Fair warning: This post is not about food. If you don't care to read about breastfeeding or pumping, stop by next week for the return of tasty recipe posts!
I've been back at work for more than two months now (time flies) and have already been back in the air for two work trips since. Besides the obvious (being away from my baby), one of the most worrisome aspects of business travel for me these days is pumping. Breastfeeding and pumping are new adventures on their own, but add in the TSA and hotel stays and it's a whole new level of anxiety. So, this week I wanted to share a little bit about my experience in pumping while traveling (which is a compilation of my own experience plus advice from my more experienced mommy friends) so that any of you new or expectant moms out there can feel a little more at ease if and when you find yourself flying solo in those first few months.
What to Pack:
I want to begin with a list of what to pack for your flight sans baby. First, you're obviously going to want to pack your pump and necessary accessories like breast shields, connectors, and your charger. In addition, I recommend 4 storage bottles (so you have a set to pump into and one for backup) and a set of extra tubing because that's super delicate and you don't want it to get damaged in transit. Here's what else you should have packed:
- Manual pump - I was not originally on board with this suggestion, but one of my coworkers who is a more seasoned traveling mom insisted I pack my Medela Harmony. Thank goodness she did! When I arrived in NYC several hours late on a recent business trip I needed to get to my room and pump quickly before running to a lunch... and after I unpacked it all and put it together, my pump stopped working! Thankfully, I got it to work again later that day but I was desperate, in pain and without a lot of time to deal with it. Having a manual pump on hand saved me in that moment and I haven't taken it out of my pump bag since.
- Nursing Cover - Don't forget one of these! That same coworker (she's basically my working mommy mentor) reminded me that I'd probably need to pump at the airport and possibly on the flight, but that I wouldn't want to do it in the bathroom (because... ew, airport restrooms) so the nursing cover allowed me to pump discreetly in a quiet corner of the airport before my flight. I like this apron-style cover because it is super easy to slip on right over your clothes and it allows you plenty of room on the sides to situate things underneath too.
- Hands-Free Pumping Bra - Wearing one of these is the most efficient way to pump because it allows you to pump on both sides simultaneously and without use of your hands. It's great for when you're in the airport and you're pressed for time-- just zip it on over your open nursing bra and you're ready. And with your hands free, you have the ability to do other important things like eat breakfast or check email while you pump.
- Hand Sanitizer - Airports and airplanes are notoriously germ-filled, so be sure to quickly clean your hands before you begin handling your pump parts.
- Cleaning Wipes - These wipes are ideal for any time you are pumping on the go, but especially in an airport or airplane when you don't have access to a proper sink situation. One wipe can clean all of your pump parts from one session, so a package of these is an absolute necessity. I don't know of any other brand that makes these besides Medela, but these are great and they're alcohol-free and made specifically for this purpose so you can also rest at ease about them touching parts that will touch the milk you feed your baby.
- Extra Thin Ice Packs - The Medela Freestyle comes with a cooler bag and an ice pack that fits inside it and snugly between 4 milk storage bottles. However, for air travel I prefer these slim ice packs instead and leave the big one at home. You can layer them in and around a cooler bag and fill it with your storage bags or bottles, allowing you to carry way more than the 20 ounces those bottles max out at, while still keeping them chilled.
- Thermal Bag - I bring the aforementioned Medela cooler bag with me, but also bring a larger collapsible thermal bag in my suitcase too. Mine is one that a client gave me with their logo on it (like this) and when I'm on my way home I slide the little Medela cooler inside this bag (since it is sturdier) and it's a perfect fit. I fill the little one with the more delicate storage bags of milk and any additional (like what you may pump at the airport) in bottles can sit on top. It also folds nicely into a suitcase on your trip out and only really needs to be out and in use on your trip home.
- Disposable Breast Pads - You should always have a few of these in your pump bag, but especially when you're traveling in case of any delays in pumping that may cause leakage or if (god forbid) your checked bag gets lost. And while I love the washable ones, make your life easier and travel with the disposable kind. Throw them out when you're done instead of figuring out how to pack potentially wet pads back into your luggage.
- Dish Soap - If you'll be staying in a hotel, bring along a small bottle of dish soap for washing pump parts and storage bottles in the sink. I love this little carry-on approved size that Dapple makes!
- Microwave Sterilization Bag - You'll be away from home and likely without access to a dishwasher, so sterilizing your pump parts and bottles in a hotel room can be a challenge. I have some thoughts on that if you read my follow-up post later this week, but these microwave sterilization bags are my go to's at home and in any hotel room with a microwave. Just add water and you've got an easy and super portable way to steam clean all of your pump accessories.
- Milk Storage Bags - An essential for storage while you're away! While I prefer the sturdy weight of Medela bags, these Nuk bags win out because they can store 6 oz. instead of 5, which is where the Medela bags top out.
- Permanent Marker - This seems weird, but you'll want to keep one in your bag at all times for labeling the dates, times, and measurements on each of your storage bags when you fill them. You can also use it to tick off the number of uses for your sterilization bag too.
Stop back on Friday for a follow up post: Traveling While Pumping: Planning & Tips!