Recently I successfully weaned my crazy boy toddler from nursing (whoop!)! As I've happily reflected on our 18 month breastfeeding journey, I realized that we traveled frequently without him once he turned 9 months. And I must admit that in the past 18 months, I’ve pumped in some very interesting places. Those interesting places have included: The Masters golf tournament bathroom (yep, The Masters!), Harry Potter and The Cursed Child on Broadway (between acts 1 and 2), a Notre Dame football game (yet another bathroom not on the field- hah!), in many cars while driving down the road, and in several airport bathrooms, and, thankfully, a few designated nursing rooms (cheers to you Chicago Midway and Memphis International!)
Maybe you’re wondering, how this was possible? While traveling without your nursling is often hard, it is doable. I admit, stopping in the middle of the Masters golf tournament to go pump in the bathroom wasn't the most exciting part of our trip, but if you know golf, you know the Masters is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I wasn't going to miss the tournament just because I was still a nursing Mama.
Logistically, this also took some planning beforehand. I asked other nursing/pumping Mamas for advice, I googled like it was my job, and I even called ahead of time to ask questions.
Here are the best tips I have for the pumping Mama who wants to travel:
- Bring both your electric pump and manual pump! I made sure to not only bring my Medela pump including a car adaptor but also brought a manual breast pump. The manual pump came in handy in quite a few airports where there were no electric plugs, and even once in the Destin airport when none of their plugs worked.
- Check out the invaluable website Moms Pump Here before you go! It will help you see where you can pump in different locations, including airports.
- Make sure your ice packs and milk storage bags are frozen before going through TSA security. The only time I had issues flying with breastmilk and pump were when my milk storage packs and ice packs were not frozen. In that instance, flying home to Memphis from Las Vegas, TSA pulled me out of the line, patted me down, swabbed all of my personal items, and swabbed my milk storage bags and pump. After all of that, they gave me my stuff and let me resume security. Definitely make sure to allow extra time going through security just in case.
- Your breast pump is a medical device and should not count as your personal item. I only had problems once flying with my pump where someone (here's looking at you, rude American flight attendant in Las Vegas) told me it counted as a personal item. In that case, I angrily shoved my pump into my carry on bag before getting on the plane (still looking at you, rude American flight attendant...ugh).
- Pack santizer wipes for your pump and parts. It saves time and also disinfects better on the go. I got mine from Amazon and Target.
- Check with your hotel and see if your room fridge has a freezer. I found some hotels were willing to let me use another freezer.
- Allow time while traveling to pump. Believe me, setting aside time to pump before getting on a 2-3 hour flight is definitely a must. The only time we did not do this I was in pain the entire flight and had a knot form. Ouch! After that I vowed we'd arrive as early as it took so I could pump before.
- Start pumping a few months before your trip in order to build up a stash of breastmilk at home for your baby to eat while you are gone. I added in and extra pump session after my son was asleep since he only nursed. So for instance, I added a 9pm pump time in and slowly built up my stash that way. It was the only time I pumped unless I was on a trip.
While it does take a little more planning and time, traveling while pumping is worth it! One shouldn't have to miss an an anniversary weekend, once in a lifetime trip, or a Mom's getaway because they are also nursing/pumping for their baby!