Over the last few months I’ve needed to travel for work at least once a month. Most of these trips were sans kids, which meant I got to pump (woohoo!). Ok, so pumping is no one’s idea of a good time, but you do what you’ve got to do as a mom.
Before I left for my first trip I searched Google and Pinterest to see how other people handled getting through security, traveling with frozen milk, etc. Honestly, the information available was pretty thin. Because I’m sure I will not be the last breastfeeding mom who has to travel for work, I’ll walk you through what I’ve found that works.
Obviously, you should remember to bring your pump with you and freezer bags/bottles for 1.5 times the amount of milk you expect to pump. I also bring a soft-sided insulated lunchbox to bring frozen milk back with me. When I leave town sans baby, I obviously don’t have any milk with me. However, if you plan on packing an ice pack in your carry on, make sure it is frozen. Aside from your pump, storage bags, and lunchbox/ice pack, there isn’t much you need to bring.
It is important to note that breast pumps are a medical device and don’t count as one of your two carry on items. Though, it is never a bad idea to check with your airline first. Also, if you alert the TSA to your pump/ice pack (and milk on your return flight) they can give you specific instructions – I’ve found that procedures vary from airport to airport (some have you take out the pump bag, some only want to see the ice pack, etc.). There are many moms who travel with pumped milk and the TSA agents I’ve encountered were all happy to help me out.
My strategy has been to make a mental schedule of when my baby nurses and attempt to pump when she’d generally be nursing. However, if you’re flying/driving/in meetings it isn’t always possible to stay on that schedule. Be flexible with yourself and know you’re doing the best you can.
Scope out pumping locations before you leave. Sites like Mamava.com list pumping rooms available in a variety of locations. Many major airports, but not all, have these facilities and they are AWESOME. That isn’t to say they are everywhere, because I’ve definitely pumped in a handicap/family bathroom with an outlet (gross, but, again, you do what you have to do).
When I landed at my destination on my first business trip away from my baby, I was discouraged because I was only getting 1-2 oz when I pumped. In hindsight, it was because I’d not really eaten much (aside from plane peanuts and coffee). Once I ate a full meal my supply came back. Since this first trip I’ve made an effort to eat real food while traveling.The closer I can stick to my normal routine the more steady my supply is.
Traveling With Pumped Milk
I make an effort to book hotels with refrigerators in the room. Most hotels will provide them without a fee if you have a medical reason for one (such as storing pumped milk). As I mentioned earlier, TSA is much quicker with frozen milk as it requires fewer screenings than liquid milk. When I’m leaving for the airport I put all of the frozen milk in the insulated lunchbox with the freezer pack. I also put a frozen water bottle (in a plastic bag) on top of the lunchbox in my pump bag as an extra precaution against thawing.
Once I get to the airport I remove the water bottle in order to get through TSA. Again, I alert TSA that I have a pump and milk and follow their suggestions. Only once has a bottle of milk been tested in the radiation machine (which, frankly, freaks me out) – as long as the milk is mostly frozen they’ve been pretty good about passing it through.
If you need extra ice once you’re through security most of the restaurants are willing to give you a cup of ice. Starbucks‘ grande cup of ice fills up a Lanisoh freezer bag (and is a pretty good excuse to get coffee while you’re at it).
There you have it – pumps are not the most fun travel accessory, but you can certainly make it work!
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