I recently traveled out of town without my five-month-old. While the trip was only about 40 hours, there was PLENTY to think about in order to accommodate my boobs and keep my supply regulated. Here are some travel tips for pumping from the field if you’re about to take your first flight without your nursling.
1. Know your rights.
You are allowed to fly with formula, breast milk, and pumping equipment in your carry-on bags. Although every TSA agent I interacted with understood this and treated my milk bag carefully, it can be helpful to have TSA’s policy printed out or pulled up on your phone in case of misunderstanding. You may also request a supervisor if you have concerns at the screening checkpoint. But in my recent experience, TSA was totally knowledgeable and kind.
2. Airports have lactation rooms!
Some are swanky and comfortable (shoutout to DFW in the D gates!), others are merely adequate. But either way, they feature a sink, counter or table space, some sort of chair, and most importantly, an outlet to plug your pump into! Keep in mind that some airports have multiple lactation spaces in each terminal, and other airports have one. So in case you’re short on time or don’t want to do a lot of walking, you may not want to count on these rooms alone. Enter my next point . . .
3. A wearable pump is your friend.
There are lots of brands of wearable pumps, and my insurance wouldn’t fully cover the highest-end model, but I grabbed a $75 MomCozy from Amazon to try out. I love it! This is so convenient and takes up a lot less space in my carry-on bag. It’s also a little more discreet while I’m sitting at the gate or on the plane. I can’t recommend a wearable pump enough. In addition to travel, it is very convenient at work and at home as it allows me to be otherwise functional (have you tried using a desktop computer on a messy desk full of files while plugged into a machine?!).
4. Keep cool.
Because of my short trip, I brought a basic bottle bag to use as a cooler, as well as two ice packs. On my first day of travel, the ice packs did a great job of keeping my milk cold. If you’re staying in a hotel, make sure that they offer (or can provide) a refrigerator in the room. My hotel had a fridge, but unfortunately it didn’t get as cold as I’d have liked and didn’t offer a freezer. I ended up filling the ice bucket with ice, sticking my milk and an ice pack in that, and shoving THAT whole thing in the fridge just to be on the safe side. Going forward, I’ll ask if the hotel has a freezer that I can put my ice packs in.
Trial and Error
Travel in 2022 means delays and cancellations, which are where things can get tricky. As my ice packs lost their chill, I had to make do. I visited Starbucks and with my caramel macchiato, I asked for the tallest possible cup filled with ice. My sleepy brain dumped that ice into the cooler bag. It definitely worked to keep my milk cold!
If I’d been smarter, I wouldn’t have dumped the ice in the cooler directly, as it started to leak once the ice melted. A couple of hours later, my smarter self poured out the water and last few ice cubes, got more ice, and put that ice into milk bags to recreate ice packs. This worked beautifully.
Something else to think about–I came home with more milk than I’d anticipated (not because I produced more, but because I’m a bad planner sometimes). I would have been wise to bring a larger cooler bag that had PLENTY of room, instead of cramming bags and ice into the conveniently small bottle bag. Learn from my mistake.
I hope my experience can serve to help even one nursing parent travel with some peace of mind. What did I miss? If you have traveled without your nursing baby and have other tips we need to know, please share! And of course, happy travels, mama!