Its been a lot of wheels up for me lately. My calendar has resembled more of that of a band member on tour than a breastfeeding mama of an 8-month old; Portland, Salt Lake City, San Fran, LA, Phoenix, Vancouver... I should have elite status with United, Delta, and Alaska by next week, but more importantly than first class upgrades (mimosas at 5pm? totally acceptable!) is how to keep up with breastfeeding when you are traveling without babe for work, vacay, or if you're a legitimate rock star and you are on tour.
I started back to work full-time when Aspen was 9 weeks old and at that time he was exclusively breastfed. He accompanied me as my assistant for my first few business trips to Toronto and Michigan, and has since then retired so as to keep a bit more normalcy with time zones, bed times and eating homemade food as much as possible which is just not really possible on the road.
I've learned a few tricks that I wanted to share in hopes that you can avoid some of the freak out and anxiety I experienced while learning on the fly how to do this "breastfeeding while traveling and keeping a busy schedule of appointments and meetings all while trying to maintain the guise of a normal civilian when you feel anything but" thing.
Ok, so you're going to be away from baby, so you're going to be pumping. Let's first just clear the air by saying, pumping sucks. It's the worst. However, as with anything you choose to spend your energy on, remember why you are doing this. It's so rewarding to come home from these times away with a literal pot of gold for your baby and breastfeeding your little angel feels like such a treat after having to use the breastpump for days.
Next is to ensure you've got all the goods and you're prepared to pump, properly store, clean, keep chill (the breastmilk, but that goes for mama too!), and clear airport security without any compromise to your precious liquid gold.
Bonafide Baby Breastmilk Storage Bags II Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam Bags II Dapple Travel Size Baby Bottle + Dish Liquid II Easy Hands Free Breastpump Bra II Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler With Hard Liner
Two things are key: keeping the milk cold for the duration of your trip and keeping your pumping parts clean and sanitized. You will want to find a good cooler that you can carry around with you easily. I like the one above from Coleman, its large enough to contain all the breastmilk as well as the pumping parts so everything is in one place. I love using the Medela quick clean bags to sanitize after cleaning everything with Dapple's all natural dish soap which removes any excess milk residue without yucky phthalates, parabens, sls, SLES or dyes. Most hotel rooms will have a microwave for the quick clean bags, and frequent visits to the ice machine will keep your precious breastmilk cold at all times!
Next hurdle is airport security, and then you're home free! It's important to be aware of TSA guidelines in regards to breastmilk because they deviate from the normal 3.4 oz. liquid limitation. You are able to carry on as much breastmilk as you like and they DO NOT need to open a sealed breastmilk storage bag to test and confirm that it is not explosives. Don't bother with any ice packs, as you will have to discard those if they aren't frozen, and living in hotels doesn't exactly lend itself to having anything actually frozen (including your breastmilk). However, if you do come across access to a freezer during your travels, take advantage of that. TSA will not need to perform testing on your frozen breastmilk as they are looking for explosives, and apparently explosives do not freeze.
You won't be able to take a cooler full of ice through security, however, so when you arrive to the airport dump the ice in a bathroom sink and do your best to remove any excess water from the cooler before getting to security. Be prepared to be stopped and for the milk to be screened, usually one by one with a laser. Remember, the TSA agent should NOT open any of the sealed breastmilk bags, and you can also nicely ask them to put on new gloves if they don't do it automatically. To my surprise, every interaction I have had with TSA agents at this point has been kind + enjoyable. I even gotten major mama props from one particularly lovely TSA woman at PDX.
Once you have cleared security, you will need to get the milk back on ice, so find a coffee shop and reward yourself with a well deserved iced latte or green tea. Ask one of the baristas to fill your cooler with ice again and tip them a few dollars for being a team player. You're on the home stretch!
By now you should be feeling pretty accomplished and hopefully the caffeine from your latte is kicking in.
I had several people comment or ask if I was transporting a heart or an organ in my cooler bag. All I can say is that I certainly hope that organs don't have to fly coach and go through airport security like my breastmilk!