So you’ve passed all the hurdles of starting to breastfeed, and it’s working out. Baby latches on and feeding at home is easy enough. You’ve even got feeding in public sorted out. Pumping at work is going smoothly… but you’ve got a family vacation coming up. Have you considered your plan for pumping while you’re on vacation?
No doubt you’ve got plenty of other things to coordinate, but this is important too! You don’t want to disrupt your routine and possibly your supply while you’re traveling.
There are a number of factors to consider, such as what type of breast pump to bring, how to transport your pumped milk, and how to pump comfortably and safely while you’re traveling.
Not to worry - we’ve got some great tips and suggestions to make pumping on vacation go as smoothly as possible!
First of all, let’s go over WHY you should pump on vacation. After all, you won’t be at work - you’ll be with baby most of the time.
Well, although you’ll probably have more opportunities to breastfeed while you’re at the hotel room or with friends and family, you’ll also need a break! Maybe you’d like to hand off feeding for a nap at the hotel - or family members such as grandparents might want to feed the baby. You can take the pressure of feeding off of yourself if you want to go out shopping with your sister, sans baby. Not to mention, if you’re producing extra milk, you don’t want that liquid gold to go to waste!
With so many breast pumps available on the market, which one is the most useful for traveling? Well, that’s probably going to depend on your body and situation. Everyone has different supply, flow, and pumping needs. There are two main categories of breast pumps for home use - mechanical breast pumps and manual breast pumps. There are tons of options in each category - but Babylist has a handy article breaking down the top breast pump picks for 2018!
While features are a matter of personal choice, here are some main things to consider when deciding a mechanical breast pump and a manual breast pump for travel:
Mechanical breast pump-
- They’re larger - most come with a convenient carrying case, but if you’re flying, you will have to take it on as a carry on item or check it with your luggage.
- They’re noisier - while some models are quieter than others, it’s a little less discreet to pump with a mechanical breast pump.
- More power - you’ll get stronger suction and more speed options from a mechanical breast pump.
- Less work for you - it’s basically plug and play. You can easily pump more milk when you’re tired, or you can pump while breastfeeding more effectively.
- Dependant on a power supply - mechanical breast pumps can be either battery powered, electrical, or a combo. Make sure you know what type of power your breast pump needs so you can plan accordingly.
Manual breast pump -
- Small and easy to pack - manual breast pumps are tiny in comparison to mechanical breast pumps. You can easily put one - or two - in your purse or carry on.
- More work for you - manual breast pumps require - well, manual labor. You need to put in the work to express the breast milk, unless you have a very strong flow.
- More discreet - no noise and tiny size make it easier to pump on a plane, in an airport, or out in public.
- Inexpensive - if you don’t pump a lot at home, it might be a big expense to buy a mechanical breast pump for traveling. Manual breast pumps can be under $20.
- Great if you don’t need to pump a lot of breast milk - manual breast pumps are best for smaller quantities of milk.
Storing breast milk
Now that you’ve got the pumping situation figured out, how are you gonna store all that breast milk? After all, you can’t let that liquid gold go to waste!
This is especially important if you’re on a long flight or car trip. According to the CDC, breast milk that’s been freshly pumped is good at room temperature for up to 4 hours. Previously frozen milk has a lower shelf life - only 1 to 2 hours. So if your travel time is going to take over 4 hours, you should have a solution for keeping your milk cold.
You can store individual servings of pumped milk in sterilized bags, or plastic or glass containers. (Although bags are probably the easiest to pack.)
If you’re flying, a small insulated lunch box with cold packs is a great option. If you’re driving, you can pack a travel cooler with ice. Staying with family makes it easy - you can just borrow the fridge. But even if you’re in a hotel room, they are almost always equipped with a mini-fridge. You can call ahead to double check. If you pump a LOT of milk, you have even have it cold shipped home in cold packaging -just make sure you have someone who’s picking up your mail back home!
Flying with breast milk
If you’re flying with breast milk you’ve already pumped, you probably don’t want to have to throw it out when you reach TSA. According to the TSA guidelines, breastmilk is fine to bring in your carry on bag in “reasonable quantities.”This isn’t very descriptive, unfortunately. It’s probably best if you don’t try to take 20 ounces of milk on the airplane with you. TSA instructs you to take your breastmilk out and screen it separately from your other belongings, similar to electronic devices. So be prepared to take you your milk packets in front of a crowd of strangers!
Figuring out when and where to pump while you’re on vacation is important. If you don’t make a plan, you might be too busy, tired, or uncomfortable to find time to pump. We tend to take the path of least resistance, after all.
If you’re traveling in a car or RV, pumping is a lot easier to do, of course. If you’re not driving, you can pump while relaxing in the passenger seat! If you are driving, make sure you pull over at rest stops for a quick pump. Even if you’re a #momboss, it’s not a great idea to try to pump while driving!
However, if you’re flying or traveling by bus or train, it’s a whole different story. You might be seated next to strangers, and cramped seating with little privacy can make things awkward.
If you can, choose your seat so you can sit next to a window. That way, you’ll at least have one wall for privacy while you’re pumping. If you have a stranger sitting next to you, it might be a good idea to mention to them that you’ll be pumping while you travel, so they know what to expect. If you feel uncomfortable pumping next to the person, ask a flight attendant to switch seats.
If you’re not the type who’s comfortable about simply whipping your boob out, you can use a muslin swaddle blanket or a nursing cover for more privacy. We have a gorgeous selection of nursing covers, as well as stylish nursing scarves and 5-in-1 covers to make it easy for you.
Although it might seem more private, it’s probably not a good idea to pump in the lavatory. Not only is it cramped and you might get bumped around, but the surfaces might have germs and bacteria you don’t want anywhere near your breast milk!
If you’re switching flights, try to carve out some time during your layover for a quick pump. And of course, you can pump in privacy in your hotel room!
Keeping it sanitary
No matter where you pump while traveling, keeping everything clean and sanitary is high priority. If you’re in flight, or somewhere else where washing your pump with soap and water isn’t an option, use an antibacterial wipe to clean everything you can. Popping your pump in a fridge or cold storage is also a great way to keep bacteria from growing until you can give it a proper wash.
Like most things in life (and parenting!) planning ahead will make things go much more smoothly! Whether you’re taking a plane, train, or car - you can achieve vacation pumping success!