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Friday, July 1, 2022

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Travel Tips for Breastfeeding Trips

I achieved Gold Level Status (1 year) for breast feeding both of my boys. I loved the nutritional benefits that it offered my kids, but honestly at times I felt like I was attached to the pump and to my kids (literally). One of the most stressful parts of breastfeeding and pumping is working a full time job. However, the stress of traveling while breastfeeding is something all together different.
I traveled (car and plane) numerous times while breastfeeding and after a few trips, became somewhat of a pro.   Here were some of my fears/questions and how I addressed them…
Can I bring bottles of breast milk on the plane?  We all know the TSA rule of no liquids. However, bottles are different. For this one I went to the TSA website before I flew for the exact details. “Formula, breast milk and juice for infants or toddlers are permitted through the security checkpoint. Separate formula, breast milk and juice from other liquids, gels and aerosols limited to 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters.” I filled the small bottles (5 oz) with breast milk and packed them in my pump bag with the Medela Ice Pack. When you go through security, make sure you tell TSA that you are carrying breast milk. They will put it through the X-ray machine and then put them through a special scanner that checks liquids.
One of the TSA agents gave me a tip one time. She told me to make sure that I request that the agents change gloves before handling the milk. I never thought about it, but the amount of germs they touch with their gloves gets on the bottles and then when your child touches the bottles, it can transfer into their mouths.
What if I run out of bottles? When would fly from Florida to New York, I was always afraid of running out of bottles (especially when it wasn’t convenient to whip out my boob and nurse). I packed 4 bottles in the cooler bag and then filled up 2 to tuck in my diaper bag/carry on. Typically we would leave early in the morning and the baby would drink a bottle as we drove to the airport (again, not the best time to nurse when you are in the car). When we got to the airport, I would toss the empty bottle in the suitcase we were checking (and clean later on), and give him a new one to hold. That gave us a total of 5 bottles (the one he drank through security/through the long airport walk was an 8 oz). I nursed on the plane and when we landed that still left me with 4 bottles for the rest of the journey (picking up rental car, travel to final destination in the car). Depending on the length of your journey, you should be left with a bottle or two to keep in the fridge.
Should I bring frozen milk with me? This became more tedious than I anticipated. I thought bringing frozen milk would be helpful, especially for when we reached our final destination, but it was problematic. First, the milk defrosts really quickly (even if packed on ice). You have to use it right away. Then on top of that, you have to carry an extra clean bottle and nipple to use with it. Keep your frozen milk at home and use it to replenish your stockpile when you return from your trip.
How am I going to manage all this stuff in the airport and a baby? My husband and I had a great system going when we would travel, we were pros. Then we had kids and it took us a few trips to figure it out. This is what we do: 2 children, 2 adults. He gets the big one, I get the breastfeeder. We ditched the stroller after the first airplane trip– too much of a hassle getting the kids, stroller, carry-ons and breastmilk through security.
Things I carry:  Medela Advanced Back Pack Pump (goes on my back), wallet and cell phone go in the back pocket of the backpack pump (so no one can steal it), carry on on my shoulder with extra change of clothes for baby (see my blog 10 Things to Pack For Vacationing with a Toddler) and empty clean bottles, and baby in my arms.
Husband gets his carry-on and a car seat, he holds the older child’s hand (sometimes I hold his hand, too). Stroller, extra car seat (for child under 2) and suitcases get checked right away. This was much easier than the time we loaded the stroller up with stuff and had to unload it and reload it at security and then unload it again, and trying to manage it up escalators and such.
How am I going to breastfeed with a stranger RIGHT NEXT TO ME? First child, I didn’t really whip out my boob in public, used a cover and was very self conscious. Second child, still didn’t whip it out totally but would breastfeed when I needed to. I realized with child number 2 that clothing when breastfeeding makes all the difference, especially when a total stranger is right next to you. First, skip the nursing cover for the plane. Too much too carry, too hard to get it out of the bag and your child is going to want to nurse for comfort (especially on takeoff and landing). Wear a nursing bra, loose shirt and most importantly a long shawl cardigan. The cardigan is great, because he/she can nurse and you can snuggle with them underneath. I also would wrap the baby in both sides of the cardigan to keep him/her warm (no need to carry an extra blanket). The best part is that the person next to you can’t see anything and it is light enough that little one doesn’t sweat.
OMG I’m going to have to pump The first time we were traveling I was in sheer agony by the time we got to my sister’s house in New York. I needed to pump desperately and spent the first hour of the our visit in another room trying to take care of business. Not a fun way to start a vacation or a family trip, especially if you are going somewhere immediately after you get off the plane. This is what I suggest: Nurse when you finally get to the gate. Use the cardigan and sit in the corner with him or her, or whip it out for all to see, I don’t care- just empty those boobs. Nurse on takeoff and landing if possible (alternate boobs to relieve pressure). If you are a working mom like me, nursing just a little during these times isn’t very helpful, you still need to pump (and don’t forget, baby had a few bottles, you need to replenish).
This is what I do: I pump in the car (when I am a passenger). I found that using the battery pack with the pump was never strong enough so I bought a power inverter for the car (best part, you can charge your phone and pump at the same time). I hook those bad boys up the pump, plug it in and by the time we reach our final destination I now have a total of 4 bottles again (2 left over from traveling and the 2 from pumping). Pack an extra clean bottle just in case. If you haven’t pumped all day, you are going to need it. The best part, with your lovely cardigan, the cars passing by will have no idea what you are doing. Just watch out for spilled milk.
BONUS: The power inverter is also perfect for road trips.
How many bottles again? This is what I pack: 6 bottles of milk (4 in cooler, 1 in carry-on (with nipple), baby drinks #6 at the start of the trip), 3 clean bottles with 3 tops, 1 more extra nipple and ring to switch on other bottles. I don’t typically pack any more empty bottles because by the time you land, you will probably have a total of 3. Clean them out when you get to your final destination and refill later on.
Breastfeeding is stressful enough at home and at work. Traveling can be exhausting and we all know that stress can decrease milk supply. If you have any tips and trips to help reduce stress for nursing moms, please comment below.
For more great travel tips for family trips, visit YouMustBeTrippin.wordpress.com.

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