May 20, 2014

[Breast Milk] Pumping and Traveling

For those of you who aren't nursing moms, you can ignore this post. But when I was preparing to return to work, it was hard to find information about traveling with breast milk and pumping along the way. Yes, I said the word BREAST. I put together the email below for my mom's group and thought I'd post it here so internet searchers can find information in one place.

My first four days back at work in April were a trip to Austin, TX, and honestly, it was kind of fun (see photo to right). There were some tears the night before but once I got on my way, it was fine. Traveling sans baby and pumping the whole time was interesting, especially because I didn't have a direct flight and Texas is far from Boston. 

Some tips for those of you who will have to pump and travel:

- You can take as much liquid through TSA checkpoints as you like (breastmilk or water for formula).

- When traveling with liquids, there are two options for security - you can put the liquids through the x-ray machine and have them quickly inspected by hand, or you can opt out of the x-ray machine and have them put all of the milk/water into a different machine that somehow checks it for bad things but without x-rays. You will then also have to undergo a manual body check. The second option involves EACH bag of milk being put into the machine by itself, so if you're an over-producer who was away for four days, it is going to take awhile. My TSA guy realized that he forgot to give me one of the bags back and chased me down to ensure I got it back; who says the TSA isn't friendly? (Next time I may just x-ray the milk, and by next time I mean today because I'm going to NYC for a few days and of course the train schedule didn't work out.)

- Pumping in the airport was WAY easier than I expected. Just find the "family" restrooms. Some airports have specific lactation rooms but I didn't seek them out. All of the family restrooms I found had a plug, and a few had a chair, or I just sat on the floor or on the counter. The only issue is if someone is waiting to use the restroom and knocks. And then knocks again. And again. And then gives you a dirty look when you leave as a single lady until you tell her that you were pumping milk for your infant, and oh by the way, there's not even a changing table in there for her toddler so she might as well have changed him in the main restroom. You could bring some post-it notes to put a quick note outside so no one gets frustrated.
Pumping on the Acela train was also fine. I just sat on the toilet. Ok fine, EW, but not so bad. There was a plug.

- Keeping the milk cold is also not too hard. For short trips, my friend recommended this small cooler. For anything over a day, I bring a small foldable cooler and a few blue ices, and put them in the micro-fridge freezer at the hotel. On the way home, I also got ice from the ice machine and put it in Ziploc bags that I brought; this helped on the 13 hour trip home. I did not freeze the milk in the hotel because I didn't want it to defrost on the way home; you are not supposed to re-freeze milk. I froze it when I got home. Make sure you call the hotel ahead of time to ensure they have mini-fridges in all of the rooms.

- Storing milk: The bags take up the least amount of room and freeze flat. I used the Honeysuckle Milk Storage bags (Update: I don't recommend these any longer; too many have broken!) and the Target brand milk storage bags. The Target bags are stiffer plastic; both have double ziplocs. Out of the ~30 bags I had, one Target and one honeysuckle bag leaked on the way home because I didn't ensure the double-ziplocs were zipped all the way. Whoops. 
Now I use the Target ones or the Lasinoh ones. WAY too many Honeysuckles have broken. Plus I just realized they have a boob on the bag. Subtle, but still. And I don't use bottles because A. They take up too much room, and B. They are more expensive.
Also, consolidate your individual bags of milk into larger ziploc bags. This will make the TSA-screening process easier and contain any leaks.

- Cleaning the pumping stuff - I just rinsed out the flanges and containers, and/or used these Munchkin Pacifier Wipes, which are much cheaper than the advertised "pump wipes". I brought some dish soap in a small tupperware to wash the pump stuff once I got in the hotel, which would have been great if the tupperware hadn't opened all over the suitcase. At least it was easy to clean up the leaked milk when I got home; there was soap already there! (When I pump at work, I just put the flanges and bottles in a ziploc and in the fridge between pumping sessions and wash it all when I get home.)

- Pumping mechanics: I didn't figure out how to use the hands-free bra before I went, which was my biggest mistake. That thing is awesome. I thought it wouldn't fit right, but it doesn't have to fit like a regular bra. I should have been using that from the first time I pumped.

- Carry-on luggage restrictions don't count for a breast pump, which is considered a medical device. At least it shouldn't - I only had two carry-ons last time so I didn't get challenged. This time I had three and it was mostly fine - I just ignored the security person and didn't have issues.. I put everything (cooler, pump, bra, etc) in a small carry-on suitcase that wheeled around, which was awesome until the telescoping handle wouldn't extend, so I had to carry it around old-school by the handle. Brilliant tip: Make sure your suitcase is working appropriately before leaving the state. :-)

- Before leaving, make sure your baby will drink milk that has been frozen! Some moms have extra enzymes in their milk that makes it taste/smell sour. Some babies don't mind; others do. To prevent it from happening, you have to scald the milk before freezing it. My unfrozen milk was fine; he'll drink it as long as it is slightly warmed, so I don't have to scald the milk before freezing.

- Update - Pumping at your destination: Don't forget to figure out where to pump during your meeting! Typically I reach out to someone I know really well who works at that location, someone who has recently been or is pregnant, or ask to talk with an office/facilities manager. These people will usually go out of their way to help you because it's their job, or because they can empathize. I typically pumped in a "New Mom's Room" or went back to my hotel room if in the same building. I also put calendar reminders on for when I should go pump, and it wasn't always during breaks because a lot of good stuff happens during unstructured meeting time... 

My list of things to bring related to pumping is as follows:
Honeysuckle Milk Storage bags Some kind of milk storage bags
Small cooler for keeping the in-transit milk cold
- Folding soft cooler for the return trip (something like this, though mine is much less high quality)
- Two additional blue ices
- 4 sliding gallon Ziploc bags to hold the clean/dirty pump flanges and ice
- Receiving blanket or muslin to protect clothes, wipe up messes, sit on the floor with, etc
- Small tupperware with dish soap, but enclosed in a small Ziploc; or a small bottle of dish soap
Battery pack and extra batteries in case I can't find a plug (I have a Hygeia EnJoye pump w/out Care and can use this Medela battery pack; you just have to know what voltage your pump takes)
- Breast pump and wall plug
- Bag or rolling suitcase to hold it all

Things you may want to consider:
- Extra shirt in case of spills or leaks
Nursing pads (which I find I don't need unless I miss a pumping session by many hours)
- Nursing cover in case you have to pump somewhere public (don't get me started on LGA)

I was pretty anxious about pumping and traveling but it worked out fine. When I returned home, Max took to nursing again easy as pie (which I was also anxious about). My husband did great with him for the four days, but he's also the primary caregiver even when I'm not traveling so he's familiar with Max's routines. 

Good luck traveling and pumping breast milk! It just takes a little extra time, but is totally worth it. :-)

Bonus photo of Max and me on Mother's day:

1 comment:

  1. I wish I had read this before starting to pump. You don't have to pump every day...


Thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions! Makes this much more interesting.