Being a nursing mama while traveling isn’t easy, but it’s doable! Here are my top tips for maintaining milk supply and pumping while traveling, prepping beforehand and bringing your milk home. Pin it here.
At three months old, I took my first work trip away from Baby T. Actually I took two trips within the same week when I first had to leave her. I was really anxious about it. I didn’t really want to leave her (how could I leave that face?!) and most importantly I had heard terrible stories from friends about losing their milk supply on trips. And I really, really, really didn’t want to lose my milk supply. Since then I’ve taken another trip at 5 months old and I have upcoming trips at 6 and 7 months old. Here are my top tips for maintaining milk supply and pumping while traveling away from baby.
Prepping Before You Go
Let’s talk breastmilk storage and pumping before you leave.
Breastmilk can be safely kept at room temperature for 4 hours, stored refrigerated for 7-8 days, and frozen for up to 6 months. Breastmilk should not be refrozen after it has been thawed.
Pumping Before Leaving for Your Trip
Get set before you jetset! How early you start working on saving up milk for travel depends on how much your baby is eating and your milk supply.
Milk Supply the During the “Full” Stage or First 3 Months
For me, the sisters were quite “full” the first three or so months before they settled down. During this stage, they were larger, harder, and more painful. During the “full stage” it’s easier to set aside extra milk because milk supply tends to be much higher and the baby doesn’t eat that much compared to production.
During this phase you can:
- Pump at the end of feedings (both sides or whichever side baby didn’t eat on)
- Pump in the middle of the night if baby is sleeping through the night
- Pump the side baby didn’t eat on in the middle of the night if she only eats on one side at nighttime feeds
- Add in a 10 pm pumping session (or whenever baby has a tendency for a longer stretch)
My Experience at Three Months
For me, Baby T was still eating about every two to three hours during the day the first three months. I felt like if I tried to sneak in a full daytime pumping session in between feedings she wouldn’t have enough to eat. But she did do a longer stretch at night, so I added in a 10 pm pumping session. In preparation for my three month trip I focused on a 10 pm pumping session (both sides) and pumping* after most feedings. I started pumping for my almost back to back, one and a half day and three day trips about two weeks early. I also saved my milk during the one and a half day trip. By this point she was eating 3 to 4 ounces at each feeding.
(*Note: I have noticed that I get more milk out if I pump both sides. I pump both sides usually, even if one is already “empty”.)
Milk Supply After the “Full” Stage
After the “full” stage, it’s harder to have excessive milk production. The baby is eating more, and you just don’t have as much extra as you used to.
During this stage to prep you can:
- Pump at the end of feedings if you aren’t depleted
- Add in pumping sessions when the baby isn’t eating and you have enough time to recharge before the next feeding (ex: 10 pm or 3 am)
My Experience at Five Months
I was pretty engorged until about 4 months (not the just-postpartum-engorged, but very full). I thought the overflowing milk was a forever thing – nope! After about four months, the boobies start to settle down. I was pretty nervous that my milk was suddenly gone because at about the same time my long distance miles in prep for my marathon started to kick up. Instead of getting an easy 3 to 6 ounces per pumping session, I was getting a measly 2 to 3 ounces, or less, per session. So, I started pumping for my four-day trip about 8 weeks before leaving. I knew I only wanted to pump one time per day, and quite frankly I didn’t have much left in either breast after feedings, so I froze a 10 pm pumping session most days for almost two months. By this point she was eating about 5 to 6 ounces every feeding.
Freezing Your Milk
I’ve found it’s easier to pump and then put my milk directly into a milk storage bag in the freezer right after each session. I put all my frozen milk in a Yeti cooler on my 3 hour drive to Grammy’s before each trip, and then put half of my milk in her fridge and the other half in her freezer. She thaws it or warms it up by placing the milk storage bag in a warm cup of water and then transferring it to a bottle with a Pyrex pouring glass (tend to lose less transferring it).
