Traveling While Pumping

By: Andrea Ippolito, CEO & Founder of SimpliFed

Since having my third daughter last June, I have had to travel four times without her even though I am breastfeeding and pumping. While I miss the days of flights and rental cars without having to think about my next pumping session, never fear! There are many great tools and services available to help support you in your breastfeeding journey! So here goes.


1. Pumps for different needs!

There are a number of pumps for different needs. Double electric pumps are excellent for removing milk. Many of them require wall outlet plug-ins which can be problematic on long plane rides, trains, or most moving vehicles. I recently purchased a chargeable battery pack that converts my wall plug-in breast pump and it has changed the game.

In addition, wearable breast pumps are an excellent tool to allow you to pump on the go. I have the Willow Go and these wearable pumps have come along way since my second daughter two years ago and has stronger suction than I anticipated.

Lastly, you may want to consider a hand pump as a back-up because it doesn’t require any batteries or energy source besides pumping it yourself. While time consuming, this can also be a safe bet!

To explore different pump options, you can search the Byram Healthcare’s site to find the right pump for you!

To transport all of these pumps, I have a dedicated pumping bag that I bring on the plane with me. This often means that I have to check my roller bag, but it is worth it to have all of the pump parts with me in case they are needed.


2. Privacy while pumping on the go

Depending on the pump you use, you may feel more comfortable using a nursing cover to pump on a plane or in an airport. At a recent conference, the nursing room was incredibly far away so I decided to pump at our conference booth using a nursing cover. I felt like I was being put at a disadvantage already with taking so much time to pump, then I didn’t want to lose another 10 minutes in round trip commute walking time to pump! Also, if you are at a conference, you may want to ask the conference organizers if they have created a lactation room or have access to a refrigerator to store your milk. They may not have included that as part of their conference plan, so it is good to remind them you will need this ahead of time. Also, I cannot recommend enough using Mamava pods in the airport or at conference venues enough. They save the day!


3. Cleaning tools along the way

Not only do you need to pump, but you also need to figure out how to clean your pump parts while traveling. Luckily, there are a bunch of different resources that make it slightly easier. Previously, I had to either check some dish soap or fill up a to-go soap container with dish soap because the little bar soap in hotel rooms isn't going to cut it. The good news is that Dapple makes TSA-compliant dish soap which has changed the game for me. Also, they make breast pump wipes making it a bit easier to clean when you are moving quickly.

Also, sterilizer bags have saved the day time and time again because they make it easier to use a microwave while traveling to sterilize your pump parts so you can have peace of mind!


4. Setting up your hotel room or Airbnb

Unless you are staying at an Airbnb, hotel rooms are not as equipped as your home to clean the pump parts. If I can squeeze it in, I bring a small plastic bowl to clean my pump parts. Even a small bowl can make a huge difference in efficiency in soaking and cleaning the pump parts. Instead of a dying rack, I find a flat surface near the sink and place the pump parts on a bath towel to let them dry.

When you check in, request a room with a refrigerator and if possible, a microwave. Most hotels these days can get you access to a mini-fridge, but a microwave is harder to get access to for using the sterilizer bags. Also, a freezer is important to freeze your cooler packs for your milk cooler. If you can’t get access to a microwave in your room, I ask the front desk if they have a kitchenette that can be used. I usually ask the front desk to freeze my cooling unit in the freezer near the front desk too. They are used to people asking because many medications need to be frozen.

Also depending on what pump you use, take the time before you go to bed to charge all of your pumps and battery packs that need it. There is nothing worse than a plane taking off realizing your battery pack isn’t charged and your seat does not have access to an outlet.


5. Milk storing and shipping 101

Now according to the TSA, you can bring breast milk and formula with you on the plane. In case your TSA agent is not up to date, I always have a print out of this page on their website. When you get to TSA , make sure you inform the agent of your milk, any storage units with an ice pack, and pumps. Often my pumps don’t get flagged (sometimes they do!), but the ice pack and milk always do. You can bring the ice packs as part of the cooling unit on the plane, but it has to be frozen or appear to be cool or else there is a risk that they will throw it out, so make sure you attempt to cool it before going through TSA!

With your milk, they will often want to open it up and wave a short swab above it (not contact it!) which captures the fumes from it. Then they test it separately. No one should be touching your milk, but this is their way of testing it. Also, when handling your milk container, you can ask them to change their gloves.

There are a number of milk coolers form Ceres Chill, MIla’s Keeper, and Willow. Depending on the model, they can keep your milk cool for sometimes over 10 hours which is clutch when you are traveling on a plane all day, or your flight gets delayed. They also often fit nicely in a rental car cup holder while traveling. Depending on your milk cooler, it should stay cool during your flight. In a worst case scenario, I ask the flight attendant for ice, but often this melts and leads to a drippy and messy situation…so not ideal.

I also have used Milk Stork before which has a number of different options, and you should ask your work to cover it if they don’t! Recently, I have been using their pump and tote because it allows me to bring it on the plane with me, so I have access to it right when I get home for my baby.


6. Meet with a lactation consultant to plan your travel to keep up your supply

A few weeks before traveling the first time, I met with a SimpliFed lactation consultant who helped me make a plan to keep up my supply. I am a “just enougher” so every drop counted for me. I tried to store an extra bag of milk once a day which helped build up my freezer stash. Then the milk I would pump and store from one trip would get frozen and used while I was away on my next trip. A lactation consultant is evidence-based and helps you make the best decisions for you while preserving your mental health! You can fill out this form here to sign up to learn more!