Vacationing Without Baby: Yes, It’s Still Possible To Continue To Breastfeed!
Got your babe with you? Here’s a fantastic guide to Traveling While Breastfeeding from fellow family bloggers, OurGlobeTrotters.
Traveling Away From Breastfed Baby
Planning How Much Breastmilk to Leave For Baby
How To Breastfeed AND Pump to Stock Up
Tips for How To Stockpile Breast Milk While Nursing
Did You Know: Laughing creates oxytocin in your brain, which actually helps with your letdown! Watching a comedy could actually increase your output! #Winning!!!
Travelling Without Baby While Breastfeeding: To Dump or Not to Dump…..that is the question!!!
This decision literally felt like torture!!! I could either simply just pump to keep supply up while away or I could pump and bring home all that hard-earned milk.
Many pumping moms wonder, “Can you travel with breastmilk?”
And the answer is yes, but with A LOT of work.
Deciding if you want to keep your milk and transport it home is going to vary, situation to situation. Just the thought of watching that liquid gold go down the drain made my heart bleed just a little. But here’s what I did for each of my trips away from my breastfed baby:
A Week In Mexico: After re-reading all the official 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 and bring home the other half.
Since milk can only be saved for about 3 days (before needing to be frozen) and I didn’t know what access I was going to have to freezers, I wasn’t going to risk giving contaminated milk to my baby, nor was I going to risk my milk supply. However, I did decide to keep the last few days worth of milk unfrozen and brought that home with me to freeze as soon as I got back to my house.
Leaving Breastfed Baby for 5 Days For Work: When Mr. J was just 7 months old, I had to go on a work trip for 5 days (plus another 2 days of travel). This time, I knew for a fact that my hotel not only had a mini fridge with a freezer, but I also contacted them ahead of time to ask if I could have access to a deep freeze (which they were happy to provide). I decided to keep the entire supply of pumped milk from this trip and fly with it home (more on how to do that below)
Exclusively Pumping and Traveling Without Baby While Breastfeeding for 1 Week in Hawaii: This trip was different. We were going to be camping in Kauai for the majority of our trip. This meant no freezers and no refrigerators. Unlike our Mexico trip, where I at least knew I had a hotel mini fridge, this trip I didn’t even have a cooler (which I wouldn’t have been comfortable with anyway). Therefore, for the entire week, I sadly had to pump and dump. Mamas- I can’t even describe how hard this was for me!!!!
What To Bring for Pumping While Traveling Without Baby
You know me. You know that we do carry on only in just about every situation, even WITH a baby or kids in tow. One way that makes this easier to do is that my personal packing policy is 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 made sure to have more than enough of the Medela Membranes (I always lose that suckers!) and valves and a few extra bottles.
When I went to Hawaii, I actually took TWO travel breast pumps because I had read reviews of them crapping out only after a week and NO WAY was I going to risk losing my supply because a darn pump stopped working after a week. (I bought two brand new travel pumps right before the trip and took both. I only used this one the entire time and never opened the other, that way I could return it as soon as I got home with Amazon Prime’s return policy- Don’t have Prime? Here’s a discount for a trial ).
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 some of carry-on gear! So, I still only had one bag to worry about.
Batteries, Power Converters and USB Plugs
My main 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. Either way though, I wanted batteries just as a back up.
Alternatively, when I finally got a small hand held battery-powered pump, this was a game changer for pumping while traveling without baby!!! It actually only used a USB cord, which made packing lighter SO much easier and I only needed a backup cord…just in case!
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.
Once I got the travel breast pump, I didn’t have to worry about that since it is battery operated.
Milk Storage Containers
I’m going to go into detail about this in a little bit, but you’ll obviously need something to store your milk in. I like the bags that you can just pump right into.
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.
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: These are LIFE when traveling without baby and pumping!!! I use these ones, which are also 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. Basically, it uses a steam function to sanitize all your parts and you can even reuse multiple times, meaning less to pack!!!
