A Stress-Less Guide to Pumping or Breastfeeding While Traveling
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Traveling as a new parent is stressful enough, but when you add breastfeeding, pumping, and traveling with a cooler stuffed with “liquid gold” to the mix, it can be downright harrowing. Whether you’re trying to decipher road trip logistics, hotel refrigerators, in-flight rules, or when-and-where how-tos, we’ve got you covered with all the breastfeeding and pumping tips you need to make sure feeding your baby while your travels is stress-free.
Pumping While Traveling
If you’re pumping, there’s a whole other layer of travel logistics to consider!
Packing List for Pumping Parents
Your breast pump is probably already at the top of your packing list. One that’s wireless or wearable and easy-to-clean is ideal (and it’s not a bad idea to also have a small manual pump on hand for emergencies). But in addition to your trusty pump, you’ll want to stash these other travel pumping essentials in your suitcase, too.
Breast Pump Kits: If you anticipate being unable to clean individual pump parts after each use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends packing multiple breast pump kits. (While breast pump wipes are convenient, the Food and Drug Administration notes that any breast pump part that comes in contact with breastmilk still needs be cleaned with soap and warm water before using them again.)
Pump Adapter: Road-tripping with an electric breast pump? Consider buying a breast pump adapter plug that fits into your vehicle’s power outlet. Refer to your car’s owner’s manual for compatibility info.
Universal Converter: If you’re traveling to another country, you may also need a power adapter for your electric breast pump. Stow one in your purse, not your checked luggage, in case of an unexpected delay or layover.
Milk Storage Bags and/or Bottles: Though bags and pouches may save space, clear, translucent bottles are easier for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to scan.
Resealable Plastic Bags: These are must-haves for keeping any milk storage leaks contained, packing breast pump parts, and for in-a-pinch ice packs.
Portable Cooler and Ice Packs: When traveling with expressed breastmilk, you need an ultra-cold cooler that holds a lot, but is still compact, has a comfortable strap, and can be attached to carry on, such as the Breastmilk Cooler Bag from Momcozy. For ice packs, consider Cooler Shock packs that keep bottles cold for up to 48 hours.
Pumping Bras: If you’re not traveling with a wearable pump, a pumping bra can give you that oh-so helpful hands-free pumping experience.
Pumping While Traveling: Accommodations
No matter if you’re pumping while en route or saving that task for your destination, there are some pumping accommodations you should consider before starting your journey, such as…
Pumping Policies: Call your airline or train carrier or visit their website to learn about their breastfeeding and pumping stance. If applicable, print out or screenshot the info and take it with you.
Carry-On Rules: A breast pump is considered a medical device, so it doesn’t have to fit in the airlines’ approved carry-on bag guidelines.
Seating Options: For the most privacy on a plane or train, a window seat is your best bet. But before you book, call ahead to see if there’s an outlet at your seat if your pump requires one.
Pumping Spaces: Each terminal in a hub airport must offer a private, non-bathroom space to express breastmilk. (A hub airport is one that’s used by more than one airline and serves as a transfer point.) Pumping rooms may also be available in large train stations. To learn where lactation pods or rooms are located, check the airport’s or train stations website and consider downloading the Mamava app, which will direct you to Mamava lactation pods and other lactation spaces.
Fridge and Freezer Access: Not all hotels have refrigerators or freezers available in guest rooms—and not all hotels will allow you to use the ones in their kitchen. To avoid a breastmilk meltdown, find out what your hotel offers ahead of time. The La Leche League recommends asking for written confirmation about what they can offer to you ahead of time. (Read up on the best way to store both fresh and frozen breastmilk.)
Pumping While Traveling: Schedule
Since breastmilk production is all about supply and demand, you’ll need to take some precautions to keep the milk flowing when you’re away. Some tips:
Replace each feed with a pumping session. Schedule regular breaks to express your breastmilk—and do it as frequently as you would normally feed your baby.
Stick to your original feeding schedule. If you’re traveling without your baby, sync your travel pumping schedule to your original time zone as best you can. This can be a tricky task, but if you are able, you’ll likely be able to express more milk this way.
Take care. Traveling may cause your milk supply to take a hit. To help, get plenty of rest, drink more water (nursing parents need about 16 cups of water a day), avoid caffeinated beverages, and follow these supply-boosting tips. (Learn more about what to eat and drink when nursing.)
When storing, traveling with, or shipping your breastmilk isn’t possible, “pumping and dumping” is an option. This way, you can maintain your breastmilk supply and can continue breastfeeding your baby when you return home.
Flying With Breastmilk
Having airport security confiscate your too-big shampoo or Poland Spring bottle is a bummer, but it’s nothing compared to losing your pumped breastmilk! To ensure your pumped milk gets home safely, follow this advice:
Arrive with info! Print out or screenshot all pertinent info from the TSA website in case a security agent challenges your rights or gives you a hard time. If traveling internationally, research your destination’s policies, as TSA rules are not universal. For instance, in the UK you cannot bring frozen breastmilk in your carry-on.
Speak up. Let the TSA officer know that you’re carrying expressed milk. In America, expressed breastmilk and infant formula are considered “medically necessary liquids,” which means they’re allowed in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces. That said, parents are only allowed to bring a “reasonable quantity” of breastmilk or infant formula through security, which leaves discretion to the individual TSA officer.
