This post is all about breastfeeding, if that’s not relevant to you or makes you uncomfortable probably best to skip this one. I promise, I won’t be offended.
I have been asked a lot recently about how I travel solo while nursing. The only thing more stressful than flying with your small human, is being a nursing mom flying without your primary customer. Breastfeeding is a fun topic; opinions are ironically like nipples, everyone has them but right now mine (and other moms) are a little more relevant. Most people are vocal and even critical about expecting moms to breastfeed, but in general people don’t want to actually see you feeding your child. We prefer our boobs in their resting state, hoisted up in a lace brassiere. I get it a little, breastfeeding boobs are no treat to the eyes, but if my kid’s gotta eat, she’s gotta eat. And as a nursing mom you forget that your kid’s food actually comes from your boobs. They’re simply your child’s food source. You get absurdly comfortable whipping em out no matter where you are and occasionally forget to put them away when lunch time is over. Of course this is coming from someone who is fairly comfortable with nudity.
This exhibitionism gets slightly more complicated when the kitchen is preppin’ food for someone who isn’t there. Out comes the archaic pump that makes you feel like a cow getting milked on the farm. Classy, I know, but I’m all about portraying this experience honestly so bare (breast) with me. I have had to pump mid-flight, in a bathroom stall, in an Uber and even at a well site. It really isn’t all that bad, but I feel like this needs to be shared to humanize the experience. If you see (or hear through the bathroom stall) a woman pumping know that she is doing her best. It’s hard to find places to be discreet. It’s already a vulnerable experience. You feel oh so sexy with your engorged boobs on display, without your baby and feel like a pariah hiding away doing something that really isn’t shameful but feels that way when others are judging. Treat this woman like a human, a little non-creepy eye contact and a hello will make her day, trust me.
For those moms who are breastfeeding and traveling without little ones, I have included my tips and tricks for an utterly enjoyable pumping experience at the end of this blog post. One of the best things I have found is the Mother’s Milk Bank. They are all over the country and will gladly accept any milk you would like to donate to babies in NICUs all over the country. Because a lot of my travels are to Dallas I registered with the Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas. It’s a process, you have to get blood work done and make sure you’re in good health before donating, but it’s totally worth it. This milk is going to babies in need who will benefit greatly from the antibodies only breast milk can provide. Once approved donating is easy. I plan my travels so I can drop off all the milk I have pumped as I head home from my trip sans baby. If you are traveling somewhere other than where you normally donate they will ship a box to you so you can send your donated milk.
My travel days start early so I sneak in a dream feed right before I head out to the airport. Depending on flight time I may try to pump right before the flight. I travel quite a bit so I have access to most lounges. I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but if it is for you I highly recommend it. It’s nice to set your things down in a cubby and find a little area to pump in comfort. Occasionally I pump mid-flight. If that is what I have to do I try to get a row that isn’t full. Again, I don’t mind this, but I’m sure others may not be comfortable. If this is your only option just make light of it, I offer White Russians to those around me.
When you get to your destination make sure you have a refrigerator in your room, if not ask for a medical fridge. If they don’t have any available (I have only experienced this once) ask the hotel to keep your freezer bag in the kitchen fridge. On departure day I pump before leaving, drop off my donation (in the mail or in person) and head to the airport. Once again I attempt to pump before my flight and then head home to my little calf.
If this is your first time or it’s just one of those days just do what I do. Pretend like you totally have it under control and crack a couple jokes. Works like a charm, even if you’re the only one laughing.
Here are the items in my baby-free travel kit!
Pump backpack – This is not an actual pump bag; those bad boys are outrageously overpriced. This bag is great, opens nice and big and fits all the supplies I have listed along with my pump.
4 empty sandwich bags. Simply fill with ice at any beverage vendor once you’re past security and double bag. Voila!
Pump bags – I love these bags and they come with an attachment so the bags can hang where the bottles would be. This means you don’t have to carry any bottles with you and make the risky pour into a bag.
Pump battery – Perfect for emergency pumping.
Pump Car Charger – Too often I am stuck in a car all day, this is incredibly handy.
Nursing pads – duh
Freezer bag – This bag fits about 24 hours worth of milk for me (equivalent to one Big Gulp).
Microwavable sterilizing bags – Super easy to use. It’s always important to sterilize your pump parts, but even more so while donating.
Pump Cleaning – These wipes are easy to use on the go.
Something to nipple on, I mean nibble on.