Click Here To See The Quick Steam Bags
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 cleanest surface and you just simply don’t know what cleaning products are used when they are finally cleaned out. While it’s a pain to bring along, a bowl that all your pump parts can fit in to is the perfect solution for a DIY cleaning station in your room.
Dish soap: 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 toiletries 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 would work for some, 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 boiled, soapy water anyway to sanitize everything.
Gel Packs, Ice Packs or Dry Ice
Depending on what you have to keep your milk cool (hopefully a hotel fridge or even better a hotel freezer), you also need to think about how to bring it home. While I’m going to go into your options in detail below, just know that while it can technically stay at room temperature for a few hours, it is always best to keep your milk as cool as possible for as long as possible. I find gel packs to work really well.
For one of my trips, 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 frozen properly- again, more on this below.
On my other trip that I brought my milk home with me where I had way more milk, I actually brought along several styrofoam coolers packed into boxes (for more insulation). The biggest issue with this route was that I then had an entire suitcase that was just taken up by coolers and milk! This wasn’t a HUGE deal, since I can pack light with just a carry on, but it still seemed excessive at the time! But hey, a breastfeeding mom’s gotta do what a breastfeeding mom’s gotta do!!!!
I just so happened to have the styrofoam coolers at home. Had I not had those, I would have bought a really quality, small, insulated cooler that latched and wouldn’t leak for my checked baggage. Yeti coolers are a popular choice for breastmilk storage because they keep things so insulated and cold. While I hate the price tag on a Yeti, I just might hate the thought of losing all that preciously hard-earned milk because my cooler couldn’t keep everything frozen.
Click Here To See A Small Travel Yeti
How to Store Breast Milk While Traveling: Pumping Bags or Other Containers For Milk Storage
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, when I was gone for almost a whole week and had A LOT of milk to bring home I didn’t want to have to deal with a bajillion bags of milk. Therefore, I froze the first half of the supply in the little bags but the last few days worth, I actually just kept it all in a 64 oz Insulated Bottle. THIS WAS INSANELY BRILLIANT (in hindsight!- but more on that below!)
Traveling Without Breastfed Baby: Pumping and Storing Your Milk
If you’ve chosen to bring some (or all) of your milk home with you, you’ll need to make sure you are using the proper guidelines for pumping and storing breast milk. This is a bit harder on the road, but not impossible.
Ask for a room with a freezer
When you book your room, ask if they have a minifridge (and preferably one with freezer). Simply explain that you are pumping and most hotels will be pretty accommodating. If your minifridge doesn’t have a freezer, some will still have a “thermostat” inside. Crank it as cold as you can (I’ve had my milk freeze this way!). Just remember that minifridges aren’t the best, so try to avoid opening and closing it as much as possible.
See If You Can Use A Hotel Freezer
When I went on my worktrip and had an insane amount of milk to bring home, I asked the hotel if they had a freezer I could use (again, just explain why). Most hotels that have complimentary breakfast will have one, it’s just a matter of how much space they have available in it.
Now, I’ll admit, handing over my 100+ ounces of precious milk to a hotel staff made me super nervous. But, it was better than not being able to freeze it all. I kept the milk in my room all day and only took it down in the evenings. I also was kind of anal about it all, and brought duct tape with me and would duct tape the cooler shut so that I knew it was not being tampered with. I also clearly labeled the cooler with my name and hotel room number.
Get A Portable Plug In Cooler
These bad boys are so great. They are basically like a portable mini fridge that are the size of a cooler that you can just plug into an outlet (and some even work in cars!) This is a great alternative if your hotel doesn’t have a fridge option. However, it is heavier than other coolers (so plan accordingly for packing purposes). Also note that some of the more affordable portable coolers are just for cars, but you can easily get an AC to DC converter that allows you to plug into outlets on the walls.)
