If there's one thing that induces anxiety among parents, it's the idea of flying with their kids. When you're breastfeeding, things can get even more complicated. Add in pumping to the mix and you've got yourself the perfect recipe for stress, anxiety and all out chaos. If you let your imagination run wild, that is. In reality, traveling while breastfeeding or pumping, is totally do-able with a little planning. For every mom who ventures on-board an airplane with her breast pump in tow, there are a few invaluable tips for pumping on a plane to make the trip as smooth and drama-free as possible.
Although I'm not the most experienced pumper out there, I have a few tricks up my sleeve from my travels. My husband and I recently went on vacation without our two girls, one of whom is currently nursing. In order to keep up my milk supply while I was away from her, I had to bring my breast pump and pump like a mad woman anywhere and everywhere that we went. On a bus? Yep. On the street? Sure. On an airplane? Been there done that.
If I can survive it, so can you. Whether you're travelling with or without your kids, putting these tips to good use will ensure smooth sailing...or, flying...for everyone.
1. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your milk supply. Although you won't produce more milk the more you drink, Living and Loving notes that your milk supply takes a hit when you don't drink enough water. Once you've passed through security, buy a few water bottles, or fill up an empty reusable one to drink on your flight.
2. Select Your Seats Carefully
For most airlines, you can select your seats ahead of time. If you know you'll be pumping on the plane, try to get a row for your family or a window seat for yourself as they tend to be the most private.
3. Plan Your Outfit
Luckily, many brands make breastfeeding and pumping friendly clothes. Try to find pieces that are easy to pull up (ie. no dresses) and are extra comfy.
4. Know How To Use Your Pump Beforehand
While they're usually very user-friendly, if the first time you've ever pulled out your pump is on the plan, you may end up frazzled and unable to work it. Familiarize yourself with using it before you leave to save yourself unnecessary stress.
5. Know The Best Times To Pump
The best times to pump on an airplane is usually when the least amount of people are walking around, so during take-off, meal distribution, or movies. If you plan to pump in the bathroom, try to do it when there isn't a large line or many people walking around.
6. Bring A Cooler
According to TSA regulations, you're allowed to bring icepacks, coolers and whatever else you need to keep your pumped milk cool. Furthermore, breastmilk isn't subject to the three ounce rule, like other liquids.
7. Use A Hand Pump As Back Up
Just in case of a malfunction or battery loss, bring a hand pump as a back up. They're inexpensive and can easily fit into a carry on. They're also much more discreet to use than the much larger electronic pumps.
8. Be Up Front With Your Seat-Mate
If you're sitting next to people you don't know, it's best to let them know ahead of time that you'll be pumping during the flight. This way they aren't taken off guard when you suddenly whip your shirt up to do your business.
9. Ask For Help
If you're confused about the flight's policies, need help finding an area to pump, or want the flight attendants to assist you with something, don't be afraid to reach out.
If you're stressed out or worried about people watching you, your milk probably won't flow. Take a deep breath, remember that you're doing what's best for you and your baby, and pump away. La Leche League notes that looking at a photo of your baby (if they're not traveling with you) can help stimulate the release of oxytocin and trigger the letdown reflex.
11. Remember Why You Pump
Ultimately, pumping is between you and your baby. Whether you're traveling alone or with your baby, what anyone says or does doesn't really matter as long as you know you're doing the right thing for you both.