How to Safely Pump Breast Milk in the Car — Without Spilling

Unsplash | Daniela Cuevas
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At some point during my maternity leave it became obvious that if I wanted some freedom in life, I was going to have to start pumping in the car. Since I didn't know if it was exactly legal to do it, I went online and read from a handful of non-qualified authorities on the subject. They all claimed that as long as your driving wasn't impacted, you were in the clear, legally speaking. Most states prohibit the use of any devices while driving, so it's critical that you do it completely hands-free. I knew that if I was going to give it a try, safety would be my number one priority. Not just because I wanted to avoid getting an ostensible ticket, but because I actually wanted to be safe. I wanted to make milk, yes, but I also didn't want to crash doing it.

I've been exclusively pumping for almost six months, and have pumped in the car at least 30 times — both in the backseat and as the driver — which in this fringe community of pumpers I'd say puts me at expert level. If you're at that point where life circumstances are making you consider expressing milk while driving, here are a few tips I've learned along the way.

In addition to a pump, make sure you have the following items:

Simple Wishes Signature Hands-Free Breastpump Bra

Simple Wishes Signature Hands-Free Breastpump Bra

You'll absolutely need something like the Simple Wishes Signature Hands-Free Breastpump Bra ($40). I've heard women say they cut holes in old sport bras to create a hands-free bra, but I think if you're going to drive, you want something super dependable. I've worn mine for all of my pumping and it still stays in place.

Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump and Accessory Wipes

Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump and Accessory Wipes

You don't have to buy the Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump and Accessory Wipes ($7), but unless you'll have access to a bathroom for clean-up, you'll want them.

Arrow Nursing Cover

Arrow Nursing Cover

The Arrow Nursing Cover ($23) is supereasy to maneuver and keeps things discrete.

Now, the rules:
UnSplash | Andrew Worley

Now, the rules:

The most important rule to follow is that you need to commit to being completely hands-free. If you think that you're going to have to look down for any reason, pumping in the car is not for you.

The steps:

  • With the car engine off, put on your seatbelt (yes, you want to do this first).
  • Slip a nursing shield on over your head. I find that it not only covers me, but it completely prevents me from the need to look down and see what's going on.
  • Pull your regular bra up and get it out of the way, then zip on your hands-free pumping bra. I typically try to dress for the occasion and wear a T-shirt I can easily pull up and keep on. That way I'm only half-naked.
  • Connect your pump parts (flanges) and anything else you need (car adaptors, etc.).
  • At this point you should have your hands-free pumping bra on, your pump flanges and parts should all be connected, and your regular bra and T-shirt should sort of be collected all near your neck.
  • Turn the pump on and make sure everything appears to be working correctly, or if your pump requires the cigarette lighter, now is the time to turn the car on.
  • Pump and drive. Carefully.

Now, don't do anything else until you've parked the car.

  • Turn the engine off, pull your bottles off one at a time, and place them in your cup holders. I like to take off the shield and get redressed at this point so that no extra fabric gets in the way.
  • Grab a clean bottle or milk storage bag and carefully pour your milk into it.
  • Once you've poured all of your milk into storage containers, you can either place the empty flanges into a bag to clean up later, or use the Medela Wipes, which I love because they really get all of the gunk off.
  • Place your safely stored breast milk in a freezer bag until you're able to transfer it.