Breastfeeding and traveling without your baby? What’s the best travel breast pump, how to pump on the plane, what’s best cooler for traveling with breast milk, how to fly with breast milk and how get your breast milk through TSA? I cover it all in these 6 tips for traveling with breast milk without your baby.
Traveling with Breast Milk: Where to Pump at the Airport
If you’re traveling with breast milk without your baby you’ll probably need to pump 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. Check out these other apps that help make travel easy.
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You may be interested in reading: Is My Baby Too Young to Fly?
The Best Travel Breast Pump
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. On my first trips without my eldest daughter I used the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump to pump on the plane in my seat. It’s a manual and very quiet which I liked, however it was hard on my hands. As my breast pumping journey continued I discovered the Evenflo Single Electric Breast Pump. I think it’s the best travel breast pump as 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. I have also heard good things about this Medela travel breast pump but haven’t personally used it.
How to Use a Breast Pump on a Plane
So how did I pump on the plane? On my first flight I was lucky enough to be sitting at the window seat. My husband sat next to me and I used a jacket to cover myself. Unfortunately I wasn’t always lucky enough to get a window seat and I didn’t always travel with my husband. I have pumped on the plane with a stranger sitting next to me and they never noticed, or at least they didn’t give me any dirty looks.
Traveling with Breast Milk: How to Store Your Milk on the Plane or Long Car Ride
When traveling with breast milk I bring a cooler to store milk in and bring two gallon-sized zip-loc bags. After I’ve passed 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. The best cooler for traveling with breastmilk is a soft cooler.
Traveling with Breast Milk: 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. This is what I did when my husband and I traveled to The Bahamas. 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.
You may be interested in reading: 8 Tips on Traveling with Babies
How to Clean Your Pumping Supplies on the Plane, in the Car or at a Hotel
After using my travel breast pump I clean it with either the Medela Quick Clean Wipes or the Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam Bags. The quick clean wipes are best used for cleaning your travel breast pump on the plane as you just wipe them down. You need a microwave and water to use the Quick Clean Bags so they are best used at a hotel. 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. For one day’s use you can put your pumping supplies in the fridge in between pumps. However, it’s best to clean them after one full days use or after each use if you don’t have access to a fridge.
Traveling with Breast Milk: How to Get Through TSA
Prepare Your Breast Milk for Easy Inspection
When traveling with breast milk it’s important to know 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 with traveling with breast milk TSA usually only tests 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.
Did you find this article helpful? Please share it and help another mom find the best travel breast pump and be prepared for traveling with breast milk.
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Very informative ! Thanks
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Great article and thanks for the tips. I’ll be travelling across the country (it’ll be 9 hours of flights/layovers) and will spend 4 days and 3 nights away from my little one who will be 7-months old by then. It’ll be my first time being away from her for more than 12 hrs!! What size cooler would you recommend I travel with? I’m thinking to bring the smaller Medela one that came with my pump for the flight but after so many days of pumping I’ll need something larger. Also, would you recommend taping the cooler shut and packing it in my checked luggage at the end of the trip or its best to carry it on?
So sorry for the delayed response as we were traveling. Thank you, so happy you find it helpful! I’m not sure how much you will be producing then but I still think the small cooler that comes with the Medela will be too small for 24hrs of pumping for 4 days. I personally wouldn’t check my milk, airlines lose so many things my milk is not something I would chance. I typically freeze all my milk and that helps it to stay cool and then after passing security I fill ziploc bags with ice and lay on the bottom and top of my cooler and the milk stays frozen since there would be so much of it. I have a friend who just traveled for her anniversary for a week and she used dry ice. As far as the size of cooler I would maybe buy a few sizes and if you have a freezer stash now pack the amount you think you would pump during that time into the different sizes to see what works best. If you don’t already be sure to freeze them flat with no air in the bag as it allows for more to fit. Hope this helps!
I just came back from Cancun and my experience pumping and storing my milk was very easy and effortless! TSA seemed to know the drill and i had no problems getting through. I bought a soft backpack cooler to hold my milk while out on excursions and while traveling on the plane. Also my manual pump became my best friend. I also plugged my electric pump up in the airport and just put my breast-feeding cover that I use to cover my baby over me while I pumped.
Thank you so much. This was truly helpful!
You’re very welcome Lathyra!