Talk to a passenger support specialist. Don’t hesitate to ask to talk to a supervisor or request a passenger support specialist for help.
Pack breastmilk in clear bottles. Use translucent bottles to transport expressed milk through airport security. Plastic bags and pouches may not be able to be screened by Bottle Liquid Scanners.
Consider packing your milk in a checked bag. Not only is the belly of the plane cold, but you won’t need to deal with security. (Fingers crossed your bag isn’t delayed or lost!)
If getting breastmilk through security sounds too daunting, you can always ship your breastmilk home instead. Milk Stork, a breastmilk delivery service, will overnight your refrigerated breastmilk to your baby back home.
Returning Home With Expressed Breastmilk
If you traveled with frozen breastmilk, check it when you get home. If your breastmilk still has ice crystals, you can go ahead and refreeze it. But if it’s completely melted, place your milk in the fridge and use it within 24 hours from the time it has thawed. Fresh breastmilk will remain fresh in a 40-degree Fahrenheit refrigerator for up to four days after it’s been expressed. Of you can simply store it in the freezer for later.
Breastfeeding While Traveling
Plane, train, automobile? No matter how you are getting to where you’re going, you’ll need a breastfeeding plan.
Packing List for Breastfeeding Parents
Theoretically, you just need your breasts and your baby to nurse while traveling, but there are a few products that can make feeding on-the-fly a little easier.
Nursing Bras/Tanks: Specially designed nursing bras and tank tops with their easy-access to food, helps make public or on-the-go breastfeeding less stressful.
Nursing Pillow: Consider packing an inflatable or otherwise easy-to-travel-with nursing pillow to mimic the ease of at-home breastfeeding.
Baby Carrier: A baby carrier can be a convenient addition to your breastfeeding travel toolbox, since your little one can easily feed while strapped in. (PS: While you’re allowed to carry your infant in a sling or baby carrier through the walk-through metal detectors at the airport, once onboard, your flight attendant will likely tell you that you need to hold your baby during takeoff and landing.)
Nursing Cover: While you certainly don’t have to cover up, some parents feel more comfortable nursing in public with a cover. If this is the route you choose, practice breastfeeding with a cover before your trip to help you and your baby get used to it.
Camp Chair: If you’re road tripping, you may want to stow a collapsible camp chair in your trunk. That way, you can comfortably nurse your baby and enjoy a scenic lookout while pit-stopping.
Breastfeeding While Traveling: Accommodations
Chances are you’ve created the perfect, well-stocked nursing station at home—in short, you provided your own breastfeeding accommodations! But when you’re in the airport, on a train, or even a hotel, you’re at the mercy of your surroundings. That’s why it’s a good idea to understand your options before you hit the road:
Breastfeeding Policies: Good news: all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, have laws to protect a nursing parent’s right to breastfeed in public! Still, it’s wise to check and see if your airline or train carrier has their own breastfeeding policies, too. If they do, have it on hand just in case your right to breastfeed is challenged.
Seating: An aisle seat provides a little extra elbow room for nursing, but if privacy is your main concern, a window seat is likely your best bet. (PS: Passengers caring for small children cannot sit in exit row seats.)
Lactation Spaces: All hub airports are required to provide a private, non-bathroom space in each terminal for parents to breastfeed. Lactation rooms are available in some large train stations across the country, too. Check your airport’s or train station’s website for more info and download the Mamava app for more help locating pumping pods near you.
Breastfeeding While Traveling: Schedule
If you’re not prepared, travel days can throw all your baby-related routines into a tizzy. To help keep disruptions to a minimum, try these breastfeeding strategies while traveling:
Mimic your home routine. As much as you can, try to keep your baby’s sleeping and nursing routines as close to your at-home schedule as possible.
Make a pitstop list. Traveling by car? Schedule stops that coincide with your bub’s feeding schedule. Research scenic overlooks where you can comfortably nurse and rest stops that have nursing pods ahead of time.
Nurse at takeoff and landing. This may help protect your little one from cabin pressure-related ear pain.
Don’t believe your GPS! Expect longer travel time to accommodate stops for nursing and general baby care.
More on Traveling With Babies and Toddlers:
- Sleep Tips for Holiday Travel
- How to Handle Virtually Any Travel Nightmare When Flying With Kids
- Travel Crib Tips for Safe Sleep Away From Home
- Travel Toys to Occupy Tots on the Go
- How to Fly With a Baby
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Travel & Breastfeeding
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Cleaning a Breast Pump
- University of Pennsylvania, Penn Today: Travel tips for breastfeeding mothers
- Transportation Security Administration (TSA): Breast Milk
- UCHealth Today: Breastfeeding while traveling
- CDC: Travel Recommendations for Nursing Families
- La Leche League: Traveling with Frozen Human Milk
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nursing Your Baby — What You Eat and Drink Matters
- UK Civil Aviation Authority: Hand luggage restrictions at UK airports
- Akron Children’s Hospital: Got milk? Tips to surviving TSA when traveling with breast milk or formula
- TSA: TSA tips on traveling with small children through a security checkpoint at Philadelphia International Airport
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): Use of Child/Infant Restraint Systems in Aircraft
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Using Law and Policy to Promote Breastfeeding in the United States
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.