Traveling with a Breast Pump

Here is part three, of my 3 part post on traveling with a child. You can read my tips on traveling with an infant here, and with a toddler here. This post is actually not geared toward navigating travel with a child, but gives some insight on how to travel with a breast pump and all that precious liquid gold!

Traveling without a child, but with a breast pump:

We took our first trip without Harlow when she was about 6 months old. I was still breast feeding and pumping around the clock, so I went to Chicago, pump in hand.

I will post my packing list for Harlow and what I sent to the grandparents house in a separate post.

Breast pump

We had dropped Harlow off to the grandparents the night before (they live an hour away) since we had a 6am flight. Because we did have such an early flight, I had to pump in the car on the way to the airport, which was about a 35 minute drive. I have the Medela on the Go pump that also comes with a battery pack, which I used in the car, and for all of the funny places I had to pump when an outlet wasn’t available.

Here is what I made sure was in my pump bag:

  • Medela on the go pump
  • Freezer bags – these store and travel easier than lots of bottles
  • 2 bottles – I always preferred pumping in to bottles since I could never figure out the attachment for the bags from the pump
  • Sharpie –  to label the date
  • Tubes
  • Breast shield
  • Membranes
  • Steam bag – to easily clean the pump parts when you are pumping in your hotel room
  • Manual pump – I will touch on that below
  • Nursing cover – in case you need to pump on the plane or in a bathroom
  • Battery pack – for pumping in the plane bathroom like I had to – gross
  • Pumping bra
  • Spare batteries
  • Freezer packs – Our hotel actually didn’t have a fridge or freezer (WTF) so I had to get super creative and put my pumped milk in the sink and keep putting ice over it. The cleaning crew must have thought I went off my rocker. I did the same with my freezer pack. I didn’t know about the rule that it had to be frozen until I got to the airport, so if I did it again, I would ask the front desk to put my freezer pack in their freezer for me.
  • Ziplock bags – sandwich size and gallon size
  • Breast milk cooler set that comes with the pump – this is the small case that fits a cooler pack and four bottles
  • Small lunch bag or cooler bag to store any excess milk
  • Small liquid soap to clean your pump parts at night and your bottles – be sure it is less than 3oz

Traveling-with-a-Breast-Pump

Airport:

You will need to declare your milk at security and they are going to check your bag and make you take everything out. If you have pumped milk in there, they will test the milk with strips. There is not a restriction on the number of ounces of breast milk you can bring on the plane with you, so don’t worry about that!  If you are traveling without a child, chances are they are going to give you a funny look and then you will annoyingly have to give them an explanation. The men (in my experience) typically tore my bag apart like an apartment drug raid, but the women were always much more discreet.

I pumped right before take off and then half way through our 5 hour flight, in the airplane bathroom. It was so hard to pump in the bathroom. A friend of mine who travels all the time said she would pump on the plane under her nursing cover. She got all set up under the cover and said you couldn’t even hear the pump since the plane was so loud. I might try that next time!

And as I stated above, your freezer packs must be 100% frozen, otherwise security will throw them out. Once I got through security, I would go to Starbucks (or any restaurant) and ask them for cups of ice to pour over my milk, just to be 100% safe. You could always try dry ice, but I didn’t look in to that for this trip.

Tips

Try to pump at the same times you would typically breastfeed or pump at home. This was super hard since we were on a fun weekend get away and we were on different time zones, so it didn’t always happen, but I did try my best. I brought my manual pump for when we were out and about (and I didn’t want to carry the actually pump with me) and literally pumped in the bathroom at a rugby game, at a bar and at Giuliana and Bill Rancic’s restaurant, RPM Italian. I think it is safe to say that has never happened at their fancy Italian restaurant!  (As a side note, that was some of the best Italian food I have ever eaten, and I’ve even been to Italy).  I pumped and dumped at all of these locations because who really is going to carry around pumped breast milk in their purse all day long? I felt silly enough carrying my manual pump with me! And also, I could barely get anything out of the manual pump, couldn’t get a good latch and my hand was so sore after just a few minutes, so there wasn’t much milk to carry around anyways. Because I had to dump out my day time pumps, I made sure to have a really good morning and evening pump, and if our schedule allowed it, I would dash back to the hotel around lunch time to use the good pump.  Depending on how much milk you anticipate pumping, bring a little cooler bag, lunch pail with built in freezer packs or a large ziploc bag to store the pumped milk. I stored my pumped milk in the freezer bags and then I put those in a lunch pail with built in freezer packs.

Traveling with a breast pump

After you pump, you can store your pump parts in a large ziploc back and keep them inside the cooler bag with ice to avoid having to clean the parts during the transit part of your trip.  I would clean them once a day in hot water in the hotel and then also use the steam bag and let them dry over night.

Store the pumped milk in the refrigerator in your  hotel room, if you have one. If you do not, you can store the milk in a cooler bag and fill it to the brim with ice, ask the front desk to store it for you (I’d be a little cautious of this because you won’t know if the door is left open or if your milk is compromised) or store it in your sink and fill it will ice (I had to do this because I didn’t have a big enough carry bag). Storing it in the sink is definitely not ideal, but we made it work!

I’m not going to lie, traveling with a breast pump is so much work, but it is totally worth it. It definitely takes some extra planning & packing, and the logistics of it all can seem a little overwhelming at first, but if you plan accordingly, it will all work out and be easier than you thought it would be.

Happy traveling!

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