Updated: Jun 9
Whether you are exclusively pumping or only on occasion, it is good to know what options you have for pumping while traveling.
When it comes to flying, its all about planning but staying flexible. And the best options for pumping are going to be entirely situational depending on how long your flight or travel day is, if you have a layover, etc.
Be sure to wear pump friendly clothes for easiest access while traveling. I personally love the options at Kindred Bravely (code: TWB15 will get new customers 15% off).
Because breast pumps are considered medical devices, they are allowed their own bag in addition to your normal carry on luggage allowance.
Manual Hand Pumping - This is going to be a simple and cheap option for on the go. At the very least, it can be a good idea to have this as a backup in case your other pumping options don’t work.
Wearable Electric Pump - This is probably the most ideal scenario for on the go pumping. Nothing to plug into and hands free pumping. You can pump whenever you get the opportunity, in the nursing pod or even in a quiet corner of the airport if needed.
Our friend Karrie Locher, postpartum extraordinaire, has an incredible blog post comparing wearable pumps if you’re hoping to learn more. (Linked Here)
Electric Pump - Electric pump is certainly an option in any flying scenario. The airports are filled with places where you can plug in an electric pump from the nursing pods within the airport itself or on the plane.
Where to Pump
Airport - Thanks to the FAM (Friendly Airports for Mothers) Act of 2017, all medium to large hub airports must have private lactation areas in each terminal.
The lactation areas must:
Be available to the public
Be behind security
Be shielded from view and free from intrusion
Have a door that can be locked
Includes a place to sit, a table or other flat surface and an electrical outlet
Be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs
Not be in a bathroom.
The easiest way to find these nursing/pumping spaces will be to do a quick google search for “Nursing Room in ______ Airport” and there is usually some guidance on the specific airport’s website.
Mamava have also placed lactation pods around the country, including in many airports, in order to help moms pump on the go. They have a handy map on their website to help you find the closest location.
With that being said, not all of these lactation stations may be close to your gate. Some airports have Baby Stations with multiple private rooms for several mothers to nurse or pump at the same time while others are single occupancy. It is important to keep a back up plan in mind and to allow yourself plenty of time if you plan to pump in the airport before the flight.
Airplane - Depending on what type of pump that you plan on using, this will determine what options you have for pumping on the airplane. For manual or wearable pumps, you can easily stay in your seat and pump. If you’re hoping for some more privacy while you do this, bring along a nursing cover or a blanket that you can drape around yourself. If you plan to use the electric pump on the plane you will need an outlet and the only guaranteed outlet that you’ll find will be in the toilet. Some planes do offer outlets at the seat but this is risky. The outlet may not be working or not every seat may have an outlet. Additionally the wattage of a seat outlet is not always guaranteed to have a strong pump. If you do plan to pump in the toilet, there are a few tips to help:
Bring plenty of antibacterial wipes and wipe it all down (for obvious reasons).
Let the flight attendant know your plan. You will likely be in the restroom for some time and it will be helpful if the attendants can redirect other passengers away from that stall.
Wear comfy shoes. With the size of these bathrooms, you may end up standing for the duration of your pumping session.
Bring plenty of water and a snack so you can just stay in there until you’re done.
Use the baby changing table to lay out all that you need for pumping and cleaning. Not every airplane has changing tables though (especially the smaller planes) so keep that in mind.
Cooling Milk/Storage Options
Depending on how much milk you are storing and at what point you need to store it (either before you get to the airport or once you’re through TSA), this will determine the best storage option for you.
Keep in mind, TSA policy states that ice, ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk and juice are allowed in your carry-on. If these accessories are partially frozen or slushy, they are subject to additional screening measures. I highly suggest screenshotting their website with this information stated as not every TSA agent knows the policy.
If you just need something to store the milk being pumped that day, consider a thermos like the Ceres Chill (15% discount applied in link).
If you’re bringing larger sums of milk from outside the airport and through security, you can bring it in a cooler with an ice pack.
Or instead of worrying or fussing with the ice packs (they may add time that you’ll be stuck at security), you can also get ice from a restaurant or coffee shop once you get through security and use that in a cooler.
If you’re pumping in the airport, it is fairly easy to go wash your parts in the bathroom or in the nursing room if it has a sink.
If you’re on the plane, the water coming from the bathroom is plenty safe to do a quick clean of your pump parts. Additionally, there are plenty of products from wipes to sprays that can make the cleaning process quick and easy without the need for a sink. Once you're home or at your destination you should give them a proper wash and sanitize.
If you’re not planning on feeding the recently pumped milk to Baby, one way to keep the mess to a minimum is to pump directly into storage bags. This will eliminate some of the clean up needed, but more importantly, it will help prevent you from spilling any of that liquid gold.
A quick google search before you travel will help determine what kind of storage bags will fit directly onto your flanges so that you can simply pump, seal, and store in the cooler. Even if you plan to put that milk in a bottle to feed your little one, you don’t have to transfer milk from bag to bottle.
International Flights - Because you are likely to pump multiple times during these long haul flights, you may want to do a more proper clean between sessions. To be extra safe for a multi-pump session on a flight, I use the airplane bathroom but not the sink water. Instead I will pack a wash basin of some kind and use bottled water (ask your flight attendant if they can warm it for you).
Consider a collapsible wash basin like the one linked above from amazon or my preference is this amazing wash basin bag from Ceres Chill (15% discount applied in link).
If you're pumping on the go, I always found it easiest to feed what was most recently pumped instead of going through the effort of cooling or reheating or using the “oldest” milk first.
Remember, milk can be out for 4-5 hours at room temperature before it needs to be cooled or put into a refrigerator.
This means you can pump whenever you have a chance but then just leave the milk in your pumping bottle until Baby is ready to eat (if under 4-5 hours from when you pump, which is likely if you're pumping at the airport or on the plane).
If you prefer to use milk that has already been cooled or frozen, you may need to warm it up. If so, you have a few options:
You can use a product like Baby’s Brew (15% discount applied in link) which is a portable bottle warmer.
If you have a small portable warmer like the Munchkin 98° Digital Bottle Warmer, you can use that anywhere there is an outlet.
Hot water in a thermos (only fill half way) that you would pack and use to heat up Baby’s bottle by placing the bottle with milk in the warm water until it reaches your desired temp. Keep in mind you will need to identify that this water is for the baby before going through TSA and they will need to perform several screenings of the thermos and contents within. If you're not using your Ceres Chill Cooler (15% discount applied in link) for cooling, you could also use it for warming.
Get a large cup of hot water (only fill half way) from a coffee shop or restaurant within the airport or from your flight attendants on the plane and then use that water in the same method as mentioned above.
Pumping and traveling can be exhausting so try and stick to your normal schedule when at all possible which is why it is important to try and plan when and how you will pump.
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