Breastfeeding and traveling without your baby? How will you pump on the plane, store your breast milk, and get your breast milk through TSA? I cover it all in the following 6 tips for traveling without your baby while breastfeeding.
Where to Pump at the Airport
Need to pump while at the airport? Some airports now have nursing pods made by Mamava. They are private, clean, and have outlets so you can plug in your electric pump. In addition to airports they have a few locations at stadiums, malls, and hospitals. Find locations here or download the Mamava Lactation Suite Locator from iTunes.
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How to Pump on the Plane or in a Car
I flew to Japan without my daughter and there was no way to get around not pumping for a 14hr flight. For traveling I always pack my single pump as it’s easy to travel with. It also makes pumping on the plane and in cars a breeze. For this trip I used my Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump to pump on the plane in my seat.
I was sitting at the window seat, with my husband next to me and used a jacket to cover myself. The manual pump is very quiet and it just looked as if I was covering myself because I was cold, very discreet. However, I have done it with a stranger sitting next to me when traveling alone and they never noticed (or at least they didn’t give me any dirty looks). When I had my second child I discovered the Evenflo Single Electric Breast Pump. It can be used with batteries or being plugged in, either way you save your arms, that manual pump is a work out!! It is louder since it’s electric but the results are great and you can use it anywhere.
How to Store Your Milk on the Plane or Long Car Ride
On planes I bring a cooler to store milk in and bring two gallon-sized zip-loc bags. After I’ve past security I ask a restaurant to fill up my bags with ice. If it’s a long flight sometimes I will ask the flight attendants to refill my bags if the ice melted. If you have freezer packs you can use those as well. Just test them out first to see how long they will stay cool. When on road trips you can stop at a gas station or fast food restaurants for ice if your cooler packs get warm.
How to Store Your Breast Milk at a Hotel
If you don’t see that your room comes with a mini fridge call the hotel to confirm. If it doesn’t come with one let them know you will be pumping and need somewhere to store your milk. Most hotels have mini fridges they can put in your room even if it doesn’t normally come with one. This was the case for me when staying at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. The hotel even gave extended check out for free so I could use the fridge until I was headed to the airport.
If your room doesn’t come with a fridge and they can’t provide one ask the hotel to store your milk in their fridge/freezer. I had to do this while staying at a hotel in Cancun. I pumped my milk into storage bags and put them in a gallon sized zip-loc bag with my name on it. Room service came each day to pick the milk up and store it until I was checking out.
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How to Clean Your Pumping Supplies on the Plane, in the Car or at a Hotel
When I returned to work and while pumping when traveling I used either the Medela Quick Clean Wipes or the Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam Bags to sanitize my pumping supplies easily. You need a microwave and water to use the Quick Clean Bags and each bag can be used 20 times. There are 20 boxes on the back of the bag you can check off to easily keep track. If it is only for one day you can put the pumping supplies in the fridge in between pumps. However, it’s best to clean them after one full days use.
How to Get Through TSA With Your Breast Milk
Prepare Your Breast Milk for Easy Inspection
Breast milk is allowed in all quantities and does not have to follow the general TSA rule of 3oz or less for your carry-on. Do let the TSA screening agent know that you are traveling with breast milk. Have your milk separated from the rest of your liquids so it can be easily screened. Be prepared for the TSA agent to do additional screening on your milk. They will put it in a testing machine but they should not open it!
In my experience they usually only test 1 bottle or storage bag even if you have multiple bags. Since so many people do not follow the 3oz liquid rule the line for additional screening can be long. Be sure to get to the airport with at least an additional 30mins when traveling with breast milk. Ice packs, freezer packs, or frozen gel packs are also allowed in your carry on or cooler but if they are only partially frozen or slushy they may also be put through additional screening.
What to Do if You Encounter a Problem
I have never had an issue traveling with breast milk throughout the U.S. but did when traveling home from Cancun. The TSA agent said I wasn’t allowed to travel with breast milk without my baby. Ummmm hello, I have all this breast milk because I don’t have my baby! If this happens to you stay calm and ask to speak with a supervisor.
Carry a printed copy of the TSA rules directly from their website in the event you encounter any issues with the supervisor or one is not available. If you are still having issues have them call a representative from the ticket counter of the airline you are flying to intervene. I have never had to go this far in the two years I have been traveling with breast milk.
What tips do you have on traveling with breast milk? Any horror stories? Share them below to bring awareness around the struggles so many mothers face when providing food for their children!
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