. But considering the beautiful simplicity of the style of the purse, the options it has to offer in terms of storage and compartments, and the durable materials it is made of, we think the extra price is worth it. This bag could easily transition to a diaper bag and/or purse, thus eliminating the need to purchase either of these items (perhaps even both!). In short, this bag represents a prudent long-term investment that should last far beyond your need to carry around a breast pump.

Read review: Juno Blu Esalen

Best for the Budget Minded


Sarah Wells Maddy


The Sarah Wells Maddy.
Best Value Award

$145.00
List Price
See It

The Sarah Wells Maddy was one of the lightest and easiest to use bags we tested. We think moms will appreciate its simple style and the featured dual-zip pockets on each side which are large enough to fit an electric pump (like the Medela Pump In Style) on one side and a cooler on the other. Its price point is highly competitive landing at $145. The only downside to this feature was that the Spectra S1 could not fit in the side pockets (it is too tall and wide). However, it can fit in the interior compartment. Due to the slightly lower level of quality offered, we think the Maddy represents a good option for moms who do not necessarily want to commit to a really expensive bag and would be fine with retiring it after a year or two of heavy use.

Read review: Sarah Wells Maddy




It's All About Convenience


The Juno Blu Esalen comes close to Mary Poppin's bag of tricks. This sleek bag holds a lot while looking good all the time.
The Juno Blu Esalen comes close to Mary Poppin's bag of tricks. This sleek bag holds a lot while looking good all the time.
In a perfect world, a woman's purse would be like Mary Poppins' bag in the classic Disney film. It would hold anything one might require and remain organized, despite a day's worth of jostling. It would be light enough to carry with one hand, yet tough enough to preserve even the delicate glass of a light bulb. It would always look nice and disguise any possible stains. Heck, it might even have a mini vacuum attachment to make the disposal of leftover Cheerio dust or other messes a breeze!

But let's not kid ourselves; such a bag does not exist (yet). For now, new moms, particularly working ones, need a bag that will work as hard as they do. We think you should be able to fit a pump, its necessary accessories, and the contents of your purse into one bag, all while looking great. Not such a monumental task, right?

In our testing for The Best Breast Pump Review, we found that the pump-carrying purses included with a manufacturer's breast pump purchase left us underwhelmed in both function and style. They offered little in terms of use beyond that of a bag to carry your pump. However, most moms who invest in a pump typically require (and would love) more functionality for use when far from home, particularly when at work. Let's face it, it is difficult to get out the door at 7 AM with an infant strapped into their car seat, their full diaper bag for daycare, your purse and/or briefcase, a breast pump bag, and, if you're lucky, your lunch.

Protecting the Goods


Here you can see the Ness Mamie with the Medela Harmony Manual pump  its accessories including cooler  and personal effects we think moms might want to carry such as ipad  cell phone  wallet  water bottle  lipstick  lotion  wipes  and snacks. Because of the smaller size of the pump we chose to utilize the heavily padded dividers included with the Mamie  which kept the bag nice and organized.
Here you can see the Ness Mamie with the Medela Harmony Manual pump, its accessories including cooler, and personal effects we think moms might want to carry such as ipad, cell phone, wallet, water bottle, lipstick, lotion, wipes, and snacks. Because of the smaller size of the pump we chose to utilize the heavily padded dividers included with the Mamie, which kept the bag nice and organized.
The purchase of a breast pump usually represents a significant monetary investment. You want to preserve this equipment. While it makes sense to stick with a bag made specifically for your pump, we found there are many breast pump and diaper bag options available on the market that can protect this investment plus offer additional benefits like modern style, more room, organizational options, and most importantly, the flexibility to continue to use the bag after you are done pumping.

Working mom desperately needs to downsize her bags into one for work  one for daycare. There is clearly too much going on here.
While the bags we tested were not extremely inexpensive, ranging in price from $79-$180, we still consider this a long-term investment, particularly if you plan to use this bag in place of your purse and/or diaper bag. Considering new moms might only need to carry a pump for the first year of their baby's life, it would make sense to consolidate the content of all three bags into one, thereby saving money. The potential use beyond packing a pump is significant which is why we scoured the market for nice but reasonably-priced bags during our selection process.

Types of Bags We Tested


Surprisingly, there are few bags on the market made specifically to carry a breast pump. (Hint, Hint: Big niche to fill.) Because of this, we tested a few different types of products available to see what might work best. This included one bag made by Medela specifically for their popular Pump in Style Advanced, independent manufacturers who make adaptable bags designed to fit a variety of breast pumps, as well as a few top of the line diaper bags. We spent a significant amount of time using each bag, in an effort to suss-out the potential and the pitfalls of each bag.

