This past week I went to Detroit for 3 days and 2 nights on business (glamorous, I know). I was super nervous about being away from my 5 month old baby and having to pump and store all my milk plus take it on a plane.
Here are some things I learned that might help if you have to be away from your baby while traveling:
1. Call the hotel and request a refrigerator and make sure you tell them it’s for breast milk (if there won’t already be one in the room). I did call the hotel 2 days before I left and requested a refrigerator. The woman on the phone told me it shouldn’t be a problem. Upon arrival at the hotel, no refrigerators. They told me they would bring one to my room as soon as one became available. Great. I called the front desk 3 times that day and never got one. Finally the next morning I called again, still nothing. I went to the front desk and told the woman I needed it for breast milk and to please let me know when one was available. I ended up getting one about an hour later. I think because I finally told them what it was for they realized my dilemma. I was keeping my pumped milk in a cooler with ice, but ended up throwing away 33 oz because it was in the cooler overnight and I didn’t think it was fresh. Bottom line, tell them what you need the refrigerator for!
2. Bring a cooler as a carry on. You are now allowed to bring breast milk on an airplane without having to worry about the 3 oz rule. I ended up with about 80 oz and had no problem getting through security. I did bring ice packs with me that I kept in the hotel freezer. Breast milk is fine in a cooler with ice packs for up to 24 hours. I also asked if the people at Caribou Coffee could fill my cooler with ice once I got through security and they kindly obliged. I carried on my cooler and my breast pump. You can carry on a breast pump and it does not count as a carry on because it is considered a medical device. Also, the cooler not only kept my milk fresh, but it kept my travel beverage cold too, bonus!
3. Get a battery pack. If your pump does not have one already, I would recommend getting a battery pack for those times at the airport, convention center, wherever that there isn’t a private room with an outlet. This brings me to my next tip.
4. Have no shame. It would be nice if every place had a clean family bathroom or private room specifically for nursing mothers, but unfortunately this is almost never the case. I ended up having to pump at the airport in a dirty family bathroom next to a used needle dispenser in Detroit that smelled like 10 people took a shit in it. I also had to pump in the regular women’s bathroom in a stall while sitting on the toilet because the family bathroom was occupied and I didn’t have time to wait or I’d miss my flight (I had already waited 10 mins and no one came out of the locked room). Luckily the stall had a broken lock. I know you’re thinking um, why was this a good thing? Because it might not be as dirty as the other stalls because women might have used the ones with locks over this one (at least this is what I told myself). I was able to keep the door closed by hanging my heavy cooler behind the door.
5. Don’t stress out. I was very nervous about a) having a place to pump when needed, b) carrying on breast milk without issues, c) having a place to store my expressed milk, and d) being away from my baby for the first time. As long as you aren’t afraid to ask questions (Is there a family bathroom here? Can you keep my ice packs in your freezer?) and can relax enough for let down, you will be fine. I wasn’t relaxed until I made it through security on the return flight, but now that I know what I know, my next trip (which hopefully won’t happen for a while, and preferably when I’m done nursing ) will be a piece of cake!
I hope you find these tips helpful for your next trip away from baby. Feel free to post in the comments anything I missed or if you have questions!