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Away From Baby? Tips For Traveling As A Breastfeeding Mother



Tis the season for travel. While many families travel together during the holidays, some moms will find themselves away from their babies. Plus, throughout the year many modern women find themselves needing to travel for work, family, or fun. Time away does not have to disrupt breastfeeding plans or goals. Separation does not have to mean it is time to wean, especially with the availability of excellent personal-use breast pumps, knowledge of proper milk storage, and the technology available to the modern breastfeeding woman. 


How to Set a Pump Schedule When Traveling Away from Baby


The general rule is to mimic your baby’s normal feeding schedule when pumping. Continue to express at the same intervals that your baby usually eats, which will vary depending on the stage of nursing. If you notice that you are falling short of your baby’s needs when pumping while away, you will need to increase your pumping frequency. While breast pumps have evolved and become much better in the last few years, nothing can get the milk out better or “empty” the breast better than the baby. 


The type of pump you bring or use can be an individual decision. I worked with a nurse who never used anything other than her Haakaa during our 12-hour shifts; however, most women are more successful with a double electric single-user pump. Luckily, those pumps are typically covered by insurance. Make sure to have plenty of well-maintained parts to use while traveling and the proper cords or batteries. Some women who pump regularly and, on the go, find investing in a wearable pump useful but make sure to research or talk to an IBCLC because they can have different pros and cons, and should be properly fit to each breast/body type. Also, pack appropriate milk storage bags or containers if you are planning to save the milk for the baby (some women with stocked freezers opt to pump to maintain supply and not save the milk). 


What to Pack for Milk Expression


Not that you don’t have enough to pack! But making sure you have the proper supplies is crucial, especially if you plan to travel back with stored milk. Here is a basic packing list:

  • Pump - in well-working order

  • Pump parts - well-maintained and extras if you have them

  • Charging cord, batteries, plugs, etc.

  • Milk storage bags or containers

  • Dish soap, bottle brushes, sterilizing bags or some way to properly clean pump parts

Proper Milk Storage While Traveling


For anyone who is expressing milk and not feeding at the breast, it is important to know safe and proper ways to store milk. These same rules all apply while traveling. To start any milk expression or handling should be done with clean, washed hands. The milk should be expressed (pumped) into a clean collection container, whether that is part of the pump, a storage bag, or even a mason jar. It should be labeled with the day and time of expression. Then stored according to planned use. 


Generally, here are the milk storage guidelines for the maximum amount of time breastmilk can be stored:

  • At Room Temperature: 4-5 hours

  • In the Fridge: 4 days

  • In the Freezer: 6 months

  • In the Deep Freezer: up to 1 year. 


The CDC has great resources and charts to make deciding how to store milk easier. Once a baby starts to consume milk from the bottle it should be discarded at 2 hrs. Milk should never be put back in the fridge or refrozen after it has been reheated, thawed, or partially consumed. 


Traveling Accommodations 


While we still have a lot of work to do to fully support breastfeeding women in the United States and around the world, there are many accommodations and technologies to support moms pumping during travel. Most airports and many tourist attractions have designated safe, clean spaces for nursing and pumping mothers. TSA should be aware of the laws surrounding breastmilk and airport security. Hotels will generally provide refrigeration, or at least empty the mini bar for you! There are even services to help with milk delivery. Here are some of the amazing resources out there with an explanation of their services: 


  • TSA Rules: You are allowed to carry breast milk on a plane in greater quantities than the typical 3-ounce or 100ml liquid limit. Ice packs or cooling can also be carried on. Make sure you let the TSA agents know and separate the milk and supplies, putting them in their own bin for examination or testing.


  • Pumping spaces: There are websites like momspumphere.com that can help you plan safe, clean pumping spots during your travels. There is also a great app called Mamava that will help you find these rooms on the go. 


  • Shipping your milk: Some women find that they need to send milk home to their babies during their travels or would like an alternative to carrying on milk through TSA. Sometimes if you are traveling for work your company will provide these services for you. Milk Stork and Save the Milk are two companies that offer breastmilk shipping services.


  • Pumps and Gear: While you will need to bring your own pump and parts while traveling, you can often rent feeding accessories. This can be a huge help, especially if you are traveling with the baby. Bottle warmers, bottle sterilizers, and other feeding accessories can be reserved and/or rented to your destination. There are a variety of websites that offer baby supply rentals, including Rents4Baby, BabyQuip, and BabysAway.


Hopefully, this information will help you navigate travel while you continue to work toward your breastfeeding goals. Travel or separation from their babies should not be the cause of weaning for mothers desiring to continue their breastfeeding journey. It is important to continue to express milk to protect your supply (and self from engorgement discomfort or mastitis) and to know how to safely provide expressed milk to your baby. Many resources and technologies are available to support the modern breastfeeding woman, but having knowledge and a plan is key. Bon voyage, modern families!


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