Nursing and Pumping While Traveling

By: Sabrina Granniss, IBCLC

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6 min

Are you getting ready to go on a trip? Whether traveling for pleasure or work, plan ahead to make traveling successful while breastfeeding. Mapping out your trip and the supplies you will need to bring based on how long you will be gone and how you are traveling is well worth the effort. Even the most well-planned trip can have unexpected bumps in the road, like traffic while driving or flight delays. Keep that in mind when you pack your bags to be well prepared. 

Pack your bags

  • Your pump - fully charge your pump before leaving home.
  • Pump accessories - you will need your pump’s tubing, breast shields/flanges, duckbill valves or membranes, connectors, silicone collection bags, or other collection containers. Have you replaced your pump parts lately? You want to ensure all your pump parts are in good working order.
  • Extra pump parts - always have spares of your pump parts on hand.
  • Bottles - with caps and nipples if you will have your baby with you and giving bottles.
  • Baggies - gallon ziplock style bags work well for keeping pump parts and bottles to be cleaned and separated from your clean accessories.
  • Snacks for you - good travel snacks like nuts or seeds, dried dates, granola, cut-up veggies, or easily portable fruit like bananas, pears, or berries. 
  • Wipes for a quick wipe down of pump parts can be handy until you can thoroughly wash everything.

Vitamins, lactation supplements, and medications - using a pill organizer to store your pills and capsules can save space and make it easy to know you have enough for each day you will be away. Packing enough for a few extra days is always a good idea in case your travel plans change.

Road Trips

  • Take a look at the route you will take and places you can stop along the way to nurse or pump. 
  • Build in extra time after stopping. Plan to spend a little time walking with your baby or holding them before they have to get back in their car seat for the next leg of your ride.
  • Have a separate milk-only cooler for your pumped milk. The family cooler with snacks and drinks gets opened more often, which can affect the temperature inside the cooler when you are trying to keep your milk cold.
  • Have a car adapter for your pump. Even if your pump is fully charged, if you are stuck in traffic or hit unexpected delays, you will be happy you have a way to plug in and recharge if needed.

Air Travel

  • Your pump is considered a medical device and doesn’t count as a separate carry-on item. You can also pack your pump as a checked bag.
  • Breast milk can be in checked bags or carry-on bags. 
  • TSA guidelines - allow breast milk and formula in “reasonable quantities” in carry-on bags. You do not need to travel with a baby to travel with breast milk. 
  • Breast milk and formula do not fall under the same rule for other liquids being limited to 3.4 oz. (1)
  • Inform the TSA agent that you have breast milk or formula. Separate out your milk, full and empty bottles, and pump from your other luggage.
  • You can ask for your milk not to go through the x-ray machine - You may need to remove a small amount of thawed milk from its container for the TSA agent to test. You are allowed to ask that they put new gloves on before doing so and not touch milk in the bottle or storage container while performing the screen for explosives.
  • Ice packs - if your ice pack is slushy, TSA will want to screen it as well.  
  • Dry ice is allowed to keep milk cold or frozen - No more than 5.5 pounds is permitted. It must have airline approval and be clearly labeled. (2)
  • Print the TSA guidelines to bring with you.
  • Contact TSA before you travel if you have any questions or concerns - TSA Contact Center: 1-866-289-9673
  • International travel - different countries may have other guidelines, so research before you fly to know what to expect.

Flying with your baby

  • Wear your baby - a sling that you can also nurse in is a lifesaver while traveling. It allows your hands to be more available for carrying your gear, nursing your baby on the go, and keeping your baby safe and secure while traveling.
  • During take-off and landing - nurse your baby to help their ears adjust during pressure changes. If they do not want to nurse, have a bottle to give them handy or a teething toy to chew.
  • Nurse your baby on demand - traveling can throw off your regular schedule. Continue to nurse as often as your baby wants and will make sure they are getting what they need and protect your milk supply.

Pumping your milk

  • Keep as close to the same pump schedule as possible - adjustments may need to be made, but try to continue to pump every 3-4 hours to protect and maintain your supply.
  • Pump before you board the plane - going through the lines and getting settled on the plane all take more time than expected. 
  • The Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act requires all large and medium hub airports to have non-bathroom private lactation spaces in each terminal building. (3) You can use a breastfeeding app like Mamava or Moms Pump Here lactation room locator to locate a pumping or nursing room where you will be traveling.
  • Let the in-flight cabin crew know your needs when you board the plane - they are there to help and can make your pumping while flying manageable and comfortable. They will be able to direct people to the other restroom if you choose to pump in there instead of in your seat.
  • Hands-free pumping is convenient while traveling - using Legendairy Milk silicone collection cups allows you to be hands-free and discreet while pumping your milk on the plane or anywhere.
  • Dress in layers - a comfy sweater or light shirt can keep you comfortable and covered while you pump.
  • Learn how to hand express - a must for all! Knowing how to hand-express means you always have a way to remove milk if you are delayed, your pump suddenly isn’t working right, or some other reason is getting between you having full breasts and being able to remove milk no matter where you are.

Storing your milk

  • Guidelines for milk storage - be familiar with how to store your milk safely. 
  • Store your milk in a separate cooler from other food and drinks - you want to open the cooler only when needed to preserve the temperature inside the cooler.
  • Ice or ice packs can be used in the cooler - it’s a good idea to carry a couple of extra gallon-size bags just in case you need to add more ice to the cooler. You can ask a restaurant at the airport for a bag of ice if needed. Your milk can be stored with frozen ice packs for up to 24 hours before using, refrigerating, or freezing it. (4)
  • Dry ice - packing your breast milk with dry ice will keep it frozen for up to 48 hours, depending on the amount of milk and dry ice you are packing. (5)
  • If you are staying in a hotel, ask for a room with a mini fridge - store your milk in the back of the refrigerator where it is coldest and away from the fridge light if there is one.
  • Shipping your milk is an option some people find helpful - Milk Stork is a service that ships your milk, or you can do it yourself through FedEx following their shipping directions.

Before setting off on a trip, take the time to pack essential items such as your pump, accessories, extra parts, bottles, snacks, and medications. Whether traveling by road or air, consider the guidelines you may have to abide by and the scenarios you may encounter. Familiarize yourself with TSA regulations for carrying breast milk and using airport lactation spaces. By preparing ahead and being informed, you can navigate any unexpected bumps and enjoy a smooth travel experience while continuing to provide for your baby's needs. Being on the move for work, visiting family, or going on vacation while continuing to provide your breast milk for your baby is easier to do with a bit of planning ahead. Each trip is different, so weigh all your options to decide what will work best for you. Happy travels!

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Comments

This is great! What are your suggestions for wipe brands for wiping off the pump parts while traveling? Thank you!

Maria

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