After a year of lying low from out-of-town work purposely because of my breastfeeding daughter, I was back on the road like rock star and the airways a la flight attendant in a series of business travels and fieldwork since March this year. BUT it didn’t mean I have already stopped breastfeeding and expressing milk for my Little Princess. In fact, I still do and have been doing for 25 months now.
As a breastfeeding mom who is committed to provide the best milk for my daughter for as long as I can and for as long as my child wants, I still continue to express milk for my supply not to dry up. Also, there are times when I still experience a little engorgement when I fail to pump for long hours and I don’t want this to lead once again to plugged ducts and milk blisters. But at 25 months of breastfeeding, I only get to express 4-6oz a day but this amount goes a long way in strengthening the immune system of my Little Princess and protecting her from diseases so I’m not yet putting a dot on this beautiful journey of breastfeeding of ours.
However, I’m not going to talk about and bore you with my ride to extended breastfeeding. Instead, I want to share some tips about pumping or expressing milk while on travel, whether for business or for leisure, that I learned from my past business trips. The keyword is strategy. Because I had to be away from my daughter for a couple of days, I needed to think of ways on how I would be able to pump and store my milk in order to maintain my supply.
And here are some strategies in preparing for out-of-town trips for breastfeeding/breastpumping moms, working or non-working, who will be away from their precious little ones for quite a while:
1. Prepare all the essential things that you will need and make sure they are complete. Make a checklist if needed.
So what needs to be in your bag or luggage? Essentially:
a. Breastpump (of course, if you don’t hand express). Tip: Better to put your flanges and breastkit parts in a Lock & Lock or any tight container not only to keep your breastkit clean and contact-free from bacteria but also to have a container that will serve as a “basin” in sterilizing your flanges, pump parts and bottles.
c. 5-6 pieces of ice packs or 1-2 sheets of Techni Ice Dry Ice. I’ve been using Nano Silver Ice Packs from Babymama.ph (for only P50/pc) everyday at work and it can sustain coolness up to 8 hours in my small Babymama cooler pouch. I also bought Techni Ice Dry Ice which can effectively contain coldness for longer hours. I ordered it online at the Techni Ice website.
d. Dishwashing liquid and sponge for washing your pump and bottles. Tips: Put the dishwashing liquid in a small bottle (like the shampoo bottles in hotels) to save space in your luggage and baggage allowance which you will need more of when bringing home your expressed breastmilk. Use a sponge cut into half (or about 2 inches in height) for easier washing of your bottles instead of bringing a bottle brush.
e. Clean small towel to serve as your “tray” and “drying pan” for your washed breastpump and bottles. Unless you are staying in a suite, your hotel room mostly likely does not have a kitchen sink and the most efficient and hassle-free option for cleaning up pumping paraphernalia is through the bathroom lavatory. In which case, you wouldn’t want your clean pump and bottles to touch anything in the bathroom. Tip: When packing your things, keep the towel in a Ziplock bag to avoid having contact with any other “less clean” stuff.
f. Ziplock bags. Ziplocks are dual purpose: for storing your pumped milk especially when you don’t have ref in your room and you will just request the front desk to put it in their ref, and as a space-saving container for breastpump parts and flanges and other stuff like clean towel. Tip: Prepare large ziplock bags for towels and bigger stuff and medium/small sized ones for storing expressed milk.
g. Small cooler bag or lunch bag with 2 frozen ice packs where you can put the breastmilk you will express during your flight. This is actually optional especially if you will handcarry your large cooler bag but since I normally pack my large cooler bag inside my luggage and handcarry only my pump bag, I needed a small cooler bag. My pumping bag is what I bring everyday at work, minus the heavy pump which I already leave in the office. (READ: What’s Inside My Koala Bag (aka Pump Bag)?)
h. Resealable breastmilk storage bags. Bringing all your bottles can consume so much luggage space so it’s better to use breastmilk bags. One of the cheapest I found online is Jaco milk bags from LiquidGold Ph. I think I bought mine at P1000 for 125 pieces if I remember it right. The Jaco milk bags also have sturdy base that makes it less prone to spilling when transported. The number of milk bags to bring will depend on your output (amount per pumping session), number of times you will pump, and the number of days you will be away. When I travelled for 3 1/2 days, I was able to pump 4-6oz per session, 7-8 times per day so I brought around 30 pieces of milk bags though I wasn’t able to use everything as I used storage bottles during the last 1 1/2 days to save on the milk bags. Still, it’s better to bring more than less than what you will need. You wouldn’t want to end up “pumping and dumping”.
Left photo via Babymama.ph
i. Nursing cover, poncho or scarf. Your saving grace when pumping on the plane or during engorged, I-need-to-pump-right-here-right-now moments. I love the multi-way breastfeeding ponchos of IndigoBaby, Smartmum Online and Autumnz from Mamabella Nursing and Maternity Wear.
j. Marker and adhesive tape for labeling your breastmilk’s date and time of expression. Bring at least a marker but if you will also use storage bottles, make sure you also have a tape unless you want to affix permanent marking on your bottles. 😀 Tips: Bring a tape in a small portable dispenser so you can cut the tape anywhere. I use the 3M Scotch Donut dispenser — functional and cute! 🙂 In case you forget to bring a marker and a tape, like what happened to me in one of my business trips, use your eyeliner for labeling. It doesn’t easily wear off by itself but it can be easily wiped off with a tissue. 🙂
k. Alcohol. You are likely to pump or express milk anywhere (airport? plane? restaurant?) so this should come in handy. Bring the travel size (smallest one) to lessen your baggage weight.
l. A pack or roll of tissue. It’s a mortal sin for women not to bring tissue when on travel, for breastpumping moms too! Unless you want to use your own clothes or nursing cover to wipe off milk spillage, make sure you have tissue in your bag. Travel packs are more space saving than the rolled ones. But you can flatten a tissue roll by removing the rim. 🙂
2. Check if the hotel room you will be staying in has a refrigerator to store your pumped milk and freeze your ice packs.
