Pumping while traveling and being away from my baby was one of my least favorite things about breastfeeding the first year, but in many working mamma’s lives will become a necessity at some point. Or, you may just want or need to be away from your little for an overnight vacation. You’ll need many of the same things you need for pumping at work, but the travel aspect makes things a lot more complex. When traveling without your baby, here are a few things you’ll need to do to keep yourself comfortable, reduce your stress, and continue to provide milk for your little one.
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LOGISTICS FOR PUMPING WHILE TRAVELING: PUMPING ON THE ROAD
Before you leave, call your hotel and request that an empty refrigerator be put in your room on the lowest setting. Be careful that your milk doesn’t half freeze, but I liked it on the coldest setting to make sure it was cold enough to store milk when I got in. Sometimes those mini fridges feel almost warm if they aren’t properly cooled off first.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to pump in a mother’s lounge in the airport. This is the easiest, cleanest, and most private way to handle pumping while traveling. If you google the airports you’re traveling through, many of them list mother’s lounges under special accommodations on the website. There are also a few websites specifically for nursing moms that list airports and mother’s lounges to make pumping while traveling easier.Here are a few quick resources:
- Mamava Pod Locations
- Mom Aboard’s Airport Nursing Locator – U.S.
- Mom Aboard’s Airport Nursing Locator – Worldwide
What if I can’t find a lounge?
Pending your travel schedule, you may need to pump in a car or on a plane. Make sure you’re prepared to pump in any location so that you aren’t in a bad spot if schedules change. Put on your hands-free bra in a bathroom before you need to pump, or wear it all day. Wear a button-down shirt or breastfeeding shirt with easy access. Unless you’re wearing a poncho or shawl, I’d suggest not wearing a tube top or shirt you’ll need to pull all the way down for more modesty. When pumping while traveling a great rule is to be ready to pump anywhere at any time so you maximize milk production and keep yourself comfortable.
What to bring:
- Bottles & Storage Bags: Enough bottles so you can pump while actually traveling or in the morning before you leave. You can wash the bottles at your hotel before you come home again. I usually pack 6-8 bottles to pump into and then milk storage bags as they take up much less room and you’ll probably need maximum space on the way back.
- Lunch Box or Cooler: Lunchbox (or cooler) that is big enough to hold your bottles and milk bags. You can use an ice pack but you’ll probably need to put extra ice in a bag to be safe during an extended travel day.
- Power Source: A battery pack and/or car adaptor so you don’t have to stress about finding an outlet. You may not have time to find a mother’s lounge in the airport, and it may be necessary to pump in a car or on a plane. The last thing you want is to miss your flight because you’re searching for a mother’s lounge. The travel adapter with a battery pack can also be used in the car. If you’re using it frequently you’ll need to bring a lot of batteries, which is pretty inconvenient. I used both and only kept the battery pack for emergencies.
- Nursing shawl or Cover: In the event that you have to pump in public, you’ll probably want to cover up.
- Wipes: Wet Ones (or any antibacterial wipes) and quick clean wipes for your pump parts in case you need to wash and reuse them without access to a sink. I wiped the tray table, armrest, and even under the window when I boarded if I knew I was pumping on the plane. That way I didn’t have to worry about touching anything and then touching my pump parts at 30,000 feet.
- Cleaning/Extra Supplies: Dish soap, bottle sponge, and extra tubing and membranes. You’ll want to clean all your parts at the end of the day, and extra tubing and membranes are just in case you have any issues with your pump while traveling. Using a small travel bottle of dish soap ensures you easily get through security, and you won’t need a huge amount for just a couple of days away.
- Bags and Paper Towels: Stash a few extra Ziploc bags and a few paper towels in your bag. You’ll need the towels if you pump in your seat, and the extra bags can store dirty pump parts while keeping the rest of your bag dry, or ice for your trip back.
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The Home Stretch: Making it home with all that milk
Before you leave your hotel, fill up your cooler or lunch box with ice from the ice machine and safely pack in your bottles or bags of milk. Unless you’re going to be traveling for +12-18 hours, your milk should stay fresh if it’s packed in the ice.
Print a copy of the airline rules/regulations for breast milk before you leave home. If the TSA agent gives you any issues just show them the specific regulations for the airline you’re traveling. It’s easiest if you immediately tell security that you have breast milk as you’re moving through the line. They’ll ask you to remove the milk from your carry on, but they can’t make you open or drink the milk. Don’t even THINK about pouring any of it out. When you get on the plane, tell the stewardess if you need a place to store the bag and don’t want to put it sideways in an overhead bin. They are usually pretty accommodating when they know you’re traveling with milk.
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Public Service Announcement: Always bring your milk
I never had any issues when pumping while traveling with milk in my possession. However, I did travel back with an unfrozen ice pack and no milk in my cooler. I had only pumped 2 oz. and didn’t want to leave it for 18 hours. My little had been on whole milk for three months, so it wasn’t worth it to give her something that may not be super fresh. I threw out the milk before I got to the airport. Since I wasn’t traveling with any actual milk I was forced to get rid of my ice pack. Lesson learned, but it’s a PSA for anyone else traveling at the end of their breastfeeding/pumping journey!
Although traveling without your baby can be stressful, there are things you can do to prepare in advance and make the trip as seamless as possible. Do your homework and prep your schedule for when you’ll need to pump and be sure to have everything you need packed at least the day before you leave so nothing is left out when you’re rushing to get out of the house. Know your rights and never let that milk out of your sight. Pumping while traveling isn’t fun, but if you plan and prep, it’s absolutely possible to keep breastfeeding if you have to be away from your baby. You’ve got this mamma!