Traveling Without Breastfed Baby: How to Prepare and Maintain Supply


Vacationing Without Baby:

It’s Still Possible to Continue to Breastfeed!

[Please note that I am NOT a lactation consultant or specialist.  Everything in this article is purely from personal experience and extensive research and education I have provided and learned for myself as I have breastfeed my own baby for the last year]

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I always thought that Lil B was going to nurse until HE wanted to stop.  After all, we made it through the first few weeks of painful engorgement, the beginning months of horrible latch issues and even an upper lip tie.  We were in a routine and I felt good knowing that he was getting the absolute best nutrition I could provide for him.

And then we started to plan a trip to Mexico, sans baby.

The thing is, Lil B was almost one year old at the time of the trip, so he was at an age where many nursing mothers would rejoice that they made it to the gloried “One Year” mark and considering all the circumstances and obstacles of going on a vacation without baby while breastfeeding, many mamas just decide that the time was right, struggles to hard and therefore to go ahead and wean.

But my inner, hippy, and crunchy mama felt guilty for stopping because I wanted to go relax for a long, romantic week with my husband in the Caribbean.

 

So I decided to give exclusively pumping a go for the duration of the trip.

Traveling Without Breastfed Baby

 

 

The goal was to pump while traveling without baby so that I could maintain my supply enough that when I returned, we could jump right back into nursing.  Going into the situation, I knew it was going to be tough, it was going to take a WHOLE lot of extra time, I was aware that  it was going to take a lot of preparation and that during the trip, I was going to have to make conscious efforts to actually pump.

So if you are considering taking a trip without that lovable little baby of yours and are afraid of how it is going to effect your milk supply or nursing relationship, here’s everything you need to know about pumping for and during a vacation while away from baby.

 

Stock Up on Supply Before Leaving

Traveling without baby while breastfeeding also means pumping while away from baby. While away from baby is a hassle in and of itself, but I realized that Lil B needed milk expressed well before the trip to get him through our time away! (Uh, Duh, LeAnna!) For me, at the time of our trip, he was nursing 4-5 times a day.  That meant I was leaving my breastfed baby for a week! Therefore, doing a bit of math, I knew that 4 times a day x 7days= 28 bags of milk (minimally!) I needed to leave for our parents, who would be watching him…..That’s alotta pumped milk!!!

Tip: If you are trying to up your supply to help meet the demands of feedings plus pumping, I used Mother’s Milk Tea to help with supply.  You can buy lactation cookies, like these, or save some money and just make some yourself since the main ingredients that make them “Lactation” friendly is brewer’s yeast.  (See below for recipe).

BONUS TIP! The lactation cookies are the perfect treat to take with you on the plane and for your trip to continue to help with supply (ok, well it’s mostly just just to eat more cookies, am I right?)

Plan Out Your Pre-Pumping

Instead of pumping all day every day right before the trip, I started pumping twice a day about 3 weeks before leaving.  I woke up early and expressed (which always gave me a great output since I was very full) and pumped right before bed (not as great of a supply since it was the end of the day, which is naturally a slower production time).  Neither of these interfered with his regular feeding schedule and worked out great.  If I were to do it all over again, I would have just done a morning pump for about a month before leaving, but hey, life kinda got in the way of that original plan!

Moral of the Story? Figure out how much milk your little one needs while you’ll be away and plan accordingly to have a stockpile while you are gone.

Can You Pump and then Immediately Breastfeed?

This is quite an interesting topic and not to be a cop-out, I will say that this all will depend on person to person and baby to baby. (Also, to reiterate: I AM NOT A LACTATION SPECIALIST).  Most pumping Mamas typically say that try to wait about an hour to feed just to be sure, but I read once that a baby actually produces something like up to 80% of the milk he needs while he is AT the breast.  What this could mean for many is that even if you just pumped, your little one can still get a full feeding (if he’s willing to be patient and will work a little harder and longer).

 

To Dump or Not to Dump…..that is the question!!!

This decision literally felt like torture!!!

Many pumping moms wonder, “Can you travel with breastmilk?”

And the answer is yes, but with A LOT of work.

After re-reading all the health guidelines for how long milk could stay refrigerated, how to keep it cold or frozen during travel days and then reading up on airline policies on dry ice and what not, I decided that I was going to dump for half of the trip.  Just the thought of watching that liquid gold go down the drain made my heart bleed just a little.

