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.
Road trips are a little bit easier to manage any pumping that you need to do, that is as long as you're not driving. You have more control over your privacy, cleanliness, and schedule which can make a big difference on staying on schedule and not letting yourself get too full.
Be sure to wear pump friendly clothes for easiest access while on the road. I personally like the options at Kindred Bravely. (Code: TWB15 will get new customers 15% off)
Manual Hand Pumping - This is going to be a simple and cheap option for on the go. If you’re not driving you can sit in your seat and pump away for however long you need to and not have to stop your road trip in the process.
The downside is that it can be laborious. Depending on how long you are going to use the pump you can be quite tired afterwards or suffer from hand cramps.
If you are driving we highly suggest pulling over to a rest stop or gas station. If you’re not sure where to go you can find a list of possible options here on my blog.
Wearable Electric Pump - This is probably the most ideal scenario for on the go pumping. Nothing to plug into and hands free pumping. 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 obviously not as easy in the car but not impossible either. You could purchase a power adapter that would actually let you plug in your standard electric plug into your car using the 12V power outlet. We also used this plug for our warmer to heat up the cold breastmilk or water for formula.
Another option is to stop somewhere with a restroom or family room with outlets. Rest stations sometimes have family restrooms where you could pump or if you are in a city, Buy Buy Baby locations have nice family rooms in which you can pump.
Mamava have also placed lactation pods around the country in order to help moms pump on the go. They have a handy map on their website to help you find the closest location.
Cooling Milk/Storage Options
Storage is easier on the road as opposed to an airplane simply because you’re not limited in the amount of baggage that you can bring. We always brought a small/mini cooler that would sit on the floor of the car that was designated for milk only. Or if you already packed a larger one for road trip snacks (don't forget to pack plenty of snacks and water for yourself!) in the trunk, make sure that it can be easily accessed from a passenger in the back seat. Stock it with plenty of ice and ice packs and this typically keeps the milk plenty cold until you get to your next destination.
Another great option for on the go pumping is the Ceres Chill thermos (15% discount applied in link). You can pump directly into the chiller—no need for a cooler or plastic bottles and you can take with you anywhere. It gives you 20+ hours of safe chilling for 24 ounces.
If you're traveling with frozen milk, you will want to make sure that you are diligent about keeping the cooler cold enough so as to not thaw out your milk. This will be much easier in a small cooler meant only for milk.
If you plan to pump in the car while on the go, plan to bring some cleaning tools that can be used there instead of stopping to clean your parts and bottles. There are plenty of products from wipes to sprays that can make the cleaning and sanitizing process quick and easy.
I also suggest having two separate bags or places to store your clean and dirty pump parts.
If you do want the option to clean your parts or bottles on the go, consider packing a collapsible wash basin like the one linked above or I prefer this amazing wash basin bag from Ceres Chill (15% off discount applied at link).
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.
Just put the bag directly into the bottle, fold the opening over the sides of the bottle, and tighten the lid as you normally would and BAM - no pumping bottle to clean and no baby bottle to clean.
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 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% off discount in link) which is a portable bottle warmer
Hot water in a thermos that you would pack before you head out on the road and use that to heat up Baby’s bottle by placing the bottle with milk in the warm water until it reaches your desired temp.
Get a large cup of hot water from a gas station and then use that in the same method as mentioned above.
You can also use the power adapter that I mentioned above to power a smaller bottle warmer that has a normal electrical socket.
Pumping and traveling can be exhausting so it's important to try and stick to your normal schedule when at all possible. Stay hydrated and take breaks when needed.
Disclaimer: Using the links on this page may provide Traveling with Babies with a small commission for qualifying purchases.