Dear Judy, I’m about to go on my first trip WITHOUT baby. I’m nervous about pumping and getting my milk home. Any advice?
Thanks for writing in. Traveling without the baby can make mom very nervous. The most important thing to remember is that you will want to pump about as often as your baby nurses. So if your baby is nursing during the night, you will probably want to wake up and pump then too. It all depends on how old your baby is. If your baby is very young, try not to miss any pumping sessions so that you don’t adversely affect your supply. If your baby is older, then missing a few sessions won’t be so detrimental as your supply is more well established.
Carry your pump as a carry-on if you are traveling by plane. You don’t want to take a chance that it will get broken or lost if you check it. I checked mine once and my luggage got lost – it was awful!! I was trying to hand-express and that didn’t work well for me (lots of mom’s can – but I was never able to).
If you are traveling by plane, make sure you know your rights ahead of time. There are limitations to how much liquid you can carry with you. Currently, there is an exception for breastmilk and you should be able to carry it on the plane even if your baby is not traveling with you. You will want to check this information right before you leave and it is a good idea to print it out and bring it with you just incase the TSA agent that you get isn’t as up-to-date on the regulations as you are! Make sure you declare ahead of time to the security guard that you are carrying breastmilk so that they can inspect it. Don’t worry, they won’t make you drink it!
It is a good idea to bring a photo of your baby or perhaps even one of his/her outfits or toys. Having something like this will help you to let-down successfully even though you are away from your baby. Also, take a look at my Pumping Tips Article for more great tips on getting a good let down and pumping while you are away.
In your hotel room, ask for a refrigerator to store your breastmilk in. Most hotels will put one in your room for a nominal fee. Many will also allow you to store your freezer packs in their freezer (as the dorm-style fridge freezers aren’t very big) – that way when you are ready to travel with your milk, your freezer packs will be good and frozen! If you have enough milk to last for your baby while you are away, then you can just carry the milk that you pump home with you when you return. If not, then you may want to send it via overnight mail while you are away so that your baby has milk to drink while you are gone. You will want to pack it in a styrofoam container with lots of ice so that it stays cold for the shipment.
Find places to pump. If you can go back to your room for pumping sessions, that is great. I usually tried to find a nearby conference room or bathroom to use when I traveled for business. If you are going to be away from a refrigerator all day while you are traveling, then you will want to make sure you have lots of freezer packs and good storage bag for your milk and your freezer packs to keep them cool. You can keep one set at the hotel in the freezer and then bring the other set with you. Then just swap them out at the end of each day so that you always have cold packs to carry.
I have pumped on the plane – so if you have a long flight – don’t fret. Bring a nursing cover to cover yourself with (or just use a blanket) and go ahead and pump away! Most pumps can operate using a battery pack – so you should be able to pump anywhere – even if you don’t have a plug. I did this on a crowded flight and no one even knew what I was doing – not even the guy sitting next to me!! Bring lots of extra batteries so that you have enough in case the bathrooms or conference rooms where you are going to be don’t have convenient plugs.
Don’t worry – you will do great!! Your baby will too! Your may notice a slight dip in supply while you are away because the pump isn’t as effective as your baby is at getting the milk out – but don’t worry – as soon as you return home and start nursing your baby again your supply will bounce back. Enjoy your trip and pump away!!
Have you traveled without your baby? What are some things that worked for you?? We’d love to hear your tips!