If it was going to be a short trip, a weekend trip or something of the like, there is no way I would waste that precious nectar!  However, with unknown access to freezers, I wasn’t going to risk contaminated milk to my baby, nor was I going to risk my milk supply.

Tip: Each airline and, in fact, each country, may have it’s own policy on dry ice as well as expressed milk.   FlyingWithABaby gives you an amazing list of airlines and specific airports policies as a place to start your research but also contact the airline you are flying with directly to ensure the most up to date policies.

 

Figure Out Your Options for Transporting and Storing Expressed Milk

Once you have your set schedule and plan for stocking up on milk so that your kiddo has enough during your time away, you now need to be thinking about options for transporting and storing your milk while away.

Dry ice, gel packs, ice.  Fridge, freezer, cooler!? It’s hard to wrap your head around what route to go down.

You have quite a few options on how to bring your milk to and from your destination, but most of this will depend on the length of your trip, distance and time you need to travel and what facilities (fridge, freezer, cooler, etc) you have access to during your time away.  I thought this article did a great job of breaking down your options.

 

 

Spare Parts

You know me.  You know that we do carry on only in just about every situation, even WITH the baby in tow.  However, that is with my personal packing policy that if I forget something (other than, for example, my passport), I can always get it there.

  • Didn’t bring that one pair of shoes? Well, I’ll just look goofy wearing what I have.
  • Forgot the contact solution? I’ll go find a pharmacy somewhere.
  • Left the top of my bikini? Find a nude beach??? Just kidding (kind of).

You get the point here.

But pump parts are a different beast depending on where you are traveling.  If within the US, you might be able to find a pharmacy or Target that will have spare bottle parts and what not.  However, if you are pumping while traveling internationally, it might be a lot harder to find what you need or in the brand that you need.  So this is NOT the time to “pack light.”  Yes, that most likely and inevitably means needing to check a bag, but ’tis the life of a pumping, traveling mama!

I had registered for the Medela In Style Backpack solely for the purpose of wanting an easy traveling bag.  Sure, I could have taken out just the pump itself and saved space, but I loved that with the backpack version, everything fit so nicely and I could also keep all my spare parts and everything else needed for pumping in one, easy to use and take with me bag.  This was especially convenient at the airport when I needed to find a place to pump.  I just grabbed my backpack pump and everything in it and went on my way.

Did You Know: In the US, a pump is not considered your carry on! I loved that I could use my pump backpack and carry it easily but also have a carry on in addition.  Personally, since I hate having to lug around “stuff” the pump backpack actually held all my pump supplies, plus my carry-on gear!  So, I still only had one bag to worry about.

 

Batteries and Power Converters

My pump uses both a plug or batteries, which is a God-send!  The bad part about the batteries is that it SUCKS THE LIFE out of them, but at least it’s something if where you are going isn’t on the same power supply as your pump.  So, I took so many batteries, as backups that the TSA probably had a few raised eyebrows as they looked inside my bag.

You might still be able to use the power supply though, pending on where you are traveling to.  Check the voltage of your pump and ensure that it works where you are going.  You might only need a power converter, but some may require a transformer, which you don’t want to be lugging around in your suitcase.  (PS~I used my (U.S.) pump while living in Germany just fine, as it was dual voltage.  I just simply used a converter and was good to go).

 

Cleaning Supplies

Depending on where you are traveling to, the cleanliness of their local water supply, as well as what kind of lodging you are staying in can very well determine what extent of cleaning supplies you will want to bring along and/or ask the hotel what they have.  Here is a list of what I brought and why:

Quick Clean Wipes:

I’ve always just used the Medela Quick Clean Wipes, since that is what I had registered for during my baby showers, but there are other brands such as Dr. Brown’s.  Think little toilette wipes that you can use to quickly clean down all the parts of your shields, valves and membranes.  These are ideal and perfect for actual traveling days, like in the airport where you can’t really wash and dry the pump parts real well.

Note: Even after wiping down the pump parts with the wipes, I always do a good rinse with clean water before the next pump session, just in case there is any soap residue.  Supposedly the wipes are 100% safe, but I like to err on the side of caution when it comes to matters such as these.

Micro-Steam Bags:

I use these ones , also from from Medela and are the absolute perfect option if you can get access to a microwave and need to sanitize your bottle and pump parts.

