Many traveling moms struggle to balance travel during the breastfeeding years. Whether you are headed to grandma’s house with a new nursing baby in tow or taking a solo business trip as a working mom with a breast pump and cooler, we’ve got you covered. We have assembled our network of Traveling Moms to bring you some of the very best tips and tricks for breastfeeding and pumping success while traveling.
Travel and Breastfeeding Basics
As Traveling Moms who travel often for work and for pleasure, both with and without our kids, we know about the juggle that breastfeeding moms face. Simply learning to breastfeed an infant as a new mom is challenging enough. When it is time to breastfeed or pump on the go, whether it be on a plane, on a road trip, or in a destination far from home, it can be downright overwhelming.
Will other people give you a hard time for nursing in public? Will your baby be too distracted in a new location? Where on earth can you store pumped milk while in transit? We have seen it all when it comes to breastfeeding while traveling: triumphs, challenges, and even a hilarious mishap or two.
Here are the very best travel and breastfeeding tips to make your job easier, assembled from our network of over 60 moms who are also experienced travelers.
General Travel & Breastfeeding Tips
1. Do what’s best for you and your baby!
Don’t allow anyone to give you a hard time about feeding your baby where, when, and how you need to. Nearly every state in the USA has laws protecting breastfeeding moms, and most airlines have specific rules protecting you too.
2. Know your baby.
Choose a location that works for you and your baby. While some babies don’t mind nursing in a noisy location or strapped into a baby carrier with mom walking around, other babies can’t settle in unless they are in a quiet spot. Learn your baby’s preferences before your trip so you can be prepared.
3. Pack the right supplies.
No matter how you are traveling, a crucial first step is making sure you have the right supplies. That means everything from nursing pillows to pump parts to cleaning supplies. Pumping moms – don’t forget a battery pack for electric pumps because a plug is not always available.
Check out TravelingMom’s Ultimate Packing List for Breastfeeding and Pumping so you won’t forget to pack a thing.
Tips for Breastfeeding and Pumping in Airports
4. Ask if there is a special nursing spot.
Several airports now offer mother’s rooms or nursing pods to give you extra privacy for breastfeeding or pumping. Ask airport personnel as locations are not always obvious or advertised. While several major airports have had private lactation rooms for many years, smaller airports are now making progress too. I have noticed Mamava pods popping up in quite a few additional airports in the last year especially.
5. Make your own special nursing spot.
If an airport doesn’t have a mother’s room but you still prefer a little privacy, find an empty gate and set up shop there.
6. Yes, you can take it through airport security.
If you are worried about breast milk and TSA, rest assured that you are permitted to travel with pumped milk – frozen or liquid – even if you aren’t with your baby. From the TSA rules (which you may want to print just in case): “Formula, breast milk, juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag . . . . You do not need to travel with your child to bring breast milk.”
7. Choose the right cooling method.
Want to keep pumped milk cold and worried about bringing ice packs through airport security? While ice packs are permitted under the TSA rules, partially thawed packs may mean you are subject to additional screening. Try a bag of frozen peas instead. They aren’t classified as liquids and work just as well.
Tips for Breastfeeding and Pumping on Airplanes
8. Most airlines are working hard to support flying and breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding on planes seems to give moms the most cause for worry. While there have been a few horror stories in the news about crew shaming breastfeeding moms or telling them to cover up, rest assured that these experiences are few and far between.
9. Consider booking a window seat on your flight for more privacy and space.
Whether you are breastfeeding or using a bottle, a window seat allows for a little more space. The curvature of the plane by the window gives you a little more room for baby’s head and feet to stretch out.
10. The best times to breastfeed are on takeoff and landing.
Ear pressure changes can be a major source of pain (and crying!) for infants on airplanes. Try to time a feeding for when you are taking off and landing because the sucking helps your little one’s ears adjust to the pressure changes.
11. Be sure to drink enough water when you travel by plane.
Air travel is incredibly dehydrating. Nursing moms already need additional fluids, so pack a water bottle or make sure you take advantage of the in-flight drink service.
12. If you need to pump on a plane, there aren’t a lot of options.
Traveling without a baby and need to pump? Unfortunately, there are no private spaces where you can be for an extended period of time to pump. You can pump in your seat (although many moms are not comfortable with a seatmate in such close proximity) or go to the lavatory. My advice? Try to pump right before your flight if at all possible.
13. Ask for help.
Most flight attendants want to help if you explain your needs – after all, quite a few of them have probably been in your shoes! Occasionally they will help by refrigerating milk, heating up a bottle for the baby, or even helping you be undisturbed in the lavatory if you choose to pump there.
14. Ask for ice.
Milk storage is one of the major concerns of moms pumping and traveling without a baby. You can also ask flight attendants for a little ice for your cooler to keep milk cold. In a pinch, remember that expressed breast milk can stay at room temperature for at least 3-4 hours so you can often wait until you land to refrigerate it.
Tips for Breastfeeding and Pumping on Road Trips
15. Plan breastfeeding stops to coincide with road trip pit stops.
Don’t find yourself stuck feeding in the middle of nowhere along the highway when your little ones get hungry!
16. Consider bringing a pump.
If you are planning a road trip with a tight schedule when you can’t make long stops, consider bringing a pump along if your baby will take a bottle of pumped milk. That way, you can pump, feed the baby a bottle while he’s still strapped into a car seat, and keep driving. (Of course, this all hinges on having another adult along to do the driving!)
Breastfeeding Tips for Other Kinds of Travel
If you are staying in a hotel, request a refrigerator if you need somewhere to store milk. Many hotels will waive fridge rental fees if you need it for medical purposes, which usually includes breastfeeding.
18. International Trips
Differing voltages in foreign destinations (even with a converter) can potentially fry your electric breast pump. Be sure you have the right equipment or simply plan to rely on a battery pack instead.
With a Baby Care Center in every Disney park, both breastfeeding and pumping at Disney is a Traveling Mom’s dream. No destination makes it easier. These centers are equipped with quiet spots to feed your baby and extra baby supplies for anything you might have left behind.
If you are planning a cruise getaway without your baby, you’ll need somewhere to store pumped milk if you want to bring it home. While many cruise lines have mini-fridges in the room, these often are not cold enough to safely store milk. Talk to your cabin steward about getting a larger fridge for medical purposes or storing your milk in a central fridge.
Camping – either with or without a baby – is doable too! If you are pumping, bring a manual pump as you won’t have access to electricity in many locations. Consider camping at a resort where you may be able to use a freezer in a central location.