Criteria for Evaluation



Ease of Use


We love the hands-free backpack-carrying option the Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. offers.
We love the hands-free backpack-carrying option the Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. offers.
Can we be brutally honest for a moment here? We think most women can relate to the fact that it can often be downright dreadful trying to find a specific item from their purse. Need to find the keys you just dropped in there, literally 5 seconds ago? Gone. What about your phone? Get ready to dig. Because locating such major items within a regular purse can often be difficult, we determined it mission critical that the bags we tested both hold a lot of content and be easy to organize. In fact, we think ease of use is so important that we put the highest percentage of our score into this category, a whopping 35%.

The most important thing we were looking for was just how easy it would be to access the pump and use it. Pumping can take a lot of precious time on its own and the last thing a busy mom needs is to spend extra time looking for something like a power cord. So, the ability to have parts well-organized makes the process of pumping much easier. Because there are so many different options in terms of breast pumps on the market, we tested each bag with BabyGearLab's top three award winners for Best Breast Pump, the Spectra USA S1 Hospital Grade, the Medela Pump In Style Advanced, and the Medela Harmony Manual.
This bag doing what it was meant to do. The side compartment fit the electric Medela pump perfectly and made for an easy set up when it came time to pump. There was even enough space to fit both the tubes and power cord.
This bag doing what it was meant to do. The side compartment fit the electric Medela pump perfectly and made for an easy set up when it came time to pump. There was even enough space to fit both the tubes and power cord.


We also spent a lot of time considering what other items a working mom might need to pack for the day in addition to her pump and its accessories. In our testing, we included:

Juno Blu Esalen in "Black Lizard". We fit most of the gear we take to work in it (seen here)  including a Medela Pump in Style Advance with Cooler bag and pump parts. Mission accomplished!
  • Pump & accessories including cooler bag
  • A large zipper-wallet
  • Keys
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Pen
  • Phone
  • Lipstick
  • Eyeglass case
  • iPad
  • 13" Macbook Air.

We know most moms are not going to pack this much technology, but we think it is important to see what you can and cannot fit into each bag in terms of popular tech.

While most of the bags could hold everything we outlined above, there were three that stood out in terms of ease of use. Our Editors' Choice, the Juno Blu Esalen, was the easiest to use, offering many compartments, hidden cooler packs, and a comfortable carry strap. Close behind was the Sarah Wells Maddy, our Best Value winner, and the Ness Mamie. Of the seven bags we tested, these three could carry the most and do it in an organized and efficient manner.

Quality


Quality cannot be underestimated when it comes to purchasing such an important item, which is why it represents 25% of the total score of each bag we tested. No one wants to spend a significant amount of money on a luxury item only to have it rendered useless shortly thereafter due to poor construction. When it comes to evaluating a purse and how long it can stand the test of time, you want to look at a number of things:
  • Feet: At the base, feet both keep a bag clean and extend its life dramatically. We prefer metal over plastic feet for durability and longevity.
  • Quality of Fabric and Fit: We scrutinized the interior and exterior of these bags.
  • Handles: Quality, Materials, and Attachment to bag were all considered
  • Protective Padding: To keep inner contents intact which could include anything mechanical or electronic such as breast pump, cell phone, ipad, laptop, camera to a glass water bottle.
Base of  Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. Legacy. Even though the metal feet are spread fairly far apart  the sturdy bottom kept the bag from sagging in the middle.
The empty interior of the Maddy. It was fairly easy to wipe clean but crumbs had a tendency to get trapped in the bottom of the bag.
Side view of the shoulder straps on the Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. Legacy.
The Ness Mamie and included removable compartment pieces.

A mother's multi-purpose bag needs to be tough if it is going to withstand daily use from work to kids. Cheap exterior fabrics could leave a bag that sees heavy use looking ragged and unkempt quickly. Interior fabrics also need to be resilient to tearing and offer easy cleaning; no one wants to discover a hole in the lining of their purse, which could allow the escape of loose items into no mans land laying between the bag's lining and the exterior fabric.

Here you can see a comparison of the synthetic outer materials of the bags we tested in contrast to natural leather of a cream-colored purse we had on hand (top left). In clockwise order of appearance they are: the Juno Blu Esalen  the Ness Mamie  the Nurse Purse  the Ju-Ju-Be Legacy  the OiOI Hobo  the Medela On the Go Tote  and the Sarah Wells Maddy.
Here you can see a comparison of the synthetic outer materials of the bags we tested in contrast to natural leather of a cream-colored purse we had on hand (top left). In clockwise order of appearance they are: the Juno Blu Esalen, the Ness Mamie, the Nurse Purse, the Ju-Ju-Be Legacy, the OiOI Hobo, the Medela On the Go Tote, and the Sarah Wells Maddy.
Though synthetic fabrics and materials generally do not give off the air of couture style and quality, we found them in this review to be easy to clean and functional in a utilitarian sense while nice-looking. For example, we were really impressed with how durable (and cute) the Nurse Purse looked. On the other hand, while we really loved the exterior look of the OiOi Hobo, the exterior's silky fabric made us anxious about spills and snags. Our top scoring bags in this category were our Editors' Choice the Juno Blu Esalen as well as the JuJuBe B.F.F. Legacy and the Ness Mamie.

