How to make pumping while traveling easier

How to make pumping while traveling easier
Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing. However, it may not always be possible to achieve for a number of different reasons. That’s where pumping comes in. When you pump for your little one, they will still be able to enjoy the nourishment of your breast milk whether you are present or not.

If you are planning to travel for a while without your baby, things can get complicated really quickly. There are a lot of things you have to think of, from travel regulations to milk storage to packing all storing all your pump parts.

So what can you do?

Well, we have prepared this guide to show you exactly how you can make pumping while traveling easier. This guide includes everything you need to know to safely store milk while traveling and how to carry milk by plane, truck, or courier. This way, you’ll always have the peace of mind that comes with knowing your precious breast milk will not go to waste.

How to pump while traveling

In this first section, we’ll outline how you can pump while traveling in a series of simple, easy-to-follow steps.

1. General essentials

Take a long, hard, look at your travel conditions and your destination’s accommodations. Choose a pump that is appropriate for your lifestyle requirements and needs. 

2. Decide how you want to store your milk.

While on your trip, ask yourself, what is the one thing that is most likely to cause my milk to spoil? Then establish the best storage method to counteract it.

For example, if you’ll be in a desert environment, your biggest problem will be the heat. A plug-in car chiller may be your best bet if you'll be traveling for hours in it. Traveling by air? Use a small cooler and ice packs instead of dry ice for plane travel. Going to be away for weeks? Consider mailing batches of breast milk home for the duration of your trip.

3. Do your homework.

Spend some time researching what you’ll need to make the process go smoothly. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Check with your location to verify whether a refrigerator is available.
  • Reserve a hospital-grade pump at a local hospita
  • Check to see if your airline will count your cooler as a bag and whether they will exclude your breast pump from carry-on luggage limits as a "medical device."
  • Confirm that whatever office you'll be visiting has a mother's room by speaking with an HR representative.

The more knowledge you have, the more prepared you'll be for your trip, and the smoother the entire process will go. 

4. Create a pumping plan

Pumping schedules can easily fall by the wayside when you're out of your comfort zone. Irregular pumping over multiple days can seriously affect your milk supply. So, before you leave, take a look at your calendar and develop a mental (or written) plan for when you'll be able to pump your milk. Set alarms on your phone to remind you to pump on a regular basis if necessary.

5. When it’s time to pump, do it

Sometimes, you may have to get a little creative to pump. Perfect pumping conditions will be rare when you are away from your home. At some point, you may have to pump in public. Here is how to do it: 

  • Ask an employee If a mother's room is available
  • Pump in a quiet corner while wearing a breastfeeding cover.
  • Pump in a lounge or in a bathroom stall

6. Take care of your pump

Make sure to clean your breast pump properly before using it again. Use a breast pump sanitizing wipe if you can't wash it well because you're in a car, on an airplane, or in a location where soap and a sink aren't readily available. Be sure to always clean any parts of the pump that have come into contact with milk.

7. Store the milk properly

Place your milk in the most convenient storage option available to you. Ideally, you want to use a refrigerator to keep the milk as fresh as possible. If one is not available, use a cooler with ice packs instead. But transfer everything to a fridge as soon as one is available.

Unless you're going on a trip for over eight days or you are planning to ship your breast milk home, freezing your milk isn't a good idea while on the road.

8. Carry milk and bring it home

When it's time to go home, make sure your milk is well-packed, preferably unfrozen, with frozen ice bags or ice packs. If you're transporting ice or a pack that's likely to leak, put it in a resealable bag to avoid mishaps.

Wrap your milk bags with paper before using dry ice to avoid direct contact with the dry ice, which might damage them and cause leaking. To accommodate off-gassing, consider a ventilated cooler. If you're flying and using dry ice, don't use more than 5.5 pounds.

Pumping while traveling essentials

This next section will highlight all the important things that you’ll need to bring with you. Many of them will be the same regardless of the type of breast pump that you have. Here are some of the things that you should pack:

  • Breast pump
  • Flanges, tubing, membranes, power cord, car power adaptor, and all breast pump accessories
  • Milk collection bottles
  • Milk collection bags
  • Batteries, both primary and backup.
  • Breast milk cooler
  • Freezer packs
  • Nursing covers
  • Breast pump sanitizing wipes
  • A good quality hands-free pumping bra
  • A pen to record the time and date of the milk after pumping it

How to keep your breast milk fresh

The next step after pumping milk is to figure out what to do with it. Breast milk has a short shelf life (maximum of eight days in the refrigerator), therefore keeping it cool to avoid deterioration is essential. Here are a few ways to keep breast milk fresh while traveling:

  • Freezer packs in a cooler: Breast milk will keep for 24 hours in a standard cooler with ice packs if the internal temperature stays between 5 and 39 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don't have access to a refrigerator or if you are flying, this is a viable solution.
  • Cooler for the car: These electric coolers can be plugged into your car's power socket, which is a handy alternative if you travel primarily by car.
  • Ship it home: Whether you have a significant supply of milk, need to send milk home in the middle of your trip, or simply don't want to deal with the trouble of transporting milk home, shipping it is yet another option that you can look into. You can ship it via any overnight shipping company in a cooler with ice packs or dry ice.

How to transport breast milk

Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to storing and transporting milk:

  • Breast milk should not be frozen while traveling. This is because it cannot be re-frozen once it has defrosted and must be consumed or disposed of within three days
  • Make sure your hotel has a refrigerator in your room for you by calling ahead. If they don't have one, ask if you can borrow one or if one can be placed in your room. If not, invest in a plug-in cooler to keep your milk chilled.
  • If you're going to be away from your little one for more than eight days, you may need to freeze some of your milk or consider shipping a batch home in the middle of your vacation.
  • The simplest approach to ensure that milk does not spoil is to ship it frozen.
  • Be wary of off-gassing if you use dry ice to keep your milk chilled. Dry ice is carbon dioxide in its solid form, and it can be deadly if not stored in a well-ventilated location.
  • Check with your courier about any requirements while transporting breast milk, especially if you're using dry ice. Because dry ice is a dangerous item, the amount you can deliver by air may be limited.
  • Before placing milk bags in a container with dry ice, always wrap them in a newspaper or a towel. When dry ice comes into direct touch with plastic milk bags, it can damage them.

Final Thoughts

For many women, expressing breast milk is a necessary activity, but it isn't enjoyable—especially when traveling. The trouble of figuring out where to pump, how to clean your pump parts, and how to safely store and transport your milk might be intimidating when you're planning a trip away from your baby. Fortunately, with this guide, pumping while traveling should be a little less stressful for you. Happy travels!


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