After a whirlwind two months dealing with an infant in the NICU who was six weeks early, and balancing a toddler at home, I was eager for some quiet time, to not be on a schedule, to wear real clothes.
But with that quiet time away comes the challenges of actually being away. Did I have enough milk stored in the freezer? Would he take a bottle? Am I a glutton for punishment getting on a plane during flu season? Was I even ready to be away from my newborn for this extended time?
In the end, I knew all of these things were manageable. It would be good for me. And for my husband to have boy time. My sister-in-law’s baby shower in Florida was the perfect “escape,” and with my amazing husband’s encouragement, I booked it!
If you are a breastfeeding mama, you probably understand the feeling of being constantly tethered to your adorably sweet eat-around-the-clock infant. And while I wouldn’t change that for the world, it IS nice to feel a little bit of freedom. Even if it’s for an hour, or for 36 hours in my case.
I left enough milk at home for bottle feeding our little guy, but how would I deal with the pumping and traveling and attending events? Would I be forced to pump next to a stranger on the plane? Would there be a place for me at the airport to pump? How long could I really go between pumping? Did I bring enough disposable breast pads? If I have a glass of wine, (which I could desperately use), do I need to pump and dump?
Luckily, a lot of that worrying was unnecessary. Here’s what saved me— and made the trip so much more relaxing and enjoyable.
1. My diaper bag
I knew I needed a bag that could do double duty. I was so happy that I found the Petunia Pickle Bottom Axis Backpack. It’s super roomy on top to hold my pump and pumping paraphernalia (more on that later). And the bottom is a separate zip compartment that is a cooler pack. YES, a cooler pack! It was able to store (and keep cold) my frozen ice packs, and I had so much milk that the TSA man who checked my bag made this face ?. This ACTUAL face. High five to me!
Bonus: everyone thought it was a super stylish backpack, not a diaper bag. I got SO many compliments.
2. My cover-ups
I was gone for such a short time, so I carried my luggage on. And I needed things that served more than one purpose. My aden + anais swaddles are some of my favorites. I use them for literally everything. They are also light and roll easily, so they barely take up any room. On this trip, they doubled as a discrete pumping cover and also a smock of sorts for my clothes to avoid milk leakage and stains. And, obviously, they're beautiful. I’ve also used them as a cute bathing suit cover-up. They tie like a sarong.
Tip: the silky ones tied better in a knot around my neck when I was using as a pumping cover.
3. Disposable placemats
Unfortunately, pumping on the go means having to do the deed in some pretty questionable places. Frankly, gross places. So I packed disposable placemats that I normally use for my toddler to lay down first on any surface.
This way I knew I had a clean place to lay my pump parts or transfer milk. It greatly reduced the ick factor. And when I was done, I threw them right in the garbage. I also packed individual gallon-sized Ziplock bags. And labeled them accordingly: tubing, CLEAN parts, DIRTY parts, milk storage bags, paper towels, etc. It helped me stay organized and move quickly.
4. I spoke up
I could not believe how many times I used the word "breast" during this trip. ? When you get to TSA, tell them right away "I am carrying a breast pump, freezer packs, and breastmilk in this bag." Ninety-nine percent of the time, they are super accommodating. But allow extra time, because they may want to check each of the milk storage bags.
Also, call the hotel ahead of time. Tell them you will need a fridge to store breast milk. Request one in your room. They should NOT charge you for this since it's technically a medical need. If they don’t have individual refrigerators for rooms, ask how they can accommodate you by storing your freezer packs in the freezer and your milk in the refrigerator, perhaps in their kitchen. Make sure to bring Ziploc bags labeled with your last name, so you ensure they do not get thrown out.
5. Outside help
There are great services out there with mamas in mind. Milk Stork is one of them. They will ship refrigerated boxes to your hotel and allow you to ship milk back overnight to your little buddy at home. This takes the stress out of traveling with milk, and make sure you have days worth of milk stored up in the fridge or freezer. It’s a little pricey, but definitely worth the peace of mind!
Now go ahead mama, plan that escape. You can do it! ?