Call or email your hotel customer service and find out if the room that you booked has a refrigerator. If none, you can take any of these options: 1.) depending on your hotel, request if you can have one in your room (more likely for a fee but this will be nothing compared to the convenience an accessible ref can give you! 🙂 ) or 2.) request the front desk to have your expressed milk stored in the hotel’s refrigerator as well as your ice packs in the freezer.
Tips: In the absence of an accessible ref in your room for nightime pumping, make sure you have at least 2 frozen ice packs with you to keep the expressed milk cold. Or you can also use the room aircon as your make-do ref by turning it a bit cold (around 20 degrees Celsius or colder) and putting your expressed milk where it can be directly hit by the cool air.
Milk storage tips: if traveling for 7 days or less, you may just store your pumped milk in the refrigerator as breastmilk in ref temperature is good for 7 days. Just freeze them when you get back home if not yet for baby’s immediate consumption. For travel beyond 7 days, pumped milk may be stored in the ref for 7 days but make sure to transfer them to the freezer after or better yet, put them directly inside the freezer after pumping.
Apart from storing milk, the refrigerator can also be used to store used pump flanges and parts for the next pumping session (see Tip No. 5).
3. Plan your pumping schedule and stick to it as much as possible.
To avoid breast engorgement and to keep your milk supply up, you need to pump or express every 3-4 hours. This is easier if you are traveling for leisure as you can take control of your time. But if you are away for work with a tight schedule, it requires a bit of strategy and speed.
During my 3 1/2 day trip last year for a conference (and leisure on the side 🙂 ), the pumping schedule that I set was 6am, 9am, 12nn, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm, 12am, 3am. I wasn’t able to follow this strictly because I needed to adjust based on the programme schedule of the conference but what I did was too quickly rush to my hotel room to express milk during the 15-20 minute breaks. Good thing our hotel was also the conference’s venue. Since I only use single pump (to save on washing my pump parts and because I’ve gotten used to that. READ: My Pumping-at-Work Strategies), and it takes 30 minutes for me to pump both my breasts, I hand expressed my other breast while pumping the other one. Voila! Done in 15 minutes. 🙂 You can also pump discreetly while the talks or discussions are ongoing by covering with a scarf or breastfeeding poncho. In fact, the easiest way to do this is via hand expression. 🙂
4. Learn how to hand express your breastmilk.
Hand expression makes the life of a breastpumping momma, moreso, a traveling breastpumping momma, a looooot easier. Imagine rushing to your hotel room to pump because you only have a 15-minute break from your conference or workshop. Or grumbling at the thought of assembling your pump and washing them after use. I know how hassle these scenarios could be but learning how to hand express will enable you to skip all these inconvenience completely or at some instances, at least. Like on the plane. Or during talks in conferences. Or while having your meal. Anywhere. Instead of assembling your pump, you can just scoot your breastfeeding cover and start expressing milk. Plus it won’t look to obvious that you are actually doing your thing. 🙂
5. Store your used breastpump in a ziplock bag inside the refrigerator for use in your next pumping session.
This will save you a lot of time in cleaning your pump parts as you won’t need to wash and sterilize your pump every session. The cold ref temperature will prevent the milk on the pump from getting spoiled. If you want to maximize your time during your trip, you better do this because cleaning your pump and bottles can be very time-consuming. In fact, I also do this when I pump in the office. 🙂
6. Ensure you have accessible hot water for “sterilizing” your pump and bottles.
While you can store your used pump in the ref to save on sterilizing session, you still have to clean your pump on a daily basis. To do this, you will need of course, hot water. Some hotels, especially the more upscale ones, have everything ready in their rooms including an electric kettle. This is the ideal scenario but in case there is none available, you may request your hotel front desk to provide you hot water everytime you need it. You may also use the hot water in the bathroom especially if you are staying in a nice and clean hotel. I remember doing it in Singapore where water, even bathroom water, is potable. 🙂 Use your tight container or Lock & Lock as your sterilizer. 🙂
7. Wake up at least once in the middle of the night to pump to keep your milk supply up.
I know this can be very hard especially when you are extremely exhausted but for the love of your baby, do it. 🙂 It’s just like waking up in the middle of your deep sleep to pee, though may take a little longer. Or changing your little one’s nappies for the leadtime to be more realistic. 😉 Besides you can take a power nap while waiting for your pumping session to finish. Afterwhich you can just slide your flanges inside a ziplock bag and put inside the ref then go back to sleep. 🙂
8. Enjoy pumping and look at it as something that you love doing instead of a tiring, daunting task that you need to squeeze in your tight schedule.
It’s a bit of a challenge to pump round the clock while you are away from your baby but if you have a positive view about breastfeeding and expressing milk, you won’t realize you’re already filling in bags and bags of the most precious and golden pasalubong for your little one. This principle actually also applies on your everyday pumping routine at work and personally, it has helped me continue breastfeeding my baby girl for 25 months now. 🙂
Hope these tips help you, traveling breastfeeding moms! 🙂 Enjoy your trip and the pumping! 🙂