How to Travel While Breastfeeding
The days of easy traveling seem like a lifetime ago when you’re a new parent. But there’s nothing like middle-of-the-night feedings and washing (and rewashing) bottles to make you start daydreaming about a get-away.
Traveling with a little one may seem daunting, but with a bit of strategy and a few tips from parents who have been there, it’s entirely possible. When you’re a breastfeeding mama, you have a few more items on your mental to-do list. Here are our best tips for making your journey as easy as possible.
Know Your Airports
Airports are confusing labyrinths, but the chances are that you’re flying out of the same one regularly. So get to know it! You can find airport maps on every airport’s website, which will tell you where terminals are, but just as importantly, where restrooms and other amenities are.
More and more airports these days are supportive of traveling families. There is an increasing number of options and amenities for traveling, breastfeeding mothers. One of our favorite resources in the last few years has been nursing suites, private pods for nursing and pumping. They come with power outlets, changing tables, and are a quiet, relaxing escape from busy, overstimulating airports. See if your airport has a Mamava.
Know Your Rights
What exactly are you allowed to do regarding nursing, pumping, and breastmilk in airports and airplanes? Here’s a short list of answers to common questions.
Am I Allowed to...
Nurse and Pump in Airports?
YES. And not only are you allowed to nurse or pump in airports, but many airports are required to help you do this. In 2018, the Friendly Airport for Mother's Act (FAM) was passed. This law requires all large- and medium-sized airports in the United States to provide clean, accessible, private rooms in each terminal for breastfeeding mothers. Requirements go into effect in 2021, but many airports have already taken significant steps to make their facilities more breastfeeding friendly.
However, if you’re traveling outside of the US, be sure to check local laws to make sure you’re protected.
Nurse or Pump on the Airplane?
YES, you’re allowed to nurse or pump on the plane. However, if you’re using an electronic breast pump, you may have to wait until your captain allows usage of electronic devices following take-off.
Pro-tip: If you’re traveling with your baby, nursing them during takeoff and landing can help relieve pressure in their ears.
Bring Breast Milk Through Security?
YES, but if you have more than 3.4 oz, it will need to undergo additional security screening. Ensure you clearly communicate that you’re carrying breast milk to the TSA agents and following all guidelines for packaging it.
Bringing your breast milk through security can be made easier by keeping it separate from any other liquids you’re traveling with.
Pro-tip: If you don’t need your breast milk during your flight, make your life easier by checking your breast milk in an insulated cooler with ice packs. Plane cargo areas are already quite cold, so your milk will be safe during the flight.
Bring Ice Packs or Gel Packs to Keep Milk Frozen or Cold?
YES, but they need to be frozen solid. If there is any liquid, it’s subject to the 3.4 oz liquid rule.
Pumping On The Go
When you’re pumping while traveling, you need to plan to keep your milk at a safe temperature. The best way to do this is with ice packs or gel packs (see above!) and an insulated cooler. You can store breast milk in these conditions for up to 24 hours.
If you’re going to pump before or during your flight, you can bring your breast pump on your flight. However, unless your pump fits inside a purse or another carry-on, it counts as one of your two designated carry-ons.
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, store your breast milk in a fridge. If you’re at a hotel, your mini-fridge should be fine, but if you don’t have access to one, you can ask the hotel to store it for you—many hotels are very accommodating in this regard.
Expect the Unexpected
Traveling is synonymous with delays, especially air travel. Whether your plane snowbound in Denver or you’re stuck on the plane as mechanical difficulties are worked out, you’ll likely experience some kind of holdup en route to your destination.
For a breastfeeding mom with a schedule dictated by a hungry baby, this can be challenging. However, some strategy goes a long way.
For pumping moms, make sure all your devices are fully charged before leaving home. That means pumps, lactation massagers, your phone, anything that is part of your regular pumping routine. Yes, airports have many options for plugins, but scrambling to locate an outlet is the last thing you want to deal with. Another step to make pumping easier? Plan to pump directly into a bag rather than into bottles. This is tidier, quicker, and less bulky.
For nursing moms—and let’s be honest, for pumping moms, too—it’s also helpful to travel with an extra nursing cover. While many moms are comfortable nursing or pumping in public, airports are crowded and busy—a little extra privacy can be nice.
Sending Your Milk Home
If you’re traveling without your baby but pumping to keep your supply up, you may wonder what to do with your breast milk. You can, of course, save your milk and carry it home with you, but that may not be practical depending on how long you’ll be gone. One option that we love is breast milk shipping services. The company Milk Stork is dedicated solely to safely shipping breast milk, but FedEx and the USPS are also options.What tips, tricks, and hacks for traveling as a breastfeeding mama have worked for you? Share on Facebook or IG.