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Tips & Tricks: Breatfeeding & Travel

Planning a trip is fun:)  I was so excited to be heading out on a weeklong vacation with my sweet hubby but had yet to think about all the details that needed to be taken care of before we left.  Beach, sand, and sun clouded my mind.  We didn't actually plan and book our trip until July (to leave the first week in September), but we knew we wanted to go somewhere late summer, so I started to prepare myself around the first of May by pumping and freezing as much milk as I could.  From the time the girls were born up until that point I was only able to pump as much milk to provide for them that next day.  In hopes to increase my milk supply to be able to start storing, I added in another pump session before bed every night.  In the beginning I was only getting a few ounces- maybe 2 or 3.  Within the end of the month I was pumping enough to be able to store some for while we were gone. 
By the time we were set to leave for Mexico I had stored 240 ounces of milk. That was enough for each baby to have 4 ounces in each bottle, 5 times a day for 6 days.  This meant that the girls would be getting 2 ounces of formula in each bottle to make up for what I was lacking in the stored milk.  I ended up purchasing Gerber Good Start  and the girls tolerated it well! They haven't had formula since they were 3-4 weeks old when we were supplementing while my milk supply was coming in, so I was nervous on how they would react to the change.  If I could have saved a 6 ounce storage bag of milk every single day I would have ended up with plenty- but its not a perfect world and I was only able to save a handful of bags a week.  Nothing wrong with a little formula supplementation when needed:)
Although I was ready for some time away, I became so stressed about making sure I was able to provide enough for the girls while I was without them, as well as pumping and traveling.  I started researching and reaching out to other momma's in my community (if you have an Instagram account- I highly recommend following @askthemamas.  They are such an AMAZING community of women that offer advice and answer questions that so many of us have.  I submitted a question about pumping and traveling with my expressed milk and got a lot of great feedback.)
Finally I came up with what I thought was a great plan for while we were away.  Making a list (actually multiple lists..) kept me sane when planning for all that I was taking along with me.
  • Pump (duh..)
  • Storage bottles: 4 (8-ounce) bottles and 6 (5-ounce) bottles
  • 2 (32-ounce) water bottles (like this one)
  • 2 sets of pumping accessories (valves with membranes and breast shields)
  • Ice packs (I brought 2 and kept them in the freezer part of the mini fridge in our room)
  • 1-2 cooler bags  
  • Nursing cape for pumping in public (I totally forgot about this one!) 
*Note: The 8 ounce bottles will hold up to 11 ounces and the 5 ounce bottles will hold up to 7 ounces when filled to the spout.  The 32 ounce water bottles will hole up to 35 ounces when filled to the spout. 
I also brought some of the pump wipes for quick clean up after a pump session.  The water in Mexico is not potable, so I made sure to rinse out my pump accessories and bottles with bottled water provided.  
While we were away I pumped 4 times a day: first thing in the morning (7am-8am), lunch time (anywhere between 11am and 1pm), before dinner (between 5:30p and 6:30pm, and last before bed (around 11pm).  Since I knew it was not realistic to save every last ounce of milk I expressed, and as much as I hated the thought of 'wasting' the liquid gold I had produced, I pumped and dumped twice a day.  Occasionally I would have a couple drinks during the day while we were laying by the pool, so I opted not to save that milk.  I know that I am able to drink and still provide safe milk, but since I would have more than one drink over the course of a couple hours, it wasn't worth it to me to save it.  Plus- I didn't come with enough space for storage of 400 ounces of breast milk! SO- it was my justification for pouring it out and feeling ok about it:)    
For reference: If you're going to enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage, keep in mind that it takes two to three hours for your body to eliminate the alcohol in one serving of beer or wine. Specific time frames depend on your size and how much you drink, but the more you drink the longer it takes your body to get rid of it.  Like some would think, alcohol isn't stored in breast milk – instead, the level increases and decreases just as it does in your bloodstream. The rule of thumb: If you have an alcoholic drink, wait at least two hours before breastfeeding your baby.
The milk I did store, I poured into the sports bottles first and then started to fill the smaller bottles.  By the end of our trip I was able to store about 200 ounces of milk. 