Bowl:

While the steam bags are AMAZE-BALLS and super easy, I only like to use them in a pinch or only a few times in a row before giving the parts an actual scrub down with soap and hot water.  So, I still like to wash and rinse my pump parts so that I KNOW they are cleaned well.  Unfortunately, a hotel sink isn’t exactly the most clean surface and you just simply don’t know what products are used when they are finally cleaned out.  While it’s a pain to bring along, a bowl (Like the 81 oz one here) that all your pump parts can fit in to, it is the perfect solution for a DIY cleaning station in your room.

Traveling without baby while breastfeeding: Keeping breastpump parts clean on the go

Dishsoap:

If you are going to be cleaning the pump parts yourself, bring along some dish soap.  You can easily pour some into a refillable travel toilletries bottle, like one of these, before leaving home and then not worry about soap spilling all over, having to take a giant bottle with you or dealing with a sloppy, goopy baggie of soap.

Drying Basket:

I am notoriously clumsy.  So, while just laying out a towel and putting the pump parts on that to dry out, I inevitably will knock stuff over in that teeny tiny hotel bathroom, contaminating the parts I just so diligently cleaned! So, while it may seem a bit overboard to bring a basket with slits to dry in, like this, it was worth it.  And since I was now taking a full on checked bag, I had the room so might as well make my life easier with convenient gear!

Water Boiler:

Well, I did not pack a water boiler, but depending on where you are traveling to, ask your hotel ahead of time if they have one available for use in your room.  If you are concerned about water quality, this is a great way to help ensure that the water you are using to clean your pump parts is as clean as possible.  Even if the water is clean, it helps to clean your pump parts with hot, soapy water.

 

Other Supplies to Make Your Life Easier

Extension Cord:

One of my biggest complaints about my pump is the power cord length.  I can totally see why hand-free pumps are becoming all the rage! The power cord on my pump is about two feet.  This is horribly annoying because what comfortable sitting area or position is THAT close to an outlet!?  Needless to say, in a hotel room the answer is none. We had a small extension cord, similar to this one, that worked perfectly for allowing me to sit comfortably on the bed, in a chair or anywhere else without feeling like I had to be stuck sitting on the floor, glued right next to the wall.

Pumping Bags or Other Containers

One of my favorite pump pieces is the Medela Pump and Save Bags. (Geez, I should really get paid from Medela with all these endorsements to them! I swear, this is not a sponsored post from them!) You attach the storage bag straight to the pump and get going! No transferring milk (and accidentally spilling that precious liquid!) and, more importantly, is one less thing to have to clean up.

However, if you are pumping a lot and bringing it all back, I’ve heard of some traveling moms just pouring all the milk into a large pop bottle or something similar.  I avoided this approach for a few reasons:

1) I didn’t want to have to pour all the milk into a container (I know, LAZY) or risk spilling.

2) I would just have had to transfer to other bags when I got home anyway (since I wouldn’t be using the expressed milk immediately upon return and once any frozen milk is thawed, it must be used within 24 hours….I didn’t want a whole 2 liter of milk to be thawed just because I may need a few ounces here and there).

3) I was not sure what kind of refrigeration or freezing methods I would have on hand at the hotel.  Most two liters won’t fit in a typical hotel fridge and I was not comfortable leaving my milk unattended to with the concierge.

Gel Packs, Ice Packs or Dry Ice and Cooler

Depending on what you have to keep your milk cool (hopefully a hotel fridge), you now need to think about how to bring it home.  While it can technically stay at room temperature for up to three hours, it is always best to keep it as cool as possible for as long as possible.  I ended up taking a normal cooler bag, like this, and packing it full of gel packs that I had asked the hotel to freeze for me the night before.  You can use ice packs (but they may then get wet and leak) or dry ice if you are traveling internationally on a long haul flight or for an extended period of time.  If you go the dry ice route, again, check airline regulations.  I just didn’t want to have to deal with that, even though dry ice would probably have been the best method for keeping it chilled properly.

 

Traveling Without Baby While Breastfeeding:

How to Still Enjoy Your Vacation

Ok, now that are you are armed with the knowledge you need to actually make pumping while traveling possible and as easier on everyone, what are somethings you can do to enjoy your trip away from baby?

Let Go of the Guilt

As mentioned before, I felt guilty for not being there to continue to nurse Lil B.  But then I thought about all the amazing Mamas that exclusively pump! He was still getting the best nourishment I could provide, even if I wasn’t personally there for a few days.

