If ever there was a situation that needed to be handled with a little grace it is this one.
If you are going to be flying to your destination please do not assume that things will run as smoothly as they do in your normal day to day life. Breastfeeding and pumping are totally normal and natural to those of us that have done it and are currently doing it. The people that know us personally are probably pretty familiar with it as well. That does not mean that everyone else in the world is.
Having just traveled without my breastfeeding child I have a few tips I feel are so important to share.
Start off by realizing that no one will be singling you out on purpose. The issues you are going to run into are because of a lack of knowledge or education. Traveling in an airport is not the place to try and educate other travelers, or airport staff.
Try and make the best of the situation by planning ahead and avoiding confrontation when problems pop up. (As a breastfeeding mom it PAINS me to have typed that BUT making a scene in an airport could get you kicked off your plane or might even get you detained by an official. Don’t be a martyr.)
Be prepared to explain what your breast pump is. I surprisingly got more questions about my pump in the US airports. It clearly states the name of my pump and had all the equipment with it which I would assume is self explanatory. Apparently its not.
I also assumed that female Gate and TSA agents would be more knowledgeable. Not true. I had three women TSA officers on one leg of my trip and none of them knew what my pump was.
Your pump will probably receive extra screening. Some agents will consider it a medical device and some an electronic device. If either of these require you to take it out of your bag at your screening checkpoint just go ahead and do it.
At one checkpoint my pump was taken around to show all other TSA agents as a training tool. It was then swabbed to check for chemicals. Awesome.
Finding a place to pump will NOT be easy in the airport. Not all airports have nursing areas. Bathrooms are NOT going to have outlets. However, if you can find a family or companion care bathroom these USUALLY have outlets.
Once you leave the US the amenities will vary wildly depending on where you end up. Other airports may not have these companion bathrooms and then you will have a real problem.
Most airports have charging stations for your electronic devices which are grouped together and there will be tons of other people using these as well. I don’t know about you but this is so not the ideal place to try and pump.
PRO TIP: I wish I had just brought a manual pump when I traveled internationally. At one point we ended up getting rerouted to Mexico City for a LONG layover and they had NOWHERE to plug in. I ended up sitting in a bar with my pump plugged in under a table and pumping in front of all my husbands coworkers who were traveling with us. DO NOT BE THAT PERSON.
If you are traveling to a non English speaking country you MAY have to describe your pump or ask questions about a pumping location with hand gestures and broken conversations. There will be embracement. Just accept it now.
US Travel may make storing and traveling with your milk much easier. I would recommend trying to ship your milk back home with the FEDEX shipping program. They at least have a system in place. If you try and bring your milk without a baby into the airport you could possibly be denied. There is just not a whole lot of knowledge about if its okay to travel with breast milk or not (When there is no baby)
I asked at each stop because I knew I wanted the information for this post. Every Single person told me they were not sure what the policy was.
If you are traveling internationally I would recommend just dumping it. Dump it during your travel days and dump it once you get to your destination.
I know its liquid gold but the language barrier is just too much to deal with. My husband and I had so many disagreements leading up to the trip about what I was going to do with the milk but in the end I just dumped it. It made me cringe every single time I watched all my hard work circle the drain but it was worth it to avoid the headache of trying to travel with it.
Put yourself on a pumping schedule. If you are a new mom your body will probably be screaming at you when its time. If you have been doing it a while and you are a less frequent nurser then put yourself on a schedule so you can make sure you keep your supply up. Its easier to forget when you don’t have your baby with you.
So in summation, it will totally be worth it to pump while you are away from your child but keep in mind that things will probably get a little crazy, maybe awkward and possibly just downright strange.