Before heading out of town I checked to confirm the standards for traveling with breastmilk/formula on the TSA website.  You can find the TSA standards for carrying on breast milk (formula and juice) to the plane here.  In the states, parents flying with, and without, their child(ren) are permitted to bring breast milk in quantities greater than three ounces as long as it is presented for inspection at the security checkpoint. Additionally, empty bottles and ice packs are permitted under these conditions. 

Even though I was confident with what the website stated, I felt less that confident as we approached the security check point in Cancun.  I came to realize very quickly that even though the TSA website said I could travel with my milk onto the plane, Mexico's airport security was claiming differently.  The security attendants continued to asked me where my babies were and why I was carrying milk if I wasn't traveling with them.  I was so confused and for half a second I thought they were going to make me dump all 200 ounces of milk I had packed to bring home.  There was a terrible language barrier, but finally they allowed me to walk out of the line and head back to luggage check to have them stow my milk under the plane. 

Realizing that there was no way my milk was going to be safe for consumption after being under the plane for 3 hours, I asked a vendor in the air port for some ice- and the employee graciously obliged my request! Such a blessing!

Since the milk was in an actual cooler bag, I purchased a bag from a little convenience shop and then had the Secure Wrap man do his work to keep the cold in as long as possible

..and then I checked my little blue ball-o-milk. 

After explaining to the baggage attendants what the dilemma was and why I needed to check another bag.. and please don't charge me for my second checked bag, they were very nice and allowed it, no questions asked.  As stressed as I was for about 10 minutes- everyone was so very helpful and didn't mind my requests for assistance one bit.  They could probably tell the desperate look on my face- and to not upset this mama bear. 

headband // Jameson Monroe * t shirt // J.Crew Factory * cardigan // Loft * watch // Fossil
pants // Loft (last season) * sandals // Loft

One last pump before boarding the plane!  I completely forgot to grab my nursing cap before heading out of town and was thankful I tend to carry a cardigan everywhere I go.  There was an outlet in an empty terminal, so I took advantage of the semi-private area before getting on a 2 1/2 hour flight home.

The milk made it home safely, intact, and COLD!  Thank you Haagen-Dazs man! The girls drank this milk for the week after we were home (it is good for 8 days in the fridge).  I started with the first pumped milk and ended with the most recent pumped.  Anything I pumped that week after we got home I stored in the freezer for another time. 

I have not noticed a drop in my supply or anything like that because we were gone.  That was probably my biggest fear in planning a trip away from the girls.  I was also fearful that they would forget and have no interest in nursing after being away from them for 6 days. 

Nope- my girls picked up right where we left off a week earlier:)



Unknown said...

I am sure all your breast feeding Mommas really appreciate this post!! Since I have my babies way out of the breast feeding/bottle stage, I want to know where that cute outfit, especially those pants from your last pump in the airport came from ;)

Breakfast With the Bennetts said...

I did this for a business trip I had to take when little man was five months old. It's hard but worth it! Great job mama!!

Rachael Garcia said...

Your dedication to breastfeeding is very commendable! I'm sure that hooking yourself up to the pump multiple times throughout the day was not exactly the highlight of your vacation but major props to you for sticking with it! I did have one quick question - you mentioned having to pump and dump each day. How did you determine when to dump vs when to keep the milk? And I mean, other than the times you had had a drink or two; when you had gone a stretch without drinking, how did you decide what to keep? Thanks!

AMCallahan said...

You are a rock star! Good job!

Emily said...

Thank you thank you THANK YOU for this post. I have my first business trip next month and am so stressed about transporting my milk home. I had read the TSA guidelines and planned to bring my Medela cooler with 5 oz bottles, but I never thought of the sports bottle or larger cooler. Question, prior to being forced to check your cooler, did the cooler count as one of your carry-on or did you try to pack into a carry-on? I'm a little stuck on how to pack for this trip (hoping I don't have to check any bags).

Stephanie Schellenbaum said...

Thank you for this post! I leave for Cancun tomorrow and have been debating on taking my milk on board coming home or not. My question is why did you end up checking the cooler instead of bringing it on??? I'd have room for my cooler in my carry on but wasn't sure what the security would say about it. I'll be bringing back close to what you did.

Ash. said...

ahh! great tips. we are going to Disneyland and I was worried about how to keep my milk supply up while I left my little Parker home. thank you for this post.

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