Click Here To See An Electric Cooler On Amazon
Maintain a Schedule
The hardest part about pumping while away from baby was keeping up with the amount of times to pump as my baby would have wanted to feed at home. The thing to remember here is that you don’t have to be exact on timing. For example, if your baby typically feeds at 6 am, but you are on vacay so you sleep in until 9, don’t worry about it!!! The key is to pump about the same AMOUNT of times. Therefore, if your little ones takes approximately 4 feeds throughout the day, just try to hit this target.
Keep Everything Sanitized and Clean
If you are just pumping and dumping, it’s not AS essential to make sure everything is sanitized, but if you intend on bringing home your milk, follow my above suggestions to make sure that you are within proper pumping safety guidelines.
Flying with Breastmilk
At first, the idea of taking breast milk on a plane can seem really daunting. But, after doing it several times, I am proud to say that I’ve perfected this pretty well! In fact, when the TSA guy says, “Wow! I wish more moms did this!” then you know you are doing it right!!
Here is exactly what I did to make the process really easy and stress-free. I have even MORE answers in the FAQ section below.
TSA Breastmilk Policy
You may or may not get questions from TSA (usually uninformed employees-ugh). My biggest tip is to KNOW YOUR RIGHTS as a breastfeeding mom travelling without baby.
Print out the TSA guidelines so that you can show them the necessary info if needed. Here are some of the biggest takeaways though
- Let Them Know You Have Breastmilk and Ice Packs. Before going through the scanner, just let the agents know that you have a pump, breastmilk and whatever cooling agent you decided on bringing. It’s just nice to give them a heads up.
- Put All Your Milk Supplies In a Separate Bin. Since you will be subject to additional screenings, just have all your gear and milk in a seperate bin to make everything easier.
- You are exempt from the 3:1:1 rule. The rules say you can bring on a “reasonable amount” of breastmilk (uuuuuh…..great specifications TSA!) but doesn’t say EXACTLY how much you are allowed. However, the moral of the story is that you can have containers of breastmilk that are greater than the 3.4 ounces (or 100 ml) rules for liquids in your carry on.
- Ice Packs Are Allowed. Gel packs, ice, etc are allowed in your carry on for your breastmilk. I’ve had some TSA agents try to tell me that they had to be 100% frozen solid in order to make it through TSA. TECHNICALLY, that is NOT what it says in the rules. However, I still strongly advise you to have them all as frozen as possible to avoid any questioning. If your packs have gone into a semi frozen state, remind them that this is for breastmilk and show them the printed guidelines and that you are happy to have them screen or test anything they are questioning.
- Know That You are Subject to Additional Screening. Most likely, they are going to do additional screening or testing on you and your milk and supplies. This is just part of traveling with breastmilk, so don’t throw a stink (and allow for extra time so that you aren’t in a rush.) They may do a strip test on both your hands and your milk containers, if it is liquid, they may do a liquid test, they may even do additional x rays. Just politely ask that they change into new gloves before handling any of your containers and/or milk (since airports are incredibly germy!!!) None of the additional testings will harm your milk though.
- Your Pump and Cooler Should Not Count As Additional Bags. At least in the US, your pump is not considered a personal item and neither is your cooler with your milk.
Note: The above is JUST for TSA. Look up the rules and guidelines for traveling with human milk if you are going to be traveling internationally, as each country may have different rules (for example, many European countries still allow for unlimited milk, but it must not exceed 200 mls per bag and some countries require all frozen milk to be checked.)
I recently discover that TSA has an “Ask TSA” Facebook page. It’s pretty great to get answers to your questions and they were shockingly quick at responding!
Know Your Options for Transporting and Storing Expressed Milk For Travel
How To Fly With Breastmilk That Is Frozen
Checking Your Baggage
This option is pretty straightforward since you don’t need to deal with TSA. The biggest question for me was how to keep breast milk frozen while traveling and checking my frozen breastmilk. As mentioned previously, a really good, insulated cooler with plenty of gel packs is a pretty easy way to go (and what I personally have done each time I traveled with breast milk).
