Working Moms: Traveling With Breastmilk

For many working moms, our jobs include travel. That can be quite difficult when you’re nursing and need to pump every 4 hours. That plane flight cross country that’s 5 and half hours long, plus 30 minutes to pre board and 30 minutes to deplane, that’s almost 7 hours. When to pump? Where to pump? Where to store the milk?

These are all questions I had to figure out on my first business trip to Denver when Archer was just 4 months old. I was nursing and was going to be gone for 2 days and 1 night. The good news is the flight is only 2.5 hours long so I didn’t have to get too crazy with pumping on the plane… or so I thought. (stay tuned)

The way there was quite simple. I pumped right before I left and had my breast pump with me as a carry on. Included in my breast pump bag was the frozen ice pack that came with my Medela pump. Security was fine with it because it was frozen solid. Once I landed I headed to the airport bathroom, washed my hands, found a stall and pumped for 10-15 minutes. The ice pack was still pretty cold so I easily stored the milk in my little portable cooler. Pumping in an airport bathroom is less than glamorous — they actually had shut of my side of the restroom for cleaning while I was in it and all you could hear was the cleaning person mopping and my pump going “urr urr urrr urr”. Hilarious. Oh well, assume she figured out what I was doing in a stall for that long with that humming sound.

Once I arrived at my hotel I asked for a freezer/refridge. They had one available for $10 a day and had it delivered to my room. Most hotels have fridges or freezers you can have brought to your room. I was able to store all my milk in it over the next few days.

While at the conference there were no private rooms, so during lunch and the afternoon break I would head to the ladies restroom, pick a stall and pump! More bathroom pumping, not idea, but you got to do what you got to do. Stored it in my portable cooler until I could get to the hotel.

Next morning was full of the same, but then when it was time to leave I had to pack up all 30oz I had packed, keep it cool during the last few hours of the conference AND have it cool and safe through airport security.

This is where things got funny. I had brought 2 ziplock freezer bags with me. I filled them with the bags of breast milk, then went to the ice machine to fill up each bag with ice. The breatmillk was surrounded in ice so I figured I could at least keep it cool until I went through security at the airport.

Almost made it… security pulled me over for a few reasons:

  1. My ice pack had partially defrosted . Since it wasn’t frozen solid they weren’t going to let me take it through.
  2. My breastmilk had to be inspected, but both machines to check the breastmilk were broken.
  3. The ice I had around the breastmilk had partially melted so there was liquid in the bags.

Long story short, they poured out any water from the melting ice and they made me open every single breatsmilk bag so they could test it with a vapor strip (two breastmilk bags had burst and were now wasted) —  all of this was in front of the entire security line! It was quite embarassing, but I made it home with 20-25oz of breastmilk so it was worth it.

Lessons from this experience:

  1. make sure your ice pack is frozen solid when you go through security and pour out any liquid from melted ice. Ice though is ok.
  2. make sure to tightly seal any milk bags so they don’t leak, seems obvious, but check each one to be sure.
  3. make sure to head to the airport early! I was held up in security so long that I didn’t have time to pump before my flight, so I ended up having to pump on the plane. Just imagine standing in a small, windowless plane bathroom for 15 minutes while everyone outside wonders what you’re doing in there for so long. I was so over it all by that time I just didn’t care.
  4. bring a few large size ziplock bags. You’ll need this to hold any ice for the trip back

What we mother’s do to protect the liquid gold we produce. Of course now I have no future plans to travel without a baby, but if you have to travel it can be done.

Happy Travels!

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