Plan ahead and be prepared for a successful time pumping while traveling without a baby. Follow the packing list and top tips listed here.
This past Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I celebrated our four year anniversary. As an unexpected getaway, I am about to meet him in San Diego for a weekend away together (he is already there for work). This is our first trip away from both the girls since B was born in January. Since she is still exclusively breastfed, the number one item on my packing list revolves around pumping while traveling without a baby.
Thankfully when it comes to pumping while traveling without a baby, this isn't my first rodeo.
We spent our first anniversary 8 weeks pregnant in Belize. For our second anniversary, we got to have an overnight away...with my pump in tow. By our third anniversary, I was yet again newly pregnant.
Amidst these past few years of pregnancy and pumping, I am grateful to have made plenty of trips exclusively pumping - both with and without my babies. I'd like to believe I am starting to get it down to a bit of a science. That way when impromptu weekend getaways with the hubs come up (as it unexpectedly did this time!), it is no sweat. I can easily think through what I need to pack to pump while traveling without a baby.
Wouldn't you love to feel that kind of freedom (a word you'd usually would not associate with exclusive pumping...or parenting)?
Here is what you need to bring when pumping while traveling without a baby.
The list is pretty straight forward, but having a simple checklist on hand will help you pack up your pumping supplies swiftly. Then you can focus on loving those little baby rolls and kissing your kiddos before you head out of town.
What to Pack
Bring this as one of your carry-ons, if possible. If you opt to check your pump instead, consider bringing a hand-pump on board with you. Between flight delays and lost baggage, having at least one pump option on hand will eliminate unnecessary headaches and helpless engorged-mom moments while stuck in the airport. Trust me, I learned this the hard way my first time pumping while traveling.
This is a bit of a no brainer, but be sure to bring each of the pieces you need. Pack an extra set of membranes too, just in case one tears. Store your clean pump parts in a gallon-sized Ziplock. Pack a few extras for when your pump parts are dirty.
Power adapters - wall, car, and/or battery
The standard power cord is an obvious item to pack, but the Medela car adapter is one that has time and time again brought convenience to pump while traveling in the car. Medela battery packs are another safe-guard that I've had be a life saver when outlets at the airport didn't work and my plane did not have outlets on each seat. It is a huge piece of mind to have a power source with you at all times so you don't have to sweat if and where you'll be able to hook up to pump while traveling without a baby.
Since you don't know whether you will find yourself nursing in the car, on the airplane, or in a public restroom while traveling, a nursing cover is necessary for anyone wanting to maintain a bit of privacy while pumping.
Hands-free pumping bra
Please tell me you already own this pumping bra. If not, get one. It will change your life. Then it will also become the main item you remember to pack when it comes to pumping supplies.
Breast milk storage bags
I have tried a lot, A LOT, of pumping bags between exclusively pumping for both girls. My current favorites are the NUK milk storage bags. I have been luck with these not leaking (compared to Lansinol's old design) and the price is among the best I have found for any bag.
EDIT: Lansinol has redesigned there bag and upon posting this article, has also reduced it's price on Amazon. I have not yet had to thaw milk in the newly designed bags, so I cannot speak to how well it leaks (or doesn't). Fellow EP moms claim Lansinol's milk bags seem much-improved.
Microwave sanitizing bags
I don't use these when at home. When I don't have proper sanitation supplies around me though, these Medela quick clean micro-steam bags are lifesavers! Each bag gives you 20 uses, so I usually only need to pack one or two to last me the whole trip! Count how many times you pump per day, then play around with if you can fit all your pump parts in the bag at once. Depending on your shield size, you may have to use this bag twice each time to pump everything. I swaer by Pumpin Pal large shields, but they do take up more room than traditional, size 24 Medela ones.
Mini dish soap + bottle brush
You know all those items they give you in the hospital that they tell you to take home? My favorite was the mini Palmolive dish soap. Seriously, it is the perfect size and something I never had a small one of with our first born. I would decant our dish soap and pack a bottle brush in a ziplock bag, but now I have found a path of less resistance:
This is the perfect size soap, even for those traveling with carry-on only. The brush makes cleaning standard, 5-ounce pump bottles a breeze too, without excess water getting everywhere. Note that the bottle brush may not adequately reach in the larger, 8-ounce pump bottles.
Medela cleaning wipes
I love these. Again, these Medela cleaning wipes aren't an item I can't justify using often due to their expense, but they make pumping while traveling without a baby so much more bearable. I can easily and effectively wipe down all my pump pieces, including the bottles if/when I have the bottle brush to help reach down and within it.