Using Dry Ice To Keep Breastmilk Frozen
Some people who are traveling with breast milk will use dry ice as a way to keep milk frozen while flying. While this is a great way to make sure that the milk doesn’t thaw, there were just too many variables with using dry ice for me to personally be comfortable using this method. For example, where would I get dry ice at my location? How to safely handle the dry ice myself (would I need to get special gloves as well?).
Also, the FAA has specific rules for dry ice as well such as
- Only 5.5 pounds of dry ice is allowed
- Any bag that contains dry ice must be properly vented and labeled as “Dry Ice”
- You must get airline approval for flying with dry ice
Bringing Your Breastmilk As a Carry On
So while I’ve talked about the TSA rules for how to fly with breastmilk, there are actually quite a few techniques for actually transporting your milk home. I chose to bring my unfrozen milk as my carry on for several reasons.
- Expressed milk doesn’t need to be frozen for about 3 days
- Expressed milk is “ok” (not ideal….but OK) for up to 6 hours without needing to be refrigerated. Again, this is NOT the ideal, but considering that once frozen milk is thawed that it must be used within 24 hours, I didn’t want to risk the milk defrosting and then me being stuck with a hundred ounces of milk needing to be used ASAP (when I’d rather breastfeed when I get home)
Since the TSA doesn’t regulate the size of the container of breastmilk, I just dumped ALL my unfrozen milk (a few day’s worth) into a giant vacuum sealed, insulated rambler, like this.
The reason? If it had been in 15 milk storage bags, they would have had to individually test Every.Single. Bag. Aint no body got time for that!!!
I kept my jug in a soft-sided, insulated cooler and filled up the bag with as many gel packs as possible to help keep everything as cold as possible.
When I handed the TSA agent my jug and said, “I understand you’ll need to test this.” He looked at me and said, “How come more moms don’t know to do this when traveling with breast milk!?!? This makes everyone’s lives so much easier!”
Soooo uuuuh…..you’re welcome TSA agents 🙂
The first thing I did when I got home was pour the liquid, expressed milk into individual milk storage bags, label them, and stashed them in the freezer.
Shipping Breast Milk
If traveling with breast milk seems way too complicated and you don’t want to risk anything, there are actually a few options out there for shipping breastmilk.
There are a few companies that will ship your milk for you such as Milk Stork and Milk Expressed.
You can also FEDEX breast milk. They’ll send you a cold shipping package that you’ll fill up with your milk bags and then, depending on your location, there might be a pickup option or you can drop it off at the nearest FedEx location.
If you can afford shipping breast milk, it is actually probably the easiest solution.
Pump Options For Pumping While Traveling
Your options here are pretty endless if you are pumping on vacation without baby. I suggest either just using what you already have for a pump or finding a great travel breast pump. Here are my top suggestions.
Pump Backpack. When I was putting items on my baby registry, I knew we would be traveling a lot, so I got a pump backpack from the start. I like this because it’s just really easy to carry around when traveling.
Battery Operated Breast Pump. It took 3, yes THREE trips without baby to realize that a battery operated travel breast pump would be a good idea. But when I finally got one, it was glorious!
It was small, lightweight, easy to pack, didn’t need a million parts and tubes and was super easy to recharge! The only downside was that it took longer because I could only pump one side at a time. However, this also meant that I could pump easily while sitting in the car or more comfortably in bed, so I didn’t mind it taking longer. This is the one that I used and seriously LOVED it!
Click Here To See More Reviews On This Travel Breast Pump
What Happens To Your Breastfeeding Relationship When You Get Home
One of my most frequently asked questions (and totally understandable fears) from moms being away from baby while breastfeeding is “What happened when you got home!?”
