Monday, March 10, 2014

8 Real Tips for Pumping While Travelling without your Baby

For the past four years, my job required that I travelled overnight one or more times a month, mostly requiring air travel.  Also during the past four years I had two babies, each of which I breastfed for 12 months.  The bright side of this is that I have become quite experienced travelling with my pump (hilarious stories about my travels told separately).  I see so many questions about this subject in various message boards, so below are my tricks of the trade, so to speak, for managing this endeavor.  Happy Pumping!

1.     Ice Packs.  Bring ice packs proportional to the amount of pumped milk you plan to carry home.  For example, if you will be gone a week, then 1-2 ice packs is not enough.  If you plan to carry ice packs on the plane, make sure they are frozen to avoid extra screening through security.  I usually would pack my extra ice packs in my checked bag if possible to avoid having to carry them on plane before I needed them. 

2.     Milk Storage and Transport.  Depending on the length of your trip, you will need more space than your pump cooler bag allows.  I purchased a foldable, neoprene cooler bag of medium size and packed it in my suitcase.  On my return trip home, I packed it full of milk and ice packs allowing for plenty of space to bring home the milk.  No need to dump any milk!

3.     No place to Pump, No problem.  During much of my travel, I was driving from meeting to meeting.  Because of this I either had no time or no place to pump.  Out of necessity, and this may sound crazy, but I had to learn to pump and drive.  This endeavor is actually quite easy.  Hook up your pump as normal and place it in the passenger seat.  Ideally, instead of using a battery pack (I always found the pump wasn’t as powerful when run off batteries), purchase an appropriate cord to connect pump to the car’s lighter outlet. Bonus if the car has an actual outlet.  The key to this scenario is to also bring your nursing cover so once the pump is going, cover yourself up and pump away!  No one you drive by will be the wiser.

4.     Pumping at the Airport. The best place to pump without a doubt is a family restroom.  There is always an outlet, usually a bench and/or shelf, and is completely private.  Do not feel guilty for hogging the family restroom for 20 minutes.  I have seen many a pumping mama exiting the family restroom as well as the male business traveler. Hmm. 

5.     Carrying Home Pumped Milk.  Ideally, try to freeze the pumped milk before you depart.  This is especially helpful if your travel home is relatively short (1-3 hours) and you will freeze the milk upon your return home.  Frozen milk packed with enough ice packs will stay mostly frozen in this time and if you can get it right in the freezer when you get home, it will be fine.  Travel of longer time periods you may not want to freeze as it may fully defrost, so just make sure you have enough ice packs to keep it cold.

6.     Have a Schedule.  I always found it easiest to stick to my baby’s normal feeding schedule in order to time pumping sessions, whenever possible.  The reason this is important is that you don’t want your milk supply to be negatively affected by missed feeding sessions.  Milk production is truly supply and demand and since your baby is not there to drain the boobs, sticking to a pumping schedule could be the most important part of your travel.  Case in point, if your baby is still feeding at night, you might want to still get up at night to pump.  If you can’t resist a full night sleep alone in a hotel room (Ahem), pump immediately before sleep and right when you wake.  One or possibly two nights of missed night pumping is not the end of the world, however, more than that could create a milk shortage during the day. 

7.     Drink and Eat.  Don’t forget to take care of yourself and this includes enough calories and plenty of water to produce enough milk.  Work travel can be busy and it is easy to forget this, or not have access to enough sustenance.  I avoided this by packing snacks, a refillable water bottle, and stopping at a grocery store when I arrived to my destination to stock up on food for meals and snacks.  

8.     Get Home and Nurse Your Baby.  When you get home, your first priority is to nurse your baby.  This is important for a few reasons.  Baby has missed mommy and you want to re-establish the connection and let baby know you are still open for business. Also, depending how long you were gone, your boobs may need a good draining.  In my experience, more than 3-4 days solo-pumping and I would get a bit tender.  One good nursing session and my boobs were always back to normal. 
Are these tips helpful? Do you have a lot of experience travelling and pumping? 
What would you add to my list?

A "Lactation Station" was recently installed in Vermont's Burlington International Airport!


  1. Very helpful! I totally agree with the tip to plug the pump into the car! I learned the hard way once that the pump battery is not as strong as you would think when it died mid pump : (

  2. Pumping and driving is a skill that every working momma should know how to do! Saves so much time, haha. Great tips! :)