Pumping on the Fly: Tips for Traveling with Breastmilk

Many pumping moms eventually get down the pumping while at work predicament. But, what happens when you suddenly have to go on a work trip? Pumping daily is hard enough without worrying about TSA regulations, keeping milk the optimum temp while traveling, and finding places to pump! I’ve put together a list of my tried-and-true ways I’ve survived pumping on the fly!

Pumping on the Fly: Tips for Traveling with Breastmilk

First and foremost, if you’re flying, read up on and print off those TSA regulations. While what I mention below worked for me while traveling, it is always best to check the most up-to-date laws. I always kept an up-to-date copy of this folded up in my pump bag in case a TSA officer was not up to date on the current regulations regarding breastmilk. You can find them here.

Carry On

Although you can check it, I suggest to carry on both your milk cooler and pump. Sure, it’s a lot. In case of delays, cancellations, or lost luggage, you wouldn’t want to be separated from your pump.  This way, you know how and by whom it was handled, and can keep track of the temperature of the milk.

Since I was traveling often, I invested in a messenger bag style cooler and a nice pump bag to keep organized, but even a tote and cooler would work. You can find many options online and in stores! I would recommend checking your main luggage, and just carrying those two bags. I would condense my purse down to my most-needed items to place in my pump bag. Then, pack the rest in my checked luggage for when I arrive. 

Keeping Milk Cool

I have kept milk cool two different ways. One, I started by using ice in my cooler bag. Dump any ice out pre-TSA, and then refill on the other side at a restaurant or coffee shop. I never had any issues with this method, although sometimes it is a little difficult to find enough ice. Ice packs, freezer packs, and gel packs are all good to use, too. If they do begin to melt, however, they may also be subject to further testing.

Testing

It is important to allow a little extra time for further testing, if needed. As for testing, I typically let the cooler go through scanning, and would collect it on the other side. I kept my milk in breastmilk bags, labeled, and then stored inside gallon Ziplocs bags. Usually, TSA would swab the inside my cooler, one individual bag, and my hands after going through security.

Although the wording is somewhat open ended, if they do ask to open and test milk, you may request they do another procedure to clear it, or ask to move a small amount of milk into another container yourself as to not contaminate a whole bag. Again, having those TSA regulations printed off in case there are any issues is helpful! The only time I had an issue was coming back to the US from out of the country. I was questioned why I was traveling with breastmilk and no baby! Luckily, a quick explanation and a little further testing is all that was needed.

In the Airport

Finally, you’re through the daunting task of security! While it may have taken a little extra time and testing, it is relatively painless. My steepest learning curve on this journey was figuring out how, and when, to pump. It’s a little harder to pump on a schedule – running to flights, anyone? Pumping on while flying takes a little prep work. I suggest researching the airports you’ll be using beforehand to find what they have available. Check out airport websites, call their customer service, or check out mamava.com. I used that site frequently as the pods are clean, roomy enough with two benches and a small table, bright, and of course have outlets. I look forward to spaces like these available in more locations!

Pumping on the Fly: Tips for Traveling with Breastmilk

Reaching your Destination

When I booked accommodations, I would ask about a refrigerator/freezer in the room. While many do, sometimes you may have to request one for a small fee. In the case of no access, I would ask if there was an employee freezer I could utilize, or I would plan on changing ice out of my cooler twice a day.

I would often freeze a lot of my milk early on in a trip. Remember, as long as ice crystals are present, you can re-freeze when you return home. So, even if there are significant delays and you have some melting, most of the time it’ll be okay. If I was unsure or knew it would be an extra-long commute and knew I’d have access to ice, I left it unfrozen. I highly recommend bags as they take up less space than bottles, and I also recommend bringing gallon Ziploc bags to separate and store for extra protection.

Other Tips

  • THIS handy wash rack helps to keep all my pumping supplies clean and off the bathroom counter.
  • I also began traveling with a manual pump after an issue where my pump stopped working…out of the country! Always make sure you have a backup option!
Tell me! What advice would you give to a pumping mother taking a plane trip?

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