Schedule Pump Sessions

I literally had to set an alarm and make a conscious effort to pump.  If I didn’t it made it way to easy to just “do it later.”  Then, when later rolled around, I’d already have missed one (or even two!) sessions.  I finally sucked it up and told myself that when the alarm goes off, I go pump!

But even that method doesn’t always work.  There were many days on our trip where we were out and about site-seeing.  I wasn’t going to lug around my pump (although, you technically can!) which meant there were some days that I had two options:

1) Head back to the hotel in the middle of the day.  This sucked.  Not that we were staying terribly far but it still meant putting everything for the day on hold for at least an hour or so taking into account transport time.

2) Skip that pump and double up later.  While it is helpful to pump around the same time your baby feeds, it’s actually more important to try to get the same amount of ounces as if your baby was feeding.  Therefore, if you are out and about and can’t make it back to pump, don’t stress out. Just do a longer pump session than normal when you return in addition to doing another one later to try to get some more stimulus.  For me, even with this method, I was still getting the same amount of ounces total for the day, I just didn’t want to make a habit of this method.

Tip: Schedule your pump sessions when it is easiest for you.  For example if you know you are going to be out site seeing for the day, plan your sessions accordingly.  You don’t need to take the pump out with you on your excursions.  As long as you are pumping the same amount (ounces) as you would feed back home, even if it is not the same “times” as baby would normally feed, your body will get the message to continue to produce milk accordingly.

 

 

 

Now, as promised, as if a breastfeeding mama needs any more of an excuse to eat more, here’s my favorite lactation cookie recipe

Lactation Cookies

Lactation Cookies for traveling without breastfed baby


Servings: 4 dozen     Time:10 mins     Difficulty=easy

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar.  (Use Palm Sugar for a much healthier alternative)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 4 tablespoons flax seed 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour (half “oat flour“/ half regular is best)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 cups oats
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 4 heaping tablespoons brewer’s yeast
  • Optional Additional Ingredients: walnuts, almonds, almond butter, cashews, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, dried fruit, raisins, spirulina powder…..really anything that your hippy, crunchy self desires!

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Let flaxseed and water mix for 5 minutes
  3. Cream together butter, sugar, and brown sugar (or Palm sugar) well
  4. Add eggs and mix
  5. Add flaxseed/water and vanilla
  6. In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, brewers yeast, baking soda, and salt.
  7. Combine dry ingredients to butter and sugar
  8. Mix in oats and chocolate.
  9. Dallop into balls onto cookie sheet
  10. Bake for 12 minutes.

 

 

After a week of exclusively pumping while away from my baby, I seriously have a new and profound appreciation for any mama who pumps more than nurses.  I thought nursing was hard.  But exclusively pumping??? Yikes.  It takes a lot of effort!!!!  So major kudos to any mamas that do it!

If you are traveling without baby and you still nurse, then pumping exclusively during your vacation is most likely the way you are going to have to go if you want to continue to nurse when you return.  It’s not impossible, it just takes a bit of knowledge, effort and dedication.  But your a mother! So you’ve got all that in spades!

 

Are you wanting to continue to breastfeed even after a baby-free trip?  What other questions or concerns do you have?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LeAnna

Author and Creator at Economical Excursionists
Former teacher turned blogger turned mom turned full time travel addict, LeAnna has never been one to live life by the rules. Whether she is moving to a farm in Switzerland to learn to make cheese (Yes, CHEESE), jumping off a mountain to paraglide over Cinderella castles, or taking her baby all over the world with nothing but a backpack on their backs, LeAnna designs and defines her OWN life. LeAnna, her husband Andy, and kiddo, "Lil B" love to live a minimal lifestyle, not only for the "thrill" of pinching pennies but in order to save for traveling the world. Considering over 40 countries and 90+ cities have been explored, we'd say they are doing something right!

About LeAnna

Former teacher turned blogger turned mom turned full time travel addict, LeAnna has never been one to live life by the rules. Whether she is moving to a farm in Switzerland to learn to make cheese (Yes, CHEESE), jumping off a mountain to paraglide over Cinderella castles, or taking her baby all over the world with nothing but a backpack on their backs, LeAnna designs and defines her OWN life. LeAnna, her husband Andy, and kiddo, "Lil B" love to live a minimal lifestyle, not only for the "thrill" of pinching pennies but in order to save for traveling the world. Considering over 40 countries and 90+ cities have been explored, we'd say they are doing something right!

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