**I should caveat this post by saying, this is the trip that inspired it all. It was my first work trip away from baby while breastfeeding, and I decided it needed to be documented. Turns out, the trip ended up being quite eventful and totally worth documenting.**
The start of this journey begins with me traveling to Orlando for work. I had been mentally preparing for this trip for about a month, but due to the nature of the project, it had been a moving target (how’s that for workspeak?). Three times I had been about to book my travel, and three times the project was postponed.
Then it was finally happening. My travel was booked, and I was ready to tackle any obstacle to make this trip happen. Like, flying straight into the impending doom that was Hurricane Matthew.
I know what you’re thinking, “Shelby, why would you even consider that!?” Well, it gets even better from there. It was originally supposed to be a two-night/three-day trip, but I went ahead and decided to cut it a day and a half short after taking a gander at the weather forecast the night before. So, not only was I concerned about pumping AND making sure my milk stayed cool AND bringing it home through security, but I also had to worry about rebooking my flight when I landed in Orlando to make sure I didn’t get stranded!
To add to these little stressors of mine, we had a campaign going live on Monday and I wouldn’t be in the office to help facilitate the Friday before. I was busy being reckless running into a Hurricane, when I should’ve kept my booty home!
Ya know what they say, shoulda, coulda, woulda…Well, I ended-up only spending one night in Orlando and high-tailing it out of there at 5:30 in the morning to drive two hours away and catch a flight out of Jacksonville. I’m here to tell you, if I can manage pumping while traveling under those conditions, YOU CAN TOO.
To give you a little background
At the time of this trip my son was 5 1/2 months old and I was leaving him long-distance for the first time. This was also the first time that Dad was staying alone with baby overnight.
While you’re asking yourself what the hell is wrong with me, I did have a motivator, and that was the fact that Little Man hadn’t been sleeping as well as he had a month before.
I was exhausted!
And this trip was offering me an ENTIRE NIGHT in a King-sized bed ALL BY MYSELF. I wanted it so bad I was willing to fight a hurricane for it! Even if it meant sacrificing even more of my sanity!
All in all, I learned my lesson and made it home safe and sound with breastmilk and sanity accounted for.
So, how did I do it?
Other than my life (the Florida Governor was broadcasting that, YOU WOULD DIE IF YOU STAYED), my main concern was my milk. How do I make time for pumping? Where will I pump? How do I keep my milk cold? Where do I keep it? What do I need to bring with me? Can I travel through security with it? Do I just pump and dump and rely on my freezer stash? SO MANY QUESTIONS! All of which had answers, but were totally dependent on what worked for me, Little Man, and my husband.
PREP WORK –
There are a couple of things I did leading up to the trip that I felt helped make the pumping part of my trip go more smoothly in the midst of all the chaos.
- I talked with my contact at my destination about where I could go once I got to the office. It’s a federal law that workplaces have to offer mother’s a space to pump. Knowing what I do about the company, I was pretty positive they would have a designated space. Sure, it’s not the most glamorous topic, but it was necessary and I’m so glad I had the conversation beforehand!
- Seems silly, but I double-checked that my hotel room had a mini fridge.
- Once I was there, it was going to be pretty much business as usual. The trickiest part was going to be traveling to and from Orlando. To help with this, I took a look at the airline’s website. I even tweeted at their customer service for clarification, and they responded! I also checked-out the TSA page to make sure traveling through security with any amount of breastmilk was possible.
- Being the type-A organizer that I am, I mentally mapped-out a game plan for when I could squeeze in the time to pump during commute. Like, before boarding my first flight, after landing in Orlando, at the office, at the hotel, before going to bed etc..
WHAT I BROUGHT WITH ME –
These are the essentials that I packed for my quick-trip. I stumbled upon this list on Pinterest and then adjusted it to what I felt made sense for me, the length of my trip, and my traveling style. (a.k.a. A Whirlwind-Of-Chaos – a.k.a. As Minimal As Possible)
- A small lunch bag/cooler. Like this one.
- 4 gallon-sized freezer ziploc bags and plus or minus 20 sandwich ziploc bags (I just grabbed a handful, I’m not really sure how many I brought..)
- Lansinoh breastmilk storage bags
- My pump – pump parts – any extra parts I had on hand – two bottles to pump into
- Personal item bag large enough to fit it all – Let’s be honest, this was just my everyday Kate Spade…yes it’s that big, quit judging.
HOW I NAVIGATED SECURITY –
To make things as easy as possible for myself and for security, I was really vocal about traveling with breast milk. When you’re a sleep deprived mombie, you don’t really care if a topic is embarrassing or taboo. It’s all about survival at that point. I would zero-in on the “nicest” looking TSA agent (i.e. a woman), and let her know that I was traveling with a pump and breast milk. At which point, they would literally do nothing other than ask me to pull it out, which I had already done in anticipation of needing to do like with other liquids.
It didn’t make a difference to me if my milk went through the x-ray machine. I mean, my boobs were going through the x-ray too so it’s not like any of it wasn’t exposed…but I did watch them to make sure they didn’t open up the outer ziploc bag, or contaminate my liquid gold with their un-sanitized, grubby hands.
HOW I KEPT IT COLD –
This was the largest obstacle that required a little leniency and creativity. Following the storage guidelines, you can keep milk at room temperature up to four hours, and in a cooler with ice packs up to 24 hours. In my mental map, I figured up that I wouldn’t be without access to ice or a fridge for longer than four hours, and I would definitely be able to keep it cold for 24.
- When pumping on the commute I would take my sandwich ziploc bags and find the nearest Starbucks for two reasons. One, to get the elixir of youth known as coffee. And two, to ask them to fill up my bags with ice. They would take the bags, no questions asked and fill them for me. I would then stuff those into a gallon freezer bag and pack my breast milk, also in a freezer bag, around it.
NURSING MOM TRAVEL SECRETS –
There were a couple of things I discovered while preparing for and during travel that I feel like all nursing moms should keep in their arsenal.
- Use your smartphone! At the airports I would literally Google, “Nursing Mom Room blahblahblah Airport.” That was how I found this nifty resource and a Nursing Mom Pod at Jacksonville. It was SO much better than awkwardly hiding under my nursing cover or sitting in a bathroom stall!
- Next time I have to travel for work and I am breastfeeding, I am going to give Milk Stork a try. They are a company solely dedicated to helping nursing moms get their milk home. They have several options, which include giving you a cooling unit to pack your milk home, or shipping it from the destination to your home!
Now that it’s all said and done, I will travel while pumping again. Except I’ll be a little more confident this time. I know that if I can navigate those circumstances, that any normal travel conditions will be a walk in the park!
This post fueled by Simple Life Pinot Noir. My husband picked this out and thought it would be a good wine to celebrate the launch of my blog. It’s nothing fancy, but it doesn’t promise to be.