Let’s face it! Breastfeeding is natural but not easy, to all moms, full time stay home or working full time.
Work trips can be tricky when you are a breastfeeding mom. Here are some tips from my own experience.
Tip 1 build up your stock
How long are you gone for? Calculate how much milk your little one will need while your are gone. For example, at my last trip, my little one was having 4-5 feeds a day (160-180ml per feed). I was gone for 4 nights and 5 days. So I would need 25 packs of 180ml milk as a base. I also added 5 more bags as buffer (one per day). I started pumping more 2 months in advance to stock up. It turned out all stock was used including the buffer. I went home to an empty freezer 🙈
Tip 2 know your destination
1. How can you store your milk?
Email your hotel in advance. If they have in-room freezer, that’s perfect. You can freeze your milk in the room. If not, ask if the hotel can freeze for you (if you do so, remember to allow more time to pack as you’ll ask for the milk and then pack in your check-in luggage. That takes some extra 20-30 minutes)
2. Pumping time & location –
when you get the agenda, figure out first if you have breaks to pump (you’ll need at least 30 minutes).
Then, where? Is there a nursing room in the building? Or could you book a meeting room for pumping? You’ll need privacy and hygiene. I personally hate pumping at bathrooms. Nursing room is not common in countries where you can pretty much pump everywhere (Switzerland for example)
(Found a tiny meeting room – post-it gave me the privacy I needed 😅, in Geneva)
There’s a curtained room in one of our local offices. It was meant for staff to take a rest and also for nursing moms to pump during work. Good that I asked my colleague beforehand so it was easy for me during the 2-day trip
3. Storage –
is there a fridge nearby or you need to bring your own cold bag and ice pack? You don’t need to buy a special milk cold bag. My current one was used to store beers for bbq or picnic 🧺
Always check with the hotel in advance if they could freeze your milk for you. I tend to write in advance to check if there’s a freezer fridge but most of the time they would offer to freeze it for you at the restaurant but you have to pack it well (hence ziplock bags). I do have experience that the airport hotel rejected me for storing my milk saying it’s against the rules. Probably my whole week of milk will go into a milk bath 🛁
Tip 3 hand pump & scarf
Hand pump (especially Medela Harmony) is quiet and easy to bring on plane. With a scarf and a nursing top, you can pump discreetly on plane (with lights on or off. I personally prefer pumping when lights’ off). You can pretty pump everywhere quietly with the scarf on. I would recommend lightweight ones with enough covering area. My small size Burberry proved to be too warm for indoor and needs a bit of effort of pulling and adjusting to cover up.
Tip 4 freeze your milk
It’s the best way to secure your milk. If my bag of milk survived a trip from Europe with 5 hours delay + 8 hours layover + (1.5+12) hours flight time, you can keep your milk fresh too. I simply put the milk in a cold bag and put a few more ziplock bags filled with ice and zip the cold bag.
According to the health authority in Hong Kong, you can keep your fresh milk in normal temp (below 26 degree) for 4 hours; in cold bag with ice for upto 24 hours; frozen milk can be kept in the freezer for upto 6 months. If your milk is not fully thawed (not fully melted) you can freeze it back. However, if your milk is fully thawed, the milk need to be consumed within 24 hours.
Tip 5 sizeable cold and ziplock bags, hand sanitizer and pure water baby wipes
Ziplock bags are the best (I reuse them many many tines). You can put your filled milk bags/bottles in and add ice in as an additional cold bag. Trust me, you’ll want to put a couple of bags as projection for your miwhen you need to freeze your milk at a hotel freezer. If you are worried about the long flights, put your frozen milk in a cold bag with a lot of ice in ziplock bag. That’s your safest bet.
You might not always be near source of water to clean your hand. Hand sanitizer & our water wipes will be your best friends.