Many moms are really scared about what being away for a week (or however long) will do to their relationship with breastfeeding, and rightfully so! You’ve worked HARD at breastfeeding!!! You don’t want it all to go away just because work (or leisure!) took you away from your baby for a few days!
For me, it was as if we didn’t even skip a beat. All three times I was away from either of my boys, I came home and we picked up right where we left off.
Now, if your little one DID get used to the bottle while you were away, don’t worry. You can ALWAYS go see a lacataion consultant to help out, but the reality is, just the more time you spend with your babe, the more s/he is going to be ready to get back to the boob! If you are struggling, here are a few things you can do:
- BABY WEAR!!! (I LOOOVE baby wearing for any and all reasons!) The more you wear, your baby is going to be continually smelling your milk and will re-bonding with you, making him/her take to breastfeeding quicker
- Offer It As Much As Possible: Instead of waiting for your baby to want the boob, offer often and freely!! If S/he doesn’t want it right then, that’s fine. Try again in a little bit.
- Don’t Stress. Ok, easier said than done, right? But your baby senses when you are stressing out (especially when at the breast). Go back to the basics of beginning to breastfeed. Sit in a quiet, calm room (just the two of you- no distractions), get yourself relaxed. Talk quietly to your baby offering words of encouragement. Keep trying….
Other questions I’ve been asked are:
Did/Do You Feed Your Baby To Sleep? YUP! Both of my boys nursed to sleep every night. I just had my mom and mother-in-law do the same techniques I did when nursing- just replace me for the bottle (ouch- that sounds so much harsher than it is! Mama’s can never be replaced!). If you don’t have a really solid sleep routine yet, then I highly recommend starting one ASAP, as that will make it so much easier for whoever is watching your babe while you are gone.
Did I Do Anything To Offer Soothing While I Was Gone? To be honest? No, not really. I am so lucky that I have a mom and a mother in law who love on my babies like crazy, that I know they are in great hands while I am gone. And since my husband is basically Super Hubby (and AMAZING DAD!), I knew he had it under control (and if he didn’t….that he’d just have to figure it out!).
However, if it would help ease your mind, have a few worn and unwashed tshirts that your caregiver can tuck between them and your baby while giving them the bottle. Your scent can really help calm your baby and encourage drinking.
Traveling With Breast Milk FAQs
How Do I Pump and Store Breast Milk While Traveling?
Most airports today have mother’s or nursing rooms available to pump in. If not, you can ask at an information desk if they have a private room somewhere that you can use.
If traveling on a road trip, you can get a USB chargeable pump (or get a cigarette lighter adapter for your pump) so that you can pump while in the car.
Either way, have a small cooler with plenty of ice packs to keep your milk cold until your destination. While freshly expressed milk can stay out for up to 6 hours, it is best to get it chilled as soon as possible.
How Do You Clean Breast Pump Parts While Traveling?
If you have access to clean water, it can be as simple as using a clean basin or bowl with hot, soapy water. You can also purchase steam bags and breast pump wipes to help sanitize pump parts while traveling.
Can I Bring My Breast Pump On A Plane and How Do you Travel With a Breast Pump?
Yes! It is actually considered a “Medical Device” therefore, it should not count against your personal items. To make this even easier, you can simply call your airline with your reservation number to have them put this on your record. You still might have to explain this rule to gate agents, therefore, ask your airline to send you the rules in writing so that you can simply show anyone who is questioning you.
Can Breast Milk Go Through Airport Security?
Yes! While you most likely will have to go through additional security screenings, both liquid and frozen breast milk is approved for airport security.
How Will TSA Check My Breastmilk?
There are a couple of different methods that a TSA agent might do additional screening on you or your breastmilk
- Additional X Rays
- Hand or Bottle Explosive Swipes. There a few different ways that they may swipe your hand or bottles. It should be on the outside of any milk bottles/ gear and is typically just a small piece of cloth like material that they swipe over the surface real quick that they then put through a machine to test for explosives.
