Let’s be real, travel as a breastfeeding mother can be stressful. Whether or not you’re bringing your baby along, you’re likely worried about all of the supplies you need to bring, what to do with your pumped milk, keeping your baby happy… the list goes on. Rest assured that little advanced preparation can help your trip go much more smoothly.
Traveling By Plane With Baby
Consider Your Destination
Make sure to prepare baby gear based on where you’ll be traveling.
-Staying in a hotel? Be sure to request a room with a refrigerator for pumped milk, and a crib to be put in your room.
-AirBNB or a family member’s home? Make sure there’s a safe place for your baby to sleep.
Feeding to prevent ear pain
Feeding your baby during takeoff and landing can help with air pressure changes in the cabin. Similarly to adults chewing gum or swallowing hard to “pop” our ears, feeding can help depressurize your baby’s ears and reduce the likelihood of them crying. Remember that you are legally allowed to breastfeed on the plane, but if you are uncomfortable or prefer bottle feeding, that works, too! A pacifier can also be effective if baby doesn’t want to eat at that time.
Plan for sleep and play
Ideally, your baby will sleep during your flight, but be sure to bring a variety of engaging toys just in case. Bring your baby’s favorites, as well as toys that they haven’t seen in a while, in order to take advantage of novelty to peak their interest.
Pro tip: If you do not have a portable bassinet or crib option available, there are companies that will allow you to rent baby equipment. This way you don’t have to deal with the hassle of bringing things like cribs or strollers with you!
If you will be on a longer flight, especially internationally, let your airline know you are travelling with an infant and request a seat with a bassinet. Be sure to do this in advance because they are first come first serve! Bringing your car seat is the safest travel method, but if you cannot afford an extra seat, it is legal for you to simply hold your infant on the flight. We recommend wearing your baby in a carrier at the airport, since this makes it much easier to get around with luggage. Remember though, you cannot babywear during take off or landing!
Baby food, milk, or formula
Baby food, formula and expressed breast milk are exempt from the standard 3-1-1 liquids rules, and you can take it frozen or chilled in a designated carry-on bag. Be sure to let TSA know during the checkpoint as it is subject to additional testing. If for any reason they choose to perform additional screening, it is your right to ask them to change their gloves prior to handling your baby’s food. Keep breast milk separate from all other liquids, gels and aerosols in your carry-on.
Since this is a special accomodation and may require additional screening (which can take some time), we recommend heading to the airport with plenty of time to spare. If you are a frequent traveller, consider joining the TSA pre-check program to reduce wait time!
Pro tip: Read and understand the TSA rules and procedures (find them here), and print them to bring with you in case you get a gate agent who gives you a hard time. The policies are there to protect you and your baby’s needs, but not every agent understands them to their full extent. We’ve heard heartbreaking stories of mothers forced to dump their breast milk at security due to an agent who was not aware of the rules. While this is rare, a few sheets of paper takes up almost no space and may come in handy to avoid this.
Maintain your routine
Once you have arrived at your destination, try to maintain bedtime routines as much as possible. Babies love routines and can be more fussy when their usual schedule is interrupted. Keep in mind that your baby may be fussier than usual until they are able to get back into their normal routine once returning home.
Traveling Without Baby (or While Exclusively Pumping)
Before you go: Storing milk and introducing a bottle
It’s important to begin establishing a milk stash in time to have enough milk when you are separated from your baby/while traveling. Depending on the length of your trip and your body’s individual milk storage capacity, it may be a good idea to meet with a lactation consultant in advance. She can help you to work up a plan that will allow you to store the necessary amount of milk.
Also, be sure to start introducing your baby to a bottle several weeks ahead of time, so that you know your baby will take it once you are traveling. It may take some trial and error to find the right bottle for your baby. If your baby refuses the bottle altogether, please call a lactation consultant for help. Whichever bottle you settle on, make sure whoever is feeding it uses the Paced Bottle Feeding technique to prevent bottle flow preference and to ensure that your baby can switch back and forth easily. (For tips on introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby, click here.)
Again, call your hotel to make sure you will have a refrigerator/freezer in your room to store milk in. If they do not have a freezer available in the room, ask if the hotel can store milk in their freezer!
Packing your pump for air travel:
Your breast pump is considered a medical device and should not count as one of your carry-on bags (we recommend confirming this with your airline to be safe, as every airline is different!). Make sure you have all parts to your pump, including bags, storage containers, and backup pump parts. Of course, don’t forget your cords/battery pack! If travelling internationally, you’ll need to purchase an outlet adapter as well. We do not recommend putting your pump in your checked luggage, in case of loss or damage.
Pro tip: Pack a hand pump as a backup just in case!
Storing breast milk during your trip:
If possible, bring a milk cooler bag with ice packs to store your milk. If you need to pump on the flight, airline “tap” water is not recommended for cleaning pump parts. Instead, use sealed purified water bottles for cleaning if needed! (See why here.)
Consider where you are traveling as well…
Will you have clean water for washing your pump?
Will you need to buy distilled water?
Will you have a microwave for sanitizing parts?
Will you have a refrigerator or freezer for storing milk?
Take a look at the CDC Storage Guidelines for more information on proper handling and storage: https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm
Getting pumped breast milk home
The easiest way to transport your milk is to pack it in a carry-on cooler, but let’s say you’ve built up a large supply on your trip you would like to bring home. You have a few options! You can pack your milk (carefully) in a checked bag with ice packs, or potentially have it shipped. Shipping breast milk can be pricey, but some companies will reimburse you for the expense if you are travelling for work. If you do ship your supply, be sure to properly package and label your cooler as human milk! Or use Milk Stork, a popular, trusted breast milk shipping company.
Road Trips With Baby
When it comes to road trips with a baby, remember safety comes first. Here are 10 tips for managing road trips with your baby:
***The information provided on our website is intended solely for general educational and informational purposes only. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician for any questions you may have regarding your or your child’s medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have received in this information.***