Last week my husband and I took a quick trip to Toronto. The purpose of this trip was to see one of our favorite bands in concert, but it also served as an opportunity to reconnect and spend quality time together. My goodness did we need this trip! I didn’t realize how much I missed spending time alone with my husband. As any parent knows, having a toddler and a baby is physically and emotionally exhausting. It takes a great amount of effort to stay in sync with your spouse.
Since becoming parents, this was our first true getaway. It was the first time I would be flying without my kids. The first time I would be separated for more than 12 hours from my five-month old. And, as a breastfeeding mom, I knew I would have to figure out the logistics of pumping while traveling.
Cue the anxiety.
I knew our two-year old would be just fine staying with my parents (he is King in their house). It was the baby that worried me. Was she too young for me to leave behind? She hadn’t been sleeping through the night yet. In fact, she preferred to spend the night in my arms, nursing on and off. I honestly had no idea how she would do without me at night. I had visions of her crying all night while my poor parents tried to soothe her. Guess what? She did just fine. (Actually she did better than fine because she learned to sleep through the night!)
My main concern with pumping while I was gone was whether I’d run into any issues- especially transporting it through airport security. I did a little research before I left in hopes of having an anxiety-free experience. I’m happy to report that everything went smoothly.
As a member of several online mom groups, I know this is an area where several moms have questions. Here are a couple of tips based on my experience.
Ten Tips for Pumping Moms Who Travel:
- Build your freezer stash. As soon as my husband booked the trip in January, I started to increase my freezer stash. I added extra pumping sessions here and there so that I would have plenty of milk stored for the three days we would be gone.
- Research the area you will be visiting and pick a hotel that is convenient. Our trip was flexible and for pleasure. We didn’t have a rigid schedule to adhere to. It was easy to pop back into our centrally located hotel so that I could pump when necessary. If this isn’t possible, do a little research on the places you will be visiting during your trip to see if they have a space dedicating to pumping.
- Request a mini fridge for your room. I found out that our hotel room did not have a mini fridge. However, they provided one by request (for a fee). When I mentioned I was a nursing mom and needed the fridge to keep the pumped milk cold, they waived the fee. The front desk lady also offered to keep the milk in the hotel kitchen’s freezer if I felt that the mini fridge wasn’t sufficient. (I found that the mini fridge was fine and even cold enough to partially freeze some of the milk.)
- Pump directly into bags. I highly recommend buying “pump n save” bags. These bags allow you to pump directly into them. This was really nice to have so that I didn’t have to worry about washing bottles. Plus, bags take up less space.
- Buy cleaning wipes. Wipes are convenient for traveling, especially if you don’t have access to a sink. If you have access to a microwave, you can buy micro-steam bags.
- Bring a collapsible cooler + ice pack. Make sure you have a cooler for transporting milk on your way home. I like the collapsible type because it they are less bulky and can be flattened when empty.
- Know your rights. You have the right to take breast milk through security. Breast milk (and formula) is allowed in quantities over 3.4 ounces and it does not need to fit into a quart sized bag, I had no problem with this. Just tell the TSA agent that you have breast milk. There is no limit to the amount you can bring through security. Some TSA agents may screen your milk. There are different methods, but they should not affect the milk. More information on transporting breast milk through security and screening can be found here.
- Scope out the airport for lactation/nursing rooms. I was able to time my pumping so that I did not have to pump at the airport. Depending on the length of your flight, plus time spent at the airport, you may or may not need to pump. The good news is that many airports have rooms dedicated to nursing/pumping. MSP has two lactation centers (and two nursing mothers rooms) in Terminal 1 with more in the works.
- Relax! It’s ok to bend the rules a little. I decided not to pump during the middle of the night even though my baby still wakes up. I did wake up a little uncomfortable, but for me it was worth the extra sleep. (I was only gone for two nights so I knew it would not affect my supply.) I also pumped and dumped a few times. Life is too short to not enjoy an extra glass of wine while on a kid-free vacay with your husband.
- Consider donating. If you don’t want to carry the milk home, look into donating what you have pumped. Search “Eats on Feets- (your location)” on Facebook and you’ll find a global breastmilk sharing network.
The only problem I ran into is that one of my breasts wasn’t emptied enough by my pump. I noticed this on the second day. Has anyone else experienced this? I was lucky that my trip was short and sweet. But it is something to keep in mind in case you will be gone for a longer period of time. Hot showers and hand massage helped work through it- but by the end I was happy to be headed back to my baby.
For moms with experience pumping while traveling, what tips would you add to the list? Has your experience been positive?