- Test Strips. There are test strips that don’t actually touch the milk itself. The agent will hover the strip above the milk and that will give them the test they need. If you do not want your milk containers opened, simply tell them this and they will do other testing that doesn’t require you opening your bottles.
*At NO point in time will the TSA agent ever need to actually touch the actual milk itself. Nobody ever needs to taste the milk as “proof” either.
Transporting Breast Milk FAQs
How Much Breastmilk Can you Fly With?
If you are flying in the USA, there is no pre-determined amount of milk you can or cannot fly with. However, if you have an agent telling you otherwise, show then the printed out TSA guidelines and (politely!) ask for a supervisor. You are exempt from the 3:1:1 rule and the quart sized bags, but will most likely have to go through additional screenings. If you are flying outside the US, check with the country you are in, as some have stricter rules regarding the amount you are allowed to bring.
How Do You Transport Breast Milk On a Plane?
You can choose to either check your milk in your luggage, which can be easier since you won’t need to go through TSA- just ensure it is being kept cold- or you can bring it as a carry on. It’s a personal choice of what containers you want to keep your milk in (storage bags, larger containers, jugs, etc). I highly recommended putting any milk in multiple layers of bags so that nothing leaks too badly.
How Do You Keep Breast Milk Frozen While Traveling?
The easiest option is to get a high quality, extremely insulated cooler and pack with long lasting, frozen ice or gel packs. Make sure that everything is completely frozen solid prior to travel (ice packs AND milk) and fill up the cooler as much as possible with frozen material (again, more frozen milk or ice) so that it stays as cool as possible inside.
Alternatively, you can also use dry ice, but there are a lot of stipulations for this.
How Long Will Frozen Breast Milk Last In A Cooler
This will depend on your method(s) for keeping it cool. However, once breastmilk has completely defrosted, it must be used (and not re-frozen) within 24 hours. It is advised to only keep breastmilk frozen in a cooler for up to 24 hours before needing to put into a freezer.
Fun Fact: If there are still ANY ice crystals in the milk, you can re-freeze.
General Breastfeeding FAQs
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 moms 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).
I’m Scared My Baby Won’t Take a Bottle, Will I Ever Be Able To Travel?
This one is HARD. I know this feeling well. Some babies just don’t take to bottles easily. However, they also aren’t going to starve. As soon as you know you are going on a trip, start having someone else (not you!) offer a bottle once in a while. It may take a while and it may be a challenge (Mr. J REEAAAALLY had to be convinced to take a bottle and feedings would take FOR.EVER!) but stick with it.
Can Your Milk Dry Up Overnight?
Short answer is no. Your body produces milk upon stimulus. If you fear your supply is dipping, UP the pumping (stimulus) sessions and drastically increase your water intake. Both of these will help but again, you can also drink something like Mother’s Tea to help give you an extra boost, too.
Why Am I Not Pumping As Much As My Baby Drinks
Pumps are NOT as efficient as babies. However, just because you are only pumping a few ounces, that does not mean that you are drying up. Keep the stimulus going and your body will continue to get the message. As soon as you are home, get that beautiful baby back on your breast as often as possible and all should be well.
How Do I Know How Much To Pump If I Exclusively Breastfeed?
I had NO idea how much milk my 10 month old needed or how many actual ounces my babies drank per feeding because I exclusively breastfed. Therefore, when planning for the trips, I just went off of how many times a day they fed, not actual ounces. Of course, I tried to pump extra, just in case.
How Often Should I Pump While Away From My Baby?
Knowing how often to pump when away from baby can seem overwhelming. But, at the end of the day, just aim for the same amount of times that your baby typically feeds in a day. Bonus points if you can try to get to around the same times of day, but that isn’t essential.
What Happens If I Have Low Milk Supply After Travel?
During my work trip, I knew my supply was dipping. I was dehydrated, in a different elevation and each pumping session was producing less and less. Yes, it was stressful.
