Moms, do you have your passport, book, hand warmers, antibiotics and extra batteries? You should. You never know what you’ll need while traveling as a lactating mom……
Things to Carry/Pack
High quality pump: You’ll need a pump whose charge can last the entire duration from home to final destination. It is important to get a recently new pump; as with anything, over time batteries will wear down. The Medela Symphony is recommended as the charge lasts 24 hours with pumping every 3-4 hours for 20 minutes each time. It also has both a battery option as well as power cord. Finally, it operates on a range of 110-240 AC.
Additional pump: If you are traveling internationally and going for longer trips, it’s wise to carry an additional pump (battery operated) as a back up. This would be useful in the case of delayed flights and lack of access to comfortable areas where devices can be plugged in. Manual is fine, if you are an abundant producer of milk and don’t mind a hand workout. Also keep in mind that you will spend double the time working one side at a time. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced breast pump is ideal as it has both a battery option as well as power cord, and is much less expensive.
Extra batteries (if you have a battery pack for your breast pump): Don’t expect the batteries purchased in the hot sun in open-air markets to last long.
Hand warmers for plugged ducts: While you may have rarely experienced a plugged duct before, it can be frightening to experience them while traveling and not having access to the strong suck of a baby or hot water in which to soak breasts and massage out. Hand warmers, sold for warming your ski gloves, can do the trick. 15 minutes after shaking them, they are hot and ready to go. Take caution, as some of them get hotter than what you may wish. They also will last for several hours. If you plan right, you can get two pumpings out of one sachet. Wrap them individually in a handkerchief.
Ibuprofen and antibiotics for plugged ducts and mastitis: For the extreme case of pain and infection, you may need ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and antibiotics to help control a case of mastitis. It is certainly not fun to bear breast pain while traveling abroad, and if you aren’t in a place where you can access reliable pharmaceuticals, then have your medical care provider prescribe you a back up of antibiotics.
Spare pumping parts: This includes tubes and any little part that could easily tear or break. For traveling to hot and humid climates, moisture can build up in tubes creating black mold, which enter into the breastmilk. For extra consideration, buy the little white plastic membranes that create suction on the yellow valves- you’d be wise to have an extra set. Also carry bottle caps for times in which you cannot dump the milk following a pumping.
Sanitizing/Cleaning wipes for pumps: These are ideal for long travel in which you cannot refrigerator or wash thoroughly pumping parts. They are alcohol based and parts dry quickly.
Dish detergent, bottle-brush, handkerchief or small towel: Take these for thorough washings of pumping parts.
Plastic bags for storing pumping parts: You’ll want a handkerchief or paper towels to line the bag to absorb any breastmilk or water, as well as to clean up any spilled milk or to clean yourself up.
Pumping in airports: Go to a bathroom furthest from the entrance of the airport or from where you entered for your layover. Caution if you decide to use baby-changing rooms as there inevitably will be moms with screaming kids waiting at that door. If you choose to sit in a stall, pace the pump in your open bag on the floor, sit on a paper-lined toilet and rest bottles on your legs.
Pumping on airplanes: Time pumping during drink or meal service, when the cabin lights dim, and definitely not during the 1-2 hours before arrival as the lines will be long, bathrooms will be unhygienic and people will be inpatient. Better yet, make sure you pump prior to boarding so you can last a few hours. Once you board befriend a flight attendant (female preferably) and tell them you will need at least 15-20 minutes in a bathroom and ask if there is one they recommend you use. That way they look out for you or recommend the best time to use them. They also are more likely to give you 2- liter bottles of water to take to your seat. If all else fails, take a hooter-hider and alert your seatmate to some very important business that you have to attend to.
Pumping in the field: Always inform someone that you’ll be traveling with for the day that you need to schedule some personal time every few hours. Find baby-friendly areas such as health centers, or even ventilated vehicles. At a rural health clinic, a head nurse let me pump in a delivery room while a woman laboring was waiting in the next room….not waiting on me, but waiting on someone else! She even let me use her personal bathroom, which had soap.
Pumping in hotel rooms: If you are ever having a hard time with let down, and have access to the internet, look up crying baby sounds on the internet. The other nice thing about having your own living corridors is you can (sometimes) get hot water and soap and thoroughly wash the pumping parts and let them air dry on a clean towel.
Don’t kid yourself; not everyone is sympathetic about you trying to keep a job and also keep a healthy child. I’ve encountered rude people all over the world who have little patience for moms who need a little privacy in order to pump. In fact, I’ve met some real jerks. One time on a 16-hour flight, I found myself timing my pumpings to when the lights dimmed and most people started to sleep. After only being in the bathroom for 3 or 4 minutes, someone kept lifted the latch unlocking the door. I struggled to hold up the breastshields and bottles with my knees while trying to secure the door from opening with my feet. Another time, I had a woman clearing her throat impatiently as I tried to relax in a 3-stall bathroom of a terminal that obviously did not have enough bathrooms. On a more pleasant occasion, I pumped in the corner of the Louvre courtyard secured with a hooter hider and a free feeling atmosphere.
Get more rest than usual. You’ll be surprised how fatigue and stress can hinder pumping potential. Excessive alcohol also reduces pumping potential.