Breastfeeding and Traveling Without Baby
How to prepare your feeding and pumping plan for when you have to leave the baby behind
As a breastfeeding mother, there will likely come a time when you have to leave your baby for a night or two. Don’t panic. There are plenty of ways to maintain your supply from the road, and even get a full night of sleep. Whether you’re off to your BFF’s bachelorette party or a swanky work conference, Baby’s still gotta eat, which means Mama’s gotta pump. Follow these steps before you hit the road to make sure you’ve covered all your bases—then you can relax.
The first thing you have to worry about when it comes to travel is how your baby will eat while you’re away. A healthy freezer stash to leave behind should add up to about a week’s worth of milk (for tips on how to build up your arsenal of frozen milk, click here). Don’t feel guilty about tapping into it for out-of-town travel, because if you’ll be pumping while you’re gone, you will easily replenish your supply. If you’re leaving your baby with a caregiver, provide enough milk for each feeding, plus a little bit extra just in case. If your baby is already eating solids, you won’t need to give yourself quite as much wiggle room in exchange for an extra serving of sweet potatoes.
Pumping on the Go
We advise all moms to choose the right primary pump for their lifestyle, but if you’re hitting the road and your main pump isn’t mobile, you’ll need to make extra preparations (and we can help you find the right one). Either get a battery pack if your pump isn’t already portable, or invest in a hand pump for those moments when you can’t find an outlet. Remember: If you are taking a long flight, you will likely need to pump on the airplane. Your breast pump is considered a medical device, so it does NOT count as a carry on (which is awesome). Beyond the breast pump, it’s important to travel with a cooler to keep your supply cold while you’re on the road, plus backup accessories and storage bags for easy transport. The good news is that your insurance likely covers both a hand pump and accessories. The Lactation Network and we will look into it for you.
Storage and Transportation
Once you reach your destination, having access to a refrigerator for milk storage is key. Contact your hotel ahead of time—you can even specifically ask for a medical-grade fridge to make sure the temperature stays cold enough. If you are only gone for a few days, you won’t need to freeze your milk (though it doesn’t hurt for traveling purposes).
Pack enough bags to store your milk, and bring a soft-sided cooler and ice packs for transporting it all home. If you’re only away for a few days, a standard refrigerator will be fine, and you can call your hotel ahead of time to make sure you’ll have access to one. If you will you be away for a week or longer, though, consider one of the boutique store and ship services that are gaining popularity, or arrange for a cold shipping package from FedEx. If you’re away for a work-related trip, know that many employers will reimburse for this expense.
While leaving an infant at home can be a paralyzing feeling, it is also empowering to know that your child is in good hands while you are off conquering the world. When you’re away, savor the child-free time (heck, you can even savor it while you’re hooked up to a pump) and enjoy yourself. Your baby will be happy, healthy, fed, and waiting for you when you get home.