Gallon-sized ziplock bags
Bring no less than two of these. One for clean pump parts, and one for dirty. I usually bring at least one more too for putting the filled breast milk bags, storing extra supplies, holding ice (if you don't have ice packs), etc.
I have an insulated lunch bag cooler that I only use for pumping while traveling. To me, it is an added piece of mind that an old sandwich was never left in it nor are there goldfish crackers crumbled in all the corners. It is compact but still fits enough milk from being away for a few days.
I freeze these ice packs before I leave for the airport. Then whatever milk I pump while en route to my destination stays cold. I keep them in the freezer part of the mini fridge while at the hotel, so that I can use them again when flying home.
What to Plan
Before you head to the airport, have everything ready to go in your carry on. It is easiest to pack everything I need for pumping in one bag in and of itself. That makes it easier to access on the plane (if need be) as well as for security.
Once you've finished pumping while traveling without a baby, keep all pump pieces in your cooler along with the milk. This will keep them safe enough to use again, even if you weren't able to thoroughly wash and sanitize your pump pieces between uses.
One of the biggest stressors new moms face when pumping while traveling without a baby pertains to bringing breast milk through airport security. The easiest way to ease your uncertainty is to stay up to date on TSA regulations for traveling with breast milk. TSA officers are trained to know how to handle breast milk. However, I have had several different experiences pumping while traveling without a baby and then bringing my expressed breast milk onboard. So it is best to educate yourself instead of expecting them to care as much about your expressed breast milk as you do.
Follow these steps for success when traveling with breast milk through airport security:
1. Inform the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process that you are traveling with breast milk.
2. Make it known if you do not want the breast milk to be X-rayed or opened (standard protocol). Additional steps and/or screening procedures will then be taken to clear the liquid.
3. Understand the 3-1-1 Liquids Rule Exemption. Breast milk is not limited to 3.4 ounces, nor does it all need to fit in a quart-sized bag. Ice packs are also allowed through security, if being used for the purposes of keeping breast milk chilled. Note, some may find getting Ziplocks filled with ice on the other side of security to be less of a hassle, as I have had TSA officers argue and ultimately take my ice packs for being "partially thawed" (unintentionally, of course).
4. If you find yourself in a compromised situation, pull up the TSA website for traveling with breast milk on your smart phone. This helps lessen your need to defend yourself in a potentially uncomfortable position, while still helping you to protect your rights as a mom pumping while traveling without a baby. From the horror stories of milk being dumped out to the hassle of security taking your ice packs, such scenarios should all be avoided with this resource on hand.
If you have the time before you travel, you may want to research if and where there are lactation rooms at the airport or in the facilities you plan to visit. Many conference centers, hotels, and other large establishments have also nursing rooms available to support moms who are pumping while traveling without a baby. A simple email or call ahead may help take the headache out of finding a place to pump while en route or upon arrival.
If nursing rooms are unavailable or inconvenient at the airport, there are usually outlets in family bathrooms or near the infant changing area in a women's restroom as well. Try to find an outlet that is an area of less foot traffic if you can. This puts less pressure on you to pump quickly while not tying up a bathroom that's in as high of demand.
Some airplanes have outlets available on each seat (i.e. I know United usually does). This makes it easy to pump on the plane, if you are comfortable with limited privacy. Using a pumping cover, the sound of your pump itself is easily drowned out with all the sounds from air travel and few people are able to see you do so while in your seat.
If your seat doesn't have an outlet (i.e. most Southwest flights) or you are more comfortable using the restroom to pump while traveling without a baby, a battery pack will be necessary to do so. Plane bathrooms are not equipped with outlet and, so be sure to bring your own battery pack/power source. When pumping, let the stewardess know before you go in so she/he can help point passengers to other restrooms. Also try to limit pumping to 10-15 minute intervals, even if you have to take more trips to the bathroom to achieve a full pump. While this may not be the most convenient route, it helps prevent there being too many passengers waiting for the restroom after you.
Remember to request a mini fridge (in advance) where ever you are staying. Most hotels are happy to accommodate you free of charge, if you mention you are pumping while traveling without a baby.
Time for Take Off
Many assume pumping while traveling without a baby will be a total pain. It doesn't need to be. Instead, follow the packing list and top tips listed above to stay ahead on keeping your supply up while away. Whether you find yourself traveling on your first postpartum business trip or on an impromptu getaway, plan ahead and be prepared for a successful time pumping while traveling without a baby. Safe travels!
Share Your Experiences
Tell me about your experiences pumping while traveling without a baby. Have you done it? How did it go? Do you have any horror stories we can all learn from or success stories to help set others up for similar success? I would love to hear.
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