6 tips for traveling while pumping/with breastmilk
I exclusively breastfed my son for almost 2 years while working full time and traveling for work. I pumped "part time" for about 10 of those months - from about when my son was 6 weeks to 11 months old. After that, he had a combination of breastfeeding and whole milk/water.
I have a lot of ridiculous pumping “selfies" on my phone- a lot in bathrooms of conference centers, airports, bars, client offices, you name it. I’ve pumped in the back of a rental car parked in a strip mall parking lot while my (all male) colleagues ate lunch. I’ve had (well meaning) waiters interrupt executive team offsites to publicly update me on the status of my milk stash in the conference center freezer. I’ve pumped in my seat on airplanes (sorry, guy in 4B).
I’m hoping you can learn from my experience and my mistakes.
What to bring
A basic list to get you started (I have a post with a list of what to bring here )
A pump and charger
bottles to store milk in
a big scarf for nursing in public spaces
I used a Medela Freestyle pump - which really allows you to pump anywhere (like an airport) where there may not be an easily accessible plug due to the fact that you charge it. The Willow pump is a newer alternative that is similarly mobile. I also know many women that made due with their “pump in style” and just cozied up to the nearest outlet. It depends on how much/where you’ll be traveling. A car charger adapter is a good tool to have handy as well if you are on the road more than flying.
Where to pump
Mamava is an amazing resource for finding "official" places to pump. They have pumping pods at airports, stadiums, conference centers, etc...that are like oasis for pumping moms. They include seats, plugs, mirrors and of course privacy. But the mamava people have gone above and beyond and listed other pumping locations in their app as well- pumping rooms at stores, airports, malls, etc...so you always know where the nearest pumping room is. Many of them even have reviews
How to store breastmilk
I found breastmilk to be reassuringly resilient. Kelly Mom is an amazing resource for breastfeeding moms and has an awesome guide to how long you can store breastmilk at room temp, in a cooler, fridge and freezer as well as detailed handling guidelines. I spent hours on that website when my son was little.
In a pinch - people who will help
Receptionists, secretaries and bartenders became my secret helpers throughout this process.
Usually you can find a spare minute to quietly tell a receptionist or secretary where you are visiting that you are a new mom who is pumping. They can show you to a fridge and sometimes even a pumping room. I spent most of my travel time in sales, so you are already treading lightly and acting as a guest in a client site, but they never failed to at least help me find a fridge to stash my breastmilk in during a meeting.
Bartenders were my other go-to. Yes, for a glass of wine at the end of a long day where you can sit in QUIET by yourself but also when I needed a refrigerator because I was killing time between meetings or travel to and from the airport. Even if I wasn’t getting anything more than a soda, no one ever turned me down - whether it was to add ice to a cooler or to pop a cooler in a fridge during lunch/client drinks/dinner.
In a pinch - places to go
WeWork is an expensive option if your company doesn’t have a membership, but if they do or you or a friend in a destination city do, WeWorks actually have pretty stocked pumping rooms. Even more importantly, they are places where pumping moms go. One time I was in SF for business and forgot the charger for my pump. I left a note in the pumping room at the WeWork I was using asking to borrow one for a few hours and got a response within minutes from another pumping mom. She saved my whole trip- supply and stash - and I made a new connection on LinkedIn!
Big conferences are also getting hip to this, so don’t hesitate to ask the organizers if there’s a dedicated place. Another mom may be able to help you with gear that’s broken/forgotten and you could even make a new connection!
What tips do you have for traveling while pumping or traveling with breastmilk?