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We are gearing up for another trip with both boys this month as we head to Washington, DC to visit Eric’s brother! Anytime I plan for a trip, I am reminded of how overwhelming and complicated the planning process can be with a toddler, baby, and the added elements of breastfeeding + pumping.
Whenever I am traveling and sharing the experience with y’all, I always get so many questions about how I breastfeed and pump while traveling and how it works when flying. While I have answered similar questions in the past in my Ultimate Breastfeeding Q&A, I thought it would be helpful to have one spot on the website for all my tips, essentials, and checklist to live!
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13 Breastfeeding and Flying Tips
1. Wear your Belibea Pumping Bra: I can’t stress enough how easy this makes breastfeeding and pumping while traveling. I always wear mine on the flight and even while traveling around the city so I don’t have to worry about changing into a hands-free pumping bra mid-day to pump if I’m not with Finn! Several of you have told me you live and die by the belibea pumping cami under your work scrubs or other uniforms. It truly is a GAME CHANGER, y’all. I do NOT travel without it.
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2. Call your hotel ahead of time: Before you book your hotel, call ahead and be sure they can accommodate a refrigerator in your room. I have always had the best experiences with hotels being super understanding and helpful once I tell them I am a breastfeeding mom needing to store milk. The other thing you will need is to use their kitchen freezer space to FREEZE your breastmilk before you fly home (more about that below). Go ahead and plan on reminding them of both these things upon check-in too just to make sure everyone is on the same page 😉
3. Bring your portable breast pump: I love the Medela Freestyle Breast Pump, especially for traveling, because it runs off of a battery and I don’t have to be plugged into a wall! This helps when you are having to pump in random places while traveling and allows you to multitask and pump on the go!
4. Let go of your modesty: Unfortunately, traveling + pumping or breastfeeding a little difficult to maintain modesty. Sometimes the airport will have Mamava Nursing Pods which are AMAZING and definitely the best option for breastfeeding and flying. However, most times I end up in a bathroom (cue ALL the hand sanitizer). I will say the family bathroom can be a better option than the women’s restroom just because you have more space and might not be locked in a tiny stall.
5. Don’t bring a ton of bottles and lids: I used to think I had to bring a ton of bottles, lids, and such to store my milk after pumping. After a few go-rounds, I just bring my favorite breastmilk bags (to store the milk) and two bottles to pump into and that way, the milk is already ready to go straight into the fridge and freezer. The fewer things for me to remember to pack, the better!
6. Don’t forget a marker: Looking for someone with a Sharpie to date your breastmilk and mark the ounces as you are trying to catch your plane and make sure the kiddos aren’t having epic meltdowns never turns out well! I try to remember to always have a marker or pen in my pump bag or in my purse at all times so we don’t run into this problem!
7. Bring an empty cooler and ice pack: When breastfeeding and flying, I always bring a small cooler and ice pack to help store my breastmilk and keep it fresh/frozen whether flying to our destination or returning back home. I also carry my cooler around if we are planning to be away from the hotel room a lot and I will need to pump while we are out and about. I have forgotten these items before while traveling and just bought them at a local drugstore before flying back home to store my breast milk on the plane.
*For the flight to our destination: If I pump along the way (either at the airport, in the car on the way to our hotel, etc.), I will put my breastmilk in the cooler with the unfrozen ice pack since it can sit out for up to 8 hours. As soon as we get to the hotel, I transition all my milk into the fridge in our room.
*For the flight back home: When flying back home, I take my ice pack and all my breastmilk down to the hotel freezer the nigh before my flight so everything is good and frozen by the next morning. I will pack it all into my cooler and it will stay frozen the whole way back!
8. Don’t stress about airport security: The number one question I receive about breastfeeding and flying is HOW do you get through security! I have never had a problem with airport security and if anything, most of the workers will say “go mama!” as I pass through! A few tips:
- Always notify the TSA workers when you walk up to security that you have breastmilk.
- If your milk is frozen, they only have to swab the outside! This is what typically happens when I travel.
- You can request that they do not swab your breast milk. However, you might experience some delays getting through security.
- You can also request that they put on a new, clean pair of gloves.
9. Use the hotel fridge and freezer: As I mentioned above, I always make sure I have a fridge in my hotel room and also request to use the hotel’s kitchen freezer. Typically how this works is after I pump, I will leave my breastmilk in the fridge in my room for 2-3 days. I can freeze it right away but sometimes it is easier to make fewer trips down to the front desk to request them to put it in the freezer.
10. Don’t forget the Ziplock trick: Y’all loved when I shared this trick another mama shared with me when I was breastfeeding Leyton. Don’t forget it when traveling! Be sure to bring at least 1 Ziplock bag so you can store all of your pump parts in the hotel fridge and avoid having to wash them after each time you pump!
11. Pack breastfeeding + milk boosting snacks: Because I never know what our meals will consist of while traveling, I try to always have milk boosting snacks on hand to help my supply! A few of my favorites are: lactation bars, oatmeal bars, and my lactation cookie recipe!
12. Find a schedule that works for you: Being out of your everyday routine breastfeeding baby and pumping can be difficult (and stressful). My goal when traveling without Finn is to pump as many times as I would feed Finn if we were at home, which is 4 times. If I am traveling with Finn and trying to breastfeed and pump, I typically just go with the flow and make whatever work! As long as Finn is fed, I am happy!
13. Give yourself grace: Whether you are a first time mom traveling while breastfeeding or this is your 42nd flight, it’s okay to forget things or get off schedule or whatever your “mom fail” might be. If you are having to power pump at the end of the day to “catch up” because you are busy traveling and can’t stop and pump all day, that’s okay! If you forget to put a bag of milk in the fridge, that happened to me last week too!
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