have pump will travel

September 23, 2010

as part of my LA experience not only did i leave my baby behind but i'm also still breastfeeding.  so, i had the charming experience of hauling along the pump on our trip.  i was very concerned about how to go about traveling with my machinery, especially on the plane, and even wrote in to amalah about it here.  here's how it went down:

the plan
i needed to keep the pump with me at all times so i carried it on in my (very) oversized purse.  i brought pump, batteries, outlet adapter, and flanges with two small bottles.  the batteries were necessary about 80% of the time and i had the power adapter for nights/mornings at the house.  because this was a girls-weekend trip i knew i'd be drinking both tons of caffeine and probably alcohol.  thus i didn't bother saving the milk.  as heartbreaking as it was, i dumped it directly down the drain.  i looked into a program called milkshare but again, the not good stuff eating/drinking... it was safer to just toss it.

the airport
my main concern was getting through security with all my gear, as i was carrying on both the pump and my camera.  luckily both times i went through it was not very busy.  when i got to the conveyor and loaded up my bags/shoes/scarfs to be scanned i just approached the TSA attendant and let them know up front: i am traveling with a breastpump, is there anything special you'd like me to do?  both times, they thanked me and said, nope, go on through!

...seriously, that was it!  who would've guessed?  they gave me hell about my travel-sized contact solution (grrr!) but that complicated do-hickey machine?  no big deal.

pre-flight
my flight was 4.5 hours so i pumped in the terminal bathroom (sad face) before takeoff to avoid having to do it on the plane.  news flash! when you pour breastmilk into the toilet it looks exceptionally gross.  just thought i needed to share that traveling gem.  another news flash!  if you hook your pump on the purse carrying hook on the back of the door there's a pretty good chance it will shake the entire wall of stalls.  i didn't care enough to stop it, but be aware that it might happen.

in the air
if you're on a longer flight and absolutely have to pump on the plane approach the flight attendants and explain your needs.  otherwise they will probably be pretty angry that you're holding up the bathroom for 15+ minutes and the last thing you need is a line of angry plane-poopers banging on the door.  i've heard rumors of attendants that offered to let moms use the flight prep area, so you would have more privacy but you're not in the bathroom.

on the go
due to the time change i just set the timer on my phone for every 3 hours and went with it.  first session at wakeup, continue every three hours after that.  i tried to look at it this way: it didn't matter what the output was, as long as i was signaling my body to keep it rockin.

i would look at our schedule for the day and try to decide– did i need to take the pump? could i leave it in the car or did i need to take the bag with us?  conveniently most of the time we would be returning to the car within a reasonable amount of time and i was able to leave it in the back seat.  it actually worked out pretty nice to be able to just hook up in the car on our way to our next destination.  i was relieved not to need to carry my huge heavy bag everyplace.

but the whole car windows thing!  at one point we were all pretty used to the pumping and we were going through a parking kiosk when i realized, dude, there's a guy right there.  and i'm pumping, only sort of covered.  oops!

back at home
things seem to be on track.  i fed jude right away upon arrival and hopped back onto our normal schedule.  it seems like a seamless transition thus far and he's just as enthusiastic about the milks as ever.  (i had some secret back-of-my-mind concerns that this would encourage him to early-wean.  so far so good.)  i'm not sure our continued success is due to luck or just crazy pumping dedication.  in part i credit it to being a seasoned pumper– i (and my body) have a lot of experience using the pump and jude drinks out of a bottle daily while i am at work.  so while it was unusual it wasn't a completely new and shocking experience for either of us.

editor's note:
in the future i would probably not choose to travel away before my child weans.  i'll just take him with me.  the pumping every three hours thing... while trying to vacation... it was a real downer.  like, a talking-in-the-eeyore-voice downer.  i'm not crazy about pumping to begin with so to force myself to step away from the action every three hours and sit alone was rough.  my travel mates were all AWESOME and quickly adjusted to me pumping everywhere like it was no big deal and their accepting attitudes helped make it much more comfortable but... not my idea of relaxation.


here's some pumping travel tips i picked up along the way:
  • there is no limit to how much breastmilk you can take through airport security, so if you want to bring it home, do it!  you can also ship it home over dry ice.
  • if you freeze your milk prior to travel don't put it on ice- the milk actually freezes at a lower temperature than water and ice will only make it melt faster.  it will be fine at room temperature for up to 8 hours, barring intense heat.
  • be up front with security.  it's slightly embarrassing to shout out that you have a breastpump with you, but not nearly as bad as getting flagged for a full body/bag check.
  • if they do decide to inspect your pump, ask that the TSA treat it as a piece of medical equipment.  you have the right to *new* sanitary gloves.
  • prep your travel mates.  mine were AWESOME as they all read this blog and knew what to expect.  it made it much more comfortable not to have to hide and sneak.
  • set a schedule and keep it.  use your phone or watch alarm, especially if there's a time change.
  • stay hydrated.  flying will dehydrate you and even though you're sans baby remember that nursing moms need all the water they can get.
  • along the same lines, take care of yourself: rest, drink water, and eat relatively good foods.  not only will you feel better while you're away but you also need your good health to keep producing milk.
in conclusion:
traveling with the pump was both much easier than i imagined and woefully more depressing.  the more you knoooooww!
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