Weight/Bulk


Look at the width on these bags! The Sarah Wells Maddy and Ness Mamie both offer a lot in terms of horizontal real estate  which made it easier to accommodate the round-shaped our Editors' Choice Breast Pump  the Spectra USA S1.
Look at the width on these bags! The Sarah Wells Maddy and Ness Mamie both offer a lot in terms of horizontal real estate, which made it easier to accommodate the round-shaped our Editors' Choice Breast Pump, the Spectra USA S1.
One of the questions we felt was important to address was just how much weight and bulk the bags we tested would add to the rest of our regular load. We were surprised at what a difference there was between each bag. As one would expect, the larger the bag the heavier it was. Interestingly enough, the lightest bags were the Nurse Purse and the Medela On the Go Tote, both of which are made specifically with the Medela Pump In Style Advanced in mind. Both of our award winners, Juno Blu and the Maddy achieved decent scores, despite their larger size. The Ness Mamie was the heaviest and largest of the bags we tested, coming in at twice the weight of the Juno. We found that a balance between the size and weight of the bag to be vital to its actual usefulness. While one might not notice 2.7 additional pounds during a short jaunt, that extra weight wears on you if you have half a mile to walk from your office to the parking lot. We think it is imperative for moms to consider just how willing they are to take on extra weight in order to afford more space, which is why this category represents 20% of the total score.

Features


Base of the Nurse Purse. The sturdy bottom and metal feet kept the middle of the bag from sagging under pressure  a feature we love.
Who doesn't love bells and whistles?! It is one thing to have a bag to just carry your belongings in, but the game is completely changed with the addition of quality features and accessories. We found many of the bags had extremely thoughtful accessories such as key clips, multiple pockets, versatile carrying straps, spots for photos, little bags for pumping supplies, hidden cooler compartments for storing pumped milk, magnetic and zipper closures, easy-clean fabrics, interchangeable compartments, metal feet, pump-specific compartments and more. It was impressive how many clever and helpful features each bag had to offer and it is clear many of the designers were on the same page with regard to certain features (metal feet and easy-clean fabric being the primary ones, key clips coming in a close second). Because features are just that, they do not represent a significant portion of the scoring, only 15%. We do think this area plays a valuable role in narrowing down which bag might be the right one for each individual mama. Not everyone will need two key clips, (as featured in the Oioi Hobo), but we used one for keys and the other for a pacifier case; it made these important and heavily used items a cinch to locate.

Style


The Sarah Wells bag looks good at work and play. We loved its neutral colors- it goes with everything!
The Sarah Wells bag looks good at work and play. We loved its neutral colors- it goes with everything!
This review was partially born out frustration with the Medela On the Go Tote which is included with the very popular Medela Pump in Style Advanced. While useful for carrying a pump, it is small, drab, easily recognizable, and nearly useless beyond the pumping phase of life. We knew there had to be more and perhaps better options out there for moms, and we were determined to find them. We know from experience, that for moms especially, feeling good about how you look can make a big difference in your day, and the way you accessorize is no exception. That's why, in the case of breast pump bags, we don't think moms should have to sacrifice style for functionality.

Just about every woman we encountered during our testing and writing phase of this product review was carrying a purse, and, each purse was as unique as the woman that carried it. Personal style is primarily determined by preference but there are no doubt trends in the handbag market that drive these preferences. When selecting bags to review, we took into account bags that represent the hottest items on the market today- some of these, such as the Juno Blu Esalen and the Sarah Wells Maddy are more appropriate for a mom that works in a professional office; others, such as the Nurse Purse, are more casual. We judged these bags on their overall design structure and stylistic details, which represent 5% of the overall score.

Conclusion


The lineup of bags we tested. From left to right  front to back they are: the Juno Blue Esalen  Medela On the Go Tote  Sarah Wells Maddy  Ness Mamie  OiOi Hobo  Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. Legacy  and the Nurse Purse.
The lineup of bags we tested. From left to right, front to back they are: the Juno Blue Esalen, Medela On the Go Tote, Sarah Wells Maddy, Ness Mamie, OiOi Hobo, Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F. Legacy, and the Nurse Purse.
The kind of breast pump bag you purchase can change depending on what you expect it to do for you. Do you want something that will be true to it's name and carry a breast pump and not break the bank? Or do you want something that will multitask for you, becoming breast pump bag, diaper bag, purse, and beyond? Are you wanting something just for the moment, or are you looking for a long term investment? Whatever it is, we've got you covered with all the details you'd ever want to know about these bags. If you're looking for more info on how to make your decision, take a look at our Buying Advice article.

Lindsay Ellis & Natalie Hale
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