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Breastfeeding Mama on the Go: Traveling without your Baby

The breastfeeding and pumping lifestyle can be overwhelming and complicated at times and many moms find they go through their fair share of peaks and valleys over the course of their breastfeeding journey. One challenge some moms face is the need or desire to travel without their nursling. The two big things to consider when preparing for traveling without your nursling are feeding the baby while you’re away and keeping your milk supply up while you’re apart.

Preparing to be away from your baby

Wondering how much milk should you leave for your baby? After the first few weeks, exclusively breastfed babies drink 25-30 ounces of milk in 24 hours. The younger the baby, the smaller the belly size and the more often they need to eat, so the baby will need smaller quantities in each feeding (ex: 2-3 ounces) whereas an older baby (6 month old) has a larger belly capacity and may eat a little more less often. Telling your baby’s caregiver approximately how often they typically nurse and what their hunger cues are can help greatly while you are away.

A helpful way to determine approximately how much your baby may be eating at each feeding is to divide the number of feedings by 25 and then also by 30 so you have a range of what to expect. Ex: 25 ounces divided by 7 feeds a day = 3.5 and 30 ounces divided by 7 feeds a day = 4.2, so the baby probably will want about 3 - 4 ounces in a given bottle feed give or take. Note: It’s always a good idea to leave extra breast milk in case it’s needed while you’re away.

Encouraging your baby’s caregiver to use the paced bottle feeding method can help make the transition back to breastfeeding go smoother and can ensure the baby isn’t overfed. *****Andrew- please Add link to blog post about paced bottle feeding

Tips for traveling by plane

  • Familiarize yourself with TSA’s guidelines for traveling with breast milk, breast pumps and accessories. Consider printing the guidelines to have on hand if you run into trouble at the airport.

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get through TSA so you’re not feeling rushed and adding stress to your travel.

  • Pack your breast pump and supplies in your carry on bag and plan to pump right before take-off and once you land, or on the plane if necessary. Lactation rooms may be available at your airport for privacy while pumping so check out your airport’s website prior to traveling so you can plan accordingly.

  • Consider what other pumping supplies you might need while traveling and keep them accessible.

Examples include:

  • A manual hand pump in case there’s no electricity

  • A breast pump with all the parts and chargers

  • Breastmilk storage containers

  • An insulated cooler bag for storing milk

  • Cold packs

  • A Sharpie to label storage containers

  • Breast pump cleaning wipes

  • A nursing cover for extra privacy

  • Extra pump parts

  • A photo or video of your baby, something that smells like your baby, relaxing music

  • Extra bras and a burp cloth in case you spill or leak while pumping

  • Empty plastic baggies

  • Anything else you think you might need

Some electric breast pumps come with rechargeable batteries but if yours doesn’t, you might consider bringing a portable battery pack, using a manual hand pump on the plane or hand expressing.

If pumping in the plane restroom is allowed by your airline, be fully prepared with your pump supplies ready to go before leaving your seat so you can be as quick as possible.

Additional pumping tips to consider

  • If possible, plan to pump every 2-3 hours for 15-20 minutes while you are away from your baby, or as often as you can to keep up your supply and closely mimic your baby’s typical nursing pattern.

  • If staying at a hotel, call ahead to ensure you have a room with a refrigerator or freezer. Bed and breakfasts are less likely to have a personal fridge/freezer in your room so you might want to call ahead to find out if a shared refrigerator is available and if you can store your pumped breast milk in it while you are there.

  • If you’re camping or there are no fridge or freezer options at your hotel, breast milk can be stored in an insulated cooler bag with frozen cold packs for up to 24 hours.

  • Click here for a reminder of the CDC’s guidelines on proper storage of breast milk.

  • Breastmilk does not count under TSA’s guidelines for traveling with liquids, but if bringing pumped breast milk on an airplane with you is not going to work or you simply want to find a different solution for getting your milk from point A to point B, you can mail breastmilk with dry ice.

    • USPS policy on shipping frozen articles.

    • FedEx policy on shipping using dry ice.

With a little preparation and intentional planning, you can feel more comfortable and confident with traveling during this unique season of life.

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