Traveling and Pumping Breast Milk
Answers to Popular Questions and Tips for Moms Traveling While Pumping
Summer is heating up. Families are making plans for vacations. Employers are bringing people back to the office and work travel is resuming. For breastfeeding moms, that means more planning, more logistics, and more to pack.
We’ve pulled together some helpful information to help moms who are planning trips by plane, train, or automobile. This post includes tips for staying in a hotel or with family or friends. We can’t take out all of the bumps in the road for you, but we hope to help by giving you information and knowledge to ensure a successful and enjoyable trip.
So What Do You Need to Pack?
This depends upon your trip and where you are traveling. If you’re traveling to a larger city, you might be able to find a store in the event that you need to replace an item. If you’re in a more rural setting, it might be harder to find what you need so it helps to pack a little bit extra.
You want to of course start with your pump and its power source. If you have a wearable one, that might mean hunting for the charging cable. Next, make sure you have your flanges and bottles. If you’ll be transporting your milk, you might need extra bottles or storage space. Think about the number of pump sessions and your typical output per pump so that you can be sure to capture and safely transport every last drop.
Next, check your tubing, your flanges, your cushions, and the other small parts. It can be helpful to organize these into smaller sealable bags for safe storage and easy access. If you have to pump multiple times in the airport or on the plane, don’t forget a large ziplock or too for all of your parts. You’ll also need a cooler of sorts. At the airport, you can generally ask for ice at one of the food stands or restaurants. On the plane, you can also ask the flight attendants for a cup of ice and use that to chill your milk.
Pro Tip: If you are usually a hands-on pumper and will be around other people, investing in a portable massager like those available from LaVie can help you get the same effect while being discreet.
Hydration and Snacks
Traveling is a very dehydrating experience. Often we are limited in the amount of water on hand or proximity to a restroom. It’s also very exciting and we can just plum forget to drink or eat properly. But, as a lactating mom it’s super important that we stay on top of our water and food intake. Be sure to pack refillable water bottles and healthy snacks so that your milk supply does not dip while you are traveling.
Pro Tip: BeauGen moms suggest packing electrolyte tablets or powders to get more out of your water when traveling. You can pack these easily in your carry-on and even stow more in your checked baggage. You can also keep them tucked away in various spots in your car.
Traveling by Plane
Depending on the airline, you might have a limited number of carry or checked bags so space is a premium. There is also a chance that you might be physically in an airport or flying for a number of hours without the ability to run out and grab something that you might need.
Before you travel, take some time to do your research. Different airlines and airports have different rules and regulations. Domestic flights and airports are going to differ from international ones. Some will allow liquid breast milk and others will suggest freezing your milk.
Build In Extra Time:
It helps to be early, and give yourself a bit of time. Rushing through an airport with kids and bags in tow is not fun, and neither is missing flights, or having to dump out breast milk. Building extra time into your travel plans will allow you to be flexible, check an unplanned bag (or cooler) if need be, or be prepared for any last-minute adjustments that may arise.
First thing’s first: you have the right to pump both in the airport and on the plane. People may question what you have in your bag, or what you are doing, but legally, you have every right to pump and feed your baby or transport pumped milk through an airport and on a plane. That said, let’s get into the logistics.
A Little Help from Your Phone:
Download the Mamava app before you travel to help find nursing pods and lactation spaces while you are traveling. This is a lot easier than tracking this information down at the airport and helps you plan ahead rather than hoping for a friendly space. Mamava has dedicated lactation pods in airports, but they also have spaces in other locations like fitting rooms, or mom rooms in retail stores. Sometimes you can check photos or reviews of these spaces before you get there.
Check with your airline, but generally a pump bag will not be counted towards your carrying bag total. This means that you can pack everything you need for your trip in your pump bag. Before you pack, it can be helpful to make a list of everything you need. Then lay everything out so that you can visualize your pumping gear. You may want to add something or realize that you have a little bit extra and can make adjustments accordingly. You also now can pack your bag not only to fit everything, but to make what you’ll need at the airport or on the plane easier to access.
Pro Tip: Have a bottle on hand to feed your baby during take off and landing. The act of swallowing can relieve or normalize inner ear pressure and help reduce crying.
You might not need it but it can be helpful to pack a nursing cover. This can give you cover at the gate, or wherever you might be waiting for your flight, and save you from having to pump in the restroom. It also comes in handy if you have to pump on the plane.
Pro Tip: If you are seated next to someone either at a crowded gate or on the plane, it can be helpful to give them a heads up that you will be pumping. This can help to eliminate any confusion or curiosity and help take the pressure off a bit.
If you can, bring a stroller that collapses easily. You can use your stroller to transport more than your child to your gate! Tuck your pump bag underneath, and even rest your carry-on bag on top of the handle (as long as it’s not heavy enough to tip your stroller). Often, you can gate check a stroller without being charged.
Going Through Security
It’s not everyday that TSA encounters a pump or breast milk. Agents might unpack your pump, or ask you to take out electronics or liquids for inspection. If this happens, remain calm, do as they ask, but also remind them that it is your right to travel with your pump and expressed milk.
Breast milk does not fall subject to the same rule as other liquids. TSA’s website states that you can bring a reasonable amount of breast milk with you through security. Simply take it out of your bag for separate screening. They also state that you do not need to have your child with you in order to be able to transport breast milk. International guidelines usually also allow you up to two liters through security. It’s important to check regulations and guidelines before you travel just to be sure.
Traveling by Car
Car trips can be exciting, however, the prospect of pumping on one of these trips might be daunting. We’ve got you covered here as well. Packing for car trips is still important, even if you can make a pit stop for something. Follow the tips we covered in the very first section on packing so you can fit everything you need into the vehicle.
Planning Your Trip
You may need to build extra time or extra stops into your trip based on the amount of time you plan to be in on the road, the amount of milk you need to store, how much you need to eat, etc. Planning these into your schedule can help better plan your route, make travel safer, and help manage the family's expectations (and morale).
Packing Your Car
It can be helpful to have your pump bag and cooler within reach. Some moms pump while the car is in motion, and others prefer to wait and pump during rest stops. In either case, you’ll want to be able to easily access your pump, anything you need while pumping -- like potentially a cover or snacks, and your cooler.
Cars can heat up, so make sure that you have plenty of ice packs, or that you can stop to get ice during your trip to ensure your breast milk does not spoil. Another essential item for long trips is an adapter for your charging or power chord. This is something that can easily slip our minds since we might not use a usb or cigarette outlet adapter often.
Staying in a Hotel
Depending on where and how long you are staying, and what you plan to be doing on your trip, timing feedings can be tricky. While you might be able to feed your baby directly after a pumping session, a bottle warmer can come in handy (especially if traveling by car).
Staying with Family
Your immediate family might be used to you pumping, storing milk, and making bottles for your baby. If you are staying with extended family or friends, remember that they might be new to your routine. It can be helpful to walk through it with them before you arrive. When you get there, they might ask you to show them your pump and how it works. They may even want to sit with you while you pump! Thinking all of this through ahead of time helps you determine what your comfort level is with various situations.