If you are flying long haul and it’s not direct, you need to go through airport security again. So it’s a good idea to put your milk (expressed in flight) in a separate bag (a clean plastic you get from the flight attendant would do). It’s also easier for the security to scam in the separate machine. So be prepared it’ll take slightly longer than usual. Don’t book your connecting flight too close. Also, you could drain the watery ziplock bags add more fresh ice in. I did want in a bar/restaurant and asked for ice. They offered me some ice. In the case of airport lounges, just simply get some from the self help bar😝
I brought along the milk I expressed inflight (to Europe) with me and got stopped at security at transit. “Why do you have milk with you?” “I’m still breastfeeding.” (I produce it – would be a bolder answer)”Where’s your baby?” “Not with me. That’s why I need to pump”. They would put your milk under another scanner. Many airport are equipped with nursing rooms, Hong Kong, Singapore etc. However, if you are in the lounge already, there are usually just the changing station in the disabled bathroom. Scarf would come in handy.
What to bring on flights
When I fly long haul, I usually bring along:
– 4 bottles together with my pump
– at least 3 clean ziplock bags and 4 milk storage bags.
– a light scarf
– hand sanitizer
– a pack of pure water wipe (no alcohol – I prefer my alcohol in a glass or a bottle to my wipes 😬)
– a medium size clean empty plastic water bottle (depending on the route, you could bring a filled one or you could ask the flight attendant to fill with drinking water). The water will be used for rinsing your used pump
I did get ice (filled my ziplocks) from the flight attendants to keep my milk cool the last few long haul when I explained what the ice is for (apparently, it’s a written rule that they cannot give out ice only to passengers. At least the one who said no twice to me said so).
Don’t be silly! Bring your double pump or electric pumps and your hand-free pumping accessories at your long haul trips. Trust me the least you want to do after a long work day is to use your hand pump before bed. Let your pump do the pumping work and free your hands to catch up on your emails 😝 or better FaceTime with your loved ones. Reminder your charging cord though. I left one behind already. Always remember to unplug and pack your charging cable before leaving the hotel or home.
Precautions – Mastitis
Schedule of work trips can be unpredictable – flight delays, traffic jam (I pumped in cars a few times already. Better always have a clean hand pump and hand sanitizer in your bag), overun meetings, shortened breaks, late meals etc, you might go for a lot longer between pumping. With the travel fatigue, stress and fewer sessions of pumping, mastitis might creep in especially for longer trips.
Things to bring:
– Breastfeeding friendly anti fever medicine (I bring Panedol from Hong Kong)
– lecithin (it works on me) – soy milk works in a similar way
When mastitis hits, remember:
– pump as often as you can
– take long hot shower or bath and massage your breast area (you don’t need to put too much pressure) – hot shower and massage worked for me
– if you still feel full after the electric pump, use hand pump. I found it easier to control the suction intensity
– take medicine if you have a fever 🤒
– relax and rest more
Mastitis should be gone within a couple of days. If it gets worse, go to the doctor’s. I experienced a couple of times in longer trips (4 nights or more) and the hot shower and hand pump did the trick for me.
I’ve been back to work since my little one turned 6 months. My current job requires me to travel, not too often luckily. Before my first flight, which was just a short trip to Shanghai for 2 nights, I asked for tips from a mama whatassp group. Thank God that there are moms that have experience before and I learnt the trick on emailing hotel in advance. Four seasons had the fridge and bottle steriliser ready in my room when I checked in👍🏾
So far, I have done short hauls to shanghai, Phuket and Seoul and long hauls to Europe, from 2 night to 5 nights. I usually allow at least 30 minutes for morning and night pumps, meaning I get up 30 minutes earlier and go to bed 30 minutes later. No milk wasted 😊
Pumping through work trips is not exactly easy breezy but it’s definitely do-able. You’ll get a great sense of achievement when you bring home a full ice bag of frozen milk. Of course, hugs and kisses from your little one makes everything al worth it 🥰
Do you have travel and pumping experience? Any tips to share?