Breastfeeding on the road

It’s no secret that I’m a huge proponent of breastfeeding. I gave my first child breast milk for the first 13 months of her life, despite a wildly fluctuating milk supply (thanks to an out-of-whack thyroid plus stress related to moving across the country and starting a new job). Making life more complicated was the fact that after 7 months, my daughter refused to nurse directly, so for 6 months I exclusively pumped and fed her from bottles.

Luckily, I have a job that allows me to work from home, so pumping during the work day isn’t as big a deal to me as it is to most working women. However, when I’m out of my element – such as traveling or even going out for an extended period of time – I truly feel the pain of my fellow working women and other mothers who face major hurdles as they strive to keep their babies well-nourished with breast milk.

One major downside of my chosen career is that there’s no such thing as paid time off. That includes maternity leave. So when my second child was born two months ago, I resumed work after just two weeks. Granted, my hours are flexible and I’m able to work in my pajamas, unshowered and without makeup, without anyone knowing the difference. And with temporary live-in childcare that allows me to keep my son at home for the first three months (thanks, Mom and in-laws!), I can easily grab a chunk of time to nurse throughout the day. However, with my child not even one month old, I found myself squeezing my postpartum body into business clothes, applying makeup and gathering all 8 AA batteries needed to power my breast pump. Yep – I had a business trip.

A few people think I was crazy for resuming work and traveling so soon after having a child. But my circumstances are unique and I’m glad we found a way to make this happen. Still, it required a fair amount of planning ahead and commitment, not just on my own behalf but also my mom’s, who was the one watching my son during that trip, and my husband’s. Luckily we made it through (despite a luggage snafu, but that’s a story for another day…)

Since that trip, I’ve done a fair amount of breastfeeding-on-the-go. It’s not my favorite thing to do, lugging a breast pump on a trip, even just into the city for an afternoon meeting. But it’s so worth it in the end when you can bring home that liquid gold and feed it to your little one.

Here are my tips for making breastmilk pumping a success:

  • If you plan to pump more than once in any given outing, invest in an electric, dual pump breast pump. Also, buy one of those hands-free bra-like things so you can multitask (as working moms, we’re masters of multitasking!)
  • Pack extra batteries. At least one more complete set. And bring your power cord, too. It doesn’t take up much extra space so when available, plug in rather than run your pump off battery power.
  • Rent a refrigerator for your hotel room. The minibar often isn’t cool enough for properly storing breast milk, so call ahead to have a mini-fridge put into your room upon check-in so it’s cold and ready when you arrive.
  • Bring a cooler bag with a frozen ice pack. My business trip was a quick 24-hour jaunt, so I really didn’t want to check my bag. I know that TSA rules seem to vary from person to person, but even when traveling alone and with an empty cooler bag with just a frozen pack inside on my flight out, the TSA agent allowed it through since the pack was still solid.
  • When you get to your hotel, put the frozen pack into your mini-fridge’s freezer. If you don’t have a freezer compartment, ask the front desk if they’ll store it for you. My freezer pack came from the freebies the hospital gave us when my son was born, so it had Similac logos all over it. No one was going to steal that! At the very least, put your name and check-out date on it (perhaps room number, too), to reduce the chances that it’ll get misplaced.
  • Get a nursing cover. Yes, even for pumping. I was lucky enough to be on a flight that still had empty seats. I found an entire row (the last row on the plane) without any passengers and took a window seat there. As soon as we were allowed to use our electronic devices, I pulled out my pump, strapped on my “hooter-hider,” even put my laptop up on the middle seat tray to do some work, and pumped away. No one had any idea.
  • Store pumped milk into bags made for freezing breast milk. This is something I discovered after so many times bringing all my supplies and realizing I forgot to pack caps for my bottles. Doh! Just pump and dump into those bags, which also fit really well into coolers and don’t take up any extra space. You can add fresh pumped milk to previously chilled milk, so fill it with two or more pumpings. Just don’t freeze your milk, because once it’s thawed you have to use it within 24 hours.

 For information about how long to store pumped milk, click here.

Published by

Elana Natker, MS, RD

I'm a dietitian, communications professional, wife, mother - just your typical modern-day woman trying to juggle it all.

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