Pumping on the go is hard enough when you’re a nursing mom, but how do you keep up your milk supply when you have to travel for work or for an event and can’t bring the baby along? These essentials will make traveling without your precious babe a whole lot easier. (See also: 10 Life Skills for Working Moms)
1. Milk delivery and/or storage system
If you don’t want to worry about keeping your pumped milk fresh, try a milk delivery service like Milk Stork. Starting at $139, Milk Stork ships a 34 oz. cooler to your hotel and comes with a pre-labeled and postpaid package to allow your fresh milk to get back home quickly without spoiling.
If you’re traveling for work, your employer might be willing to pay for this service. If not, you might be able to write it off on your taxes, since it is considered a work-travel expense.
If you don’t use a milk shipping service, you will need to stay in a hotel room that has a fridge or freezer. The hotel might allow you to store your cooler of milk in their main freezer, but it’s best to call ahead of time to see what they have available to accommodate new moms.
2. Cooler and ice packs
If you decide to store and transport your milk yourself, take an airtight cooler and plenty of gel ice packs. If you’re flying, this will count as a carry on, so plan accordingly. This is not an ideal method of transporting milk home if you will be traveling for more than five days. Breast milk is good for one day transported in a cooler with ice packs, in the fridge for up to five days, and in the freezer for several months.
It’s a good idea to smell your milk before use. If it smells sour, you need to dump it.
3. Automatic and manual breast pumps
An automatic breast pump will allow you to pump quicker and more efficiently than the manual handheld versions. I also recommend bringing along a manual pump for when you need relief but can’t use your automatic pump.
4. Milk storage bags
Use milk storage bags instead of bottles to save room in your hotel fridge and cooler, and to make life a little simpler. These can be stored in the freezer, and are much easier to transport than clunky bottles.
5. Sterilization bags and wipes
Medela makes quick clean wipes and sterilization bags to make cleaning your pump parts and bottles easy on the go. The wipes are great for cleaning your pump in the airport or at the office, while the sterilization bags can be used in the microwave and eliminates 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria on pump parts.
6. Extra batteries and adapters
It’s a good idea to bring extra batteries for your automatic pump just in case it loses power in a moment when you really need it to work. Having a breast pump adapter is also very helpful to have on hand.
7. A wet bag
A wet/dry bag is a great way to store pump parts after you are done using them. Wet bags are also extremely versatile, and new parents can use them as waterproof storage for dry cloth diapers or anything else that needs to be put away immediately before being cleaned.
8. Nursing Attire
Button down blouses are the perfect career-friendly nursing attire, since they look professional and are easy to discreetly pump in. Wear a hands-free pumping bra underneath so that you can pump and multi-task at the same time. Bring a nursing cover or fashionable wrap with you if you want more privacy when pumping on the plane or in the airport.
Employee rights and breast-feeding
If you are traveling for work, know your rights as a new mom at work. Make sure to discuss travel accommodations and your work needs when you’re on the road. For example, will your employer provide you with a hotel room that has a fridge or freezer or pay for the delivery of your milk back home? Will your working location have a private room you can pump in and store milk when you are away from your hotel room? How many breaks will you receive to pump? Inquire about all of these things beforehand.
Your travel rights
Whether you travel for work or for other reasons, it is also important to know your rights when it comes to TSA and flying. First of all, the FDA considers the breast pump a medical device. Some airlines allow passengers to bring the pump on the plane and not count it toward the carry-on limit. However, other airlines might not be so generous. Know your airlines’ guidelines and plan ahead so that you aren’t stuck at the gate with more carry-ons then you are allowed.
In regards to bringing breastmilk on board, TSA laws are in your favor. Per the TSA, you aren’t limited to the three-ounce liquid rule when it comes to breast milk, but you need to declare your milk and supplies. You are allowed to bring a cooler, breast milk, bottles, and ice packs on the plane. Ask the TSA agent to change their gloves before opening up your cooler to inspect the milk. They might swab the outside of the milk bags, but they will not open up the bags. Ask to talk with a supervisor if you have issues.