Travel Tips for a Nursing Mom
When Jett was about six months old, we were presented with the opportunity to take a tour of the Holy Land. While that was an extremely exciting opportunity, the thought of leaving my sweet, precious, helpless, exclusively breasfted, baby for 10 days was terrifying. I was so worried I my milk would dry up while I was gone or that when we got back, he would not want to nurse any more after several days of an easy bottle. So I started googling how on earth to make this happen! And guess what?
Clearly I was the first mama to go on vacation without her nursing baby because I could find no information on how to make it happen! Cue the intense mom guilt. I nearly cancelled my whole trip because I was just so terrified of leaving him. Chris finally convinced me otherwise, and I'm so thankful. It was certainly the trip of a lifetime! And, I learned a LOT about how to travel without a babe and keep my milk pumpin!
Here are my tips for traveling without your nursing baby!
1. Pack Appropriately
I knew that I would be cramped on a tour bus with 50 or so other people the entire trip so I wanted to be sure I had ample ways to stay covered up while I was pumping. I had a couple of light scarves that I initially used as a cover that were cute and functional. But I'll be honest, by the end of the trip, pretty much every one on our tour bus had seen my boob. Also be sure to wear comfortable, loose fitting tops that make for easy access! (Or honestly whatever is easiest for you) so that you aren't spending more time getting in and out of your clothing than actually pumping.
If you are traveling overseas, make sure to get an adapter for any electric outlets as well. Or you may want to bring your battery power supply with extra batteries.
2. Take EVERYTHING
I made the horrible mistake of just taking my electric breast pump and none of the extra parts or pieces. This turned out to be a really bad decision. I was washing my pump and accessories after a session and looked down to realize that I had washed a membrane down the drain in he hotel sink. UMMM GUYS THE MEMBRANE IS PRETTY IMPORTANT. It is the little flap that closes on the back of the pump and creates the suction that brings on the let-down and milk flow. Without that membrane, my pump was basically USELESS. Cue the hotel bathroom melt-down.
I ran down to the lobby, at like 10PM, and through tears asked where the local drug store is, thinking I would be directed to a CVS or Walgreens or something. I mean, those are international brands, right? WRONG. While I was standing there blubbering to the poor hotel employee, one of our friends on the trip walked up and asked me what was wrong and once I filled him in, he found us a cab and went out in Jerusalem with us at 10PM (not the safest place or time for tourists!) to find this "drug store". Bless it.
Suffice it to say, there was not a CVS or a Walgreens for thousands of miles. We pulled up to a literal hole in the wall store that sold everything from wigs to cigarettes to phone chargers. I asked the guy working behind the counter if he had a breast pump and you would have thought I had three eyeballs. However, the Lord does go before us, does He not? He had one old, dusty Tommy Tippee Manual Pump on a shelf. I handed over my $60 (!!!) for it happily and carried that thing with me everywhere for the rest of the trip.
All of that to say: HAUL IT ALL! Take your electric pump, all your backup supplies, membranes, cords, battery power, tubes AND a manual pump if you have one.
3. Drink lots of water
Traveling dehydrates you to begin with so be prepared to drink a LOT of water. I was drinking between 200-250 oz every day. DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH WATER THAT IS? A lot. I brought my Nalgene water bottle with me and filled it up at every opportunity I had. I was shooting for 3-4 refills every day, but really hit about 5-6. I was damn determined to not dry up on this trip!
4. Eat, eat, eat, and eat some more.
Before we left, I cooked a batch of lactation cookies (recipe for that coming soon!) and brought them with me. They contain brewer's yeast, oatmeal, and ground flax seed meal, which are all great ingredients for boosting your supply. They also have chocolate chips and butterscotch chips which make them delicious! ;)
I also kept food stashed in like every empty space I could muster up. I made myself simple sandwiches that would travel well throughout the day (a little baguette with some spreadable cheese and cucumbers or hummus and bell peppers) and snacked all day long. We were doing lots of walking and touring so I wanted to be sure I had plenty of calories for that along with making milk!
5. To keep, or not to keep?
If you are taking a short trip within your country and want to keep your breastmilk, be sure to bring a soft-sided freezer bag to store it in for the flight. Most hotels now have a mini fridge in them with a freezer or are happy to let you store milk in their freezers. Airlines will allow you to bring your milk through security as long as it is frozen. They will usually hand inspect it but there is no limit on the amount you can bring through! So if you want to save your milk, go for it mama!
I decided not to add that level of stress to my trip and I'm happy I did. It did mean that I had to dump all of my milk out, which was so painful at first that I made Chris do it! Liquid gold down the drain is NOT easy. By the end of the trip, I had poured it down the sink, in a tourist trash can, in a toilet... oh you name it I poured it. But there is no way I would have been able to get it back through security in Israel and I would have had way too much to try and keep up with. It was tough to pour out but in the end it worked well for me.
6. Get the hormones going.
The morning before we left, I took a video of Jett nursing in the cry room at church. Any time I started to worry about my supply drying up or I was having trouble getting a let-down, I would bust out my phone and watch that video and boom! Worked like a charm!
7. Be prepared for anything.
When traveling, really ANYTHING can happen. Here is proof. The second day of the trip, jet lag was really setting in and we had been going, going, going for nearly 48 hours straight. We finally got back to our hotel room and I got out my electric pump and started pumping. Chris and I sat and talked about the day and I was just trying to stay awake. I thought I heard a dripping noise and I looked down to find that, indeed, I had. I had pumped one entire side without the bottle attached to the shield. So I had literally pumped an entire boob into my lap. My pajamas were soaking wet, milk was dripping into the floor, and I had a lap full of milk. Umm, whoops? We still laugh about that story!
Mama - take a deep breath and relax!! You're on vacation and you're doing an amazing job! If you worry the entire time about your milk, you won't enjoy yourself and come back refreshed, which is the point of a vacation right? Your baby misses you and loves you and will be so excited to have you back when you get home. If he never latches again, you're still an amazing mama. If he doesn't miss a beat? You're an amazing mama.
Have you traveled without your babe? Do you have any other tips to offer? I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments!
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