I tried to increase my water intake as much as my bladder would allow! I added in several more Mother’s Milk Teas a day and when I got home, I spent several days doing skin to skin with Mr. J as much as possible, offering him the breast at any given moment. Within a few days, we were right where we needed to be.
Can I Re Refrigerate Breast Milk?
You can keep breastmilk for about 3 days before it needing to be frozen or used. If it was frozen and has thawed completely, it will need to be used within 24 months. However, if there are ANY ice crystals in the milk, you can re-freeze the milk.
Is It Necessary To Pump and Dump While On Vacation?
Chances are, if you are having a kids free trip, you may or may not be indulging in some adult libations! (Ok, well, I know I did!!!) Pumping and drinking are the same as breastfeeding. If you would not feel comfortable driving, then you should not keep the milk. Of course, you can always err on the side of caution and dump if you think you had too much. There are also handy-dandy breastmilk alcohol test strips that will let you know if you should pump and dump.
How Often Should I Pump At Night While Away From Baby?
You should only pump as much as your baby feeds at home. Therefore, if your baby sleeps through the night, then mama….so should you!!! I will admit that Mr. J was still nursing twice a night when I went on my work trip, but I decided to only pump once a night because…well, #sleep. I just tried to get a few extra letdowns and pumped a little longer than I normally would have during that session.
Traveling Without Baby While Breastfeeding: How to Still Enjoy Your Vacation
Ok, now that 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?
(Read My Whole: How To Have a Guilt Free Vacation Without Kids Here)
Let Go of the Guilt
As mentioned before, I felt guilty for not being there to continue to nurse Lil B and even more so for Mr. J TWICE. But then I thought about all the amazing Mamas that exclusively pump! He was still getting the best nourishment I could provide from my pumped milk, 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. Once I got my travel pump, it was a bit easier to pump while out for the day (as long as I could bring a small cooler with ice packs). But when I only had my Medella plug-in pump, I wasn’t going to lug that around(although, you technically can!) which meant there were some days that I had two options:
- 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.
- 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
Servings: 4 dozen Time:10 mins Difficulty=easy
- 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!
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Let flaxseed and water mix for 5 minutes
- Cream together butter, sugar, and brown sugar (or Palm sugar) well
- Add eggs and mix
- Add flaxseed/water and vanilla
- In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, brewers yeast, baking soda, and salt.
- Combine dry ingredients to butter and sugar
- Mix in oats and chocolate.
- Dallop into balls onto cookie sheet
- 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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Thanks for the wonderful post! Very informative and helpful. Im planning a 10 day trip away from my now 13mon old but will be 15mon old when I leave.
Did you did anything to help comfort your baby while you were away? My son doesnt take the pacifier and I’m worried he will miss the comfort nursing will while I’m gone. Any thoughts?
Thanks, Theresa! First of all, remember to ENJOY that trip!!! Here is a great article to help you get in the right frame of mind https://www.economicalexcursionists.com/vacation-without-kids/ As for the soothing. Do you have a REALLY solid sleep routine yet? If not, sorry to spam you w/ all my favorite baby posts, but here is one more that if you still have a few months until you leave you can REALLY work on right now https://www.economicalexcursionists.com/get-your-baby-to-sleep-anywhere/. Even if the LO doesn’t take a pacifier, maybe if you have a really solid routine, that will be enough? All kiddos are different. Mine never took to a blankie or anything like that, but knows certain cues (white noise, routine, etc) means SLEEP! Good luck and have a fantastic trip!
Hi! I just read your article and it was very helpful. How did your baby go to bed when you went on your vacation? My 12 month old is exclusively BF and will not take a bottle or pacifier. She doesn’t have a lovey either. My husband and I are taking a week vacation sans kids in 3 weeks. Currently baby is BF only at nap time, bedtime, and early morning. I am going to work on getting rid of the two day feedings, but I don’t think I want to get rid of the bedtime one. Even if I keep up my supply while on vacation so I can continue to nurse when we come back, I don’t know how my mom is going to soothe her at night for bed since she is currently used to nursing. What do you recommend I do in the next few weeks to prepare her to be away from the breast? Thanks so much. 🙂
I am worried about returning home that my 12 month old will not want to nurse again and be content. Did you notice this?
