So, you're a breastfeeding working mom. You've returned to the grind, found your rhythm and you're finally starting to feel like you're getting the swing of this... And then just like that, boom — you're confronted with your first business trip! Mine came right at my baby's four month mark. While I was looking forward to the opportunity and education the trip provided, I was woeful over having to be separated from my little one and I thought that maintaining my exclusive breastfeeding relationship with my baby would prove difficult, if not impossible.
Well, as I write this from 20,000 feet in the air, returning from my first trip, let me tell you: it's possible. However, it required some planning, research, support and minor injuries (more on that later!). Here's what you need to know to make it work for you on a business trip, a girls trip, or any time you're away from baby:
— As soon as you know about your trip, start calculating what your baby usually takes in one day and add up the number of days you'll be gone to figure out how much you'll need to reserve (add 20% to account for any hunger spikes and spills!)
— "Pump and store" as much as you can until you meet that number.
—In my case, relying on a reserve wasn't possible. I had a series of events prior to my travel that used my entire emergency stash. Shipping milk home was a necessity to make sure my little one had enough. Yes, that left a lot up to chance, but my lack of extra supply meant that I didn't have a choice.
Pump and Run.
— Speaking of supply, make sure you keep yours while you are away, Pump often. Drink extra water (flying is a dehydrator), wear scarves and jackets for comfort and camouflage and pump just as much if not more often than you do at home. The logistics of traveling with pumping supplies wasn't very difficult. TSA agents did not question my breast pumping supplies and were very cooperative.
— I did thorough planning in advance for pumping locations. A series of Google searches gave me potential pumping stations in the airports I'd be in. I found that one airport had a wonderful pumping room. As for the rest of my pumping locations, all were not entirely desirable but suitable. Airport bathrooms and airplane bathrooms had to do.
— For my trip, I was fortunate to be staying at a full service hotel. I called ahead to the concierge and they were able to help secure the materials I needed: an in-room refrigerator, a Styrofoam cooler, dry ice, packing tape and a shipping carton. When I arrived to the hotel and picked up my necessities, the concierge sweetly commented "I always love these requests... it's so inspiring to see women who are 'doing it all'." Isn't that wonderful? You're not the first person to ask a hotel employee for breastfeeding help and you might inspire someone in the process!
— Once you're ready to prepare the shipment, take note, that dry ice is NO JOKE. Although I handled it while it was covered in two plastic bags, I still managed to get a fairly large dry ice burn. Painful and unsightly, it was a lesson learned. Handling ice = wear gloves. I packed the milk in plastic storage bags, used newspaper to fill the extra space in the cooler, and packaged the cooler in a cardboard box. Mark the carton "perishable" tape it securely and you're off. My shipment arrived before 9:30 am the next morning. I did this each night I was away.
Travel La Leche Style.
— On the day of my return, I carried the remainder of my milk in the soft side cooler home with me. I read somewhere that TSA agents might make you pour it out (the horror!), taste it (really?) or give you a hard time. Luckily, none of that happened.
— Large planes have some type of refrigerator that you can use to refrigerate your cooler. Smaller planes were able to provide me with extra ice to surround my cooler.
And there you are. While I do feel that I just completed my own personal "Amazing Race", I am proud that I got through it and I hope that my experience helps any other "first timer."
Have you ever traveled while breastfeeding? How did you make it work?