Planning for Loss
Keep in mind, if you’re pumping for someone else to feed your child there is going to be some waste from spillage or unfinished bottles. It’s a good idea to leave more milk than you think the baby will need, or leave formula for the caregiver in case you run out.Are you a #nursing #mama with an upcoming trip? Get these tips for pumping while traveling away from baby! Click To Tweet
Tips For Pumping While Traveling
Hooray! You made it! You pumped your guts out before you left. Now you need to pump while you’re gone to maintain your milk supply. We’ll also talk pumping while at the airport and bringing your liquid gold through the security.
What to Bring With You
Do not forget to pack these essential items:
- Your breastpump and parts – absolutely keep this in your carry-on
- A set of bottles to pump into with caps
- Two large Ziploc baggies: one for clean pump parts, one for not clean pump parts (there may be times while you’re out you need to pump and dump, and you won’t old milk making your Ziploc bag for clean pump parts dirty)
- Travel size dish soap
- Small lunch cooler and a small empty Ziploc baggy (this is for ice on your way home from your trip)
- Breastmilk bags
- Sharpie for labeling your breastmilk bags
- Somewhat optional: If you have space to pack a bottle brush, it’s helpful, but I’ve gotten away without one before
Departing – At the Airport
You might need to pump before your flight takes off if the flight time plus travel time to your hotel is too lengthy. I try to mimic Baby T’s feeding schedule as much as possible while traveling. If it’s an hour or so off, no big deal, but if I’m three hours off… it could affect milk supply and be very uncomfortable. I’d personally rather have two pumping sessions two hours apart before departing, than try to stretch 7 hours during the day without pumping.
Where to pump at the airport: Check your airport’s website to see if they have nursing rooms. Also check the Mamava website – they have lactation rooms and pods in a number of airports. If there isn’t a nursing room or Mamava in your terminal, look for a family restroom; there will be a plug in there.
Again, try to mimic your baby’s feeding schedule as much as possible to maintain your milk supply. That might easily mean pumping six or more times in a day.
Hotel: If you plan to save your breastmilk, check with the hotel to make sure you have a refrigerator available in your room. I usually use the hotel towels to make a clean space for myself on the hotel desk area. I use another towel to store my milk in the fridge on top of and another one to place my pump parts on. Sometimes I pack another towel (sorry, hotel!) in my work bag if I’ll be pumping on the go during meetings so I can avoid dripping on whatever surface I end up having to pump on (it’s not usually glamorous).
Work accommodations: If you are traveling for a work event, notify the host or coordinator you will need to have a private room, without windows, with a plug during XYZ windows of time (whatever your booby timer is).
Depending on the situation, I’ve usually saved my milk when pumping in my hotel room and pumped and dumped if I’m out on the road for meetings. I just can’t guarantee a refrigerator and it simplifies the day and burden on the host if I don’t require a fridge for those hours.
I’ve pumped anywhere from: break rooms, offices, and kitchens to a food truck that wasn’t in service (I was extremely desperate on that one!).
Arriving Back Home – At the Airport
Woop woop! You did it! You survived the trip and you’ve got oodles of milk (that you don’t really have space for) sloshing around. Way to go, mama!
Getting your milk through security: Pack your breastmilk bags in your small lunch cooler with a small, empty Ziploc bag. Before your belongings run through the security machine, tell the TSA agent you have breastmilk in the cooler. They may swab it after it gets through, but by law TSA can no longer pour out any of your breastmilk. Once you get through to the other side, get ice from the food court for your small Ziploc bag and put it in the lunch cooler.
Carrying on: Technically, breastmilk is considered “medical.” So, even if it doesn’t exactly fit as nicely in your bag as it ought to, you shouldn’t have a problem during boarding. If you have a longer flight, you can get pour out any excess water from your small Ziploc and get fresh ice from the flight attendants.
One Other Alternative
I will mention there is a service called Milk Stork that can overnight your breastmilk for you. I haven’t tried it before, but I have friends who have used it in a pinch and really enjoyed their experiences.
You Did It!
Congrats, mama! You made it through pumping while traveling. It probably wasn’t glamorous and you definitely missed your babykins, but now you’re reunited :). Don’t forget to put your saved milk in the freezer when you get home!
Pin it here.
What has your experience been like pumping while traveling?
Were there any tips I missed that you found helpful?