What a great post! It was super helpful and informative especially for the traveling mama!
I am a touring singer/musician by profession and the band I’m in is asking about my availability to start back up next year. I wouldn’t be able to do anything the first three months since my baby girl is due early January…but there are a few spans of shows beginning in April (3 days), May (10 days), and June (10 days) in which I’m considering. I want to breastfeed my baby as long as possible and am wondering if 10 days would be too long to leave her, and if I would even be able to pump enough to freeze for the 10 day time span I am gone (which would be something like, I think, 100, 3oz packs of breastmilk). She will be 4 months in April 2019. I would certainly love your advice and thoughts!
Thank you so much!
I’ve been gone for 9 days and we were just fine. The hardest part is truly getting all that milk home! But hopefully this post can help with ideas for that.
And way to go mama! Pumping is hard work, you’ve got this!
Did you nurse your baby to sleep when you went on your trip? I leave next month for 8 days and I plan on pumping. It’s not the day that has me concerned as I pump at work, but it’s nicbttime!!! I bed share with my boys and my son nurses throughout the night still. Leaving him overnight is something I’ve yet to do so for 8 days is a long time but it’s our honeymoon so we have to go! Any suggestions to make it easier on both of us but mostly my son? Thanks
We also bedshare and yes, he was nursed to sleep (at the beginning of the night), but we had engrained his bedtime so much that he was fine with a bottle as well. You deserve a fantastic honeymoon though. So try to let go of that guilt (easier said than done!) Who knows, maybe without you right next to him (smelling, sensing you) he’ll sleep longer through the night and won’t need a feeding! One can only hope and dream, right!?
Did your baby have any issues at all returning to the breast after all of the bottle feeds and such a time away? I’ll be gone for 5 days and I’m nervous he will reject the boob as we’ve dealt with nursing strikes before that were quite challenging – and that was with me here! He’s 13 months and I know it’s not an organic time to continue for the benefit of both of us if he’s not interested, but I hate pumping and think at that point I’ll just be transitioning to another milk source. I’m just not quite ready
Pumping strikes are no joke, right!? Just treat returning the same as a strike- offer the breast often and keep at it!
Was pumping enough to avoid engorgement? I only nurse my LO twice a day, but if I skip 24 hrs, my breasts become really engorged. I’m really worried because I’m leaving for 10 days.
Yes, it was for me. As long as you pump approximately as much as your baby takes now, you should be fine. If all else fails, just pump a little extra to release the engorgement if that does happen (but not too much to create more)
Amazing post about mothers traveling when she breastfeeds her child. Your research is great. You have done a great job. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for such a detailed post! I’m going away for 5 days without my almost 9 month old and so worried about what it will be like when we get back. I definitely don’t want this to be the end of our breastfeeding time. What was the experience getting back to baby after a week of not breastfeeding? Thanks again!
thanks for all the information about pumping when away from your baby.
I need to leave my 10,5 month old for 6 days, then 1 day at home and then another 4 days (due to work abroad).
I won’t have time to pump before, so plan on feeding him formula milk when i am away.
my question is, will be get used to the taste of formula and not want breastmilk anymore once i am back?
And will he get used to the faster flow of a bottle and then not want to breastfeed anymore once i am back? Did you experience any difficulty with this? I would love to hear your thoughts. Your article has been very helpful!
I can’t say for sure. However, breasts and babies are pretty amazing. Just stick with it when you get home and offer breast as much as possible. He might fuss if he was getting it faster and easier with a bottle, but I suspect he’ll eventually remember how great the boob is! 😉