Traveling on an airplane can be an extremely stressful experience for anyone. If you're a nursing mother who's traveling — with or without your baby — you may find yourself in a situation where you need to pump your breast milk. After all, no one wants engorged boobs on an airplane when things are already uncomfortable enough. Most moms would agree that nursing and pumping can be really hard in a cramped, aluminum space, but it's probably best that you just do it should the need arise. Thankfully, there are some pumping hacks when traveling on an airplane.
It should be made clear that a mother has every right to pump or nurse on an airplane. A happy and healthy baby is the most important point here, and should be everyone's goal. There is sometimes a lot of scrutiny against nursing and pumping mothers when they do it in public, but as Fox News reported, most airlines with policies aimed at nursing mothers state that a mother is not prohibited from breastfeeding on a plane (Hopefully this extends to pumping as well, although the language is a little vague). Those airlines that don't have explicit policies regarding nursing state that they respect a mother's right to breastfeed.
With legalese and policy aside, there are ways to make yourself feel more comfortable pumping on the plane. Here are nine tips for pumping with ease on an airplane.
1. Make Sure You Know How To Use Your Pump
For moms who don't use their breast pump regularly or haven't had to use it ever, it's imperative that you get the hang of it before take off. You do not want to be stuck in the skies with pumping problems.
You can either give your gear a whirl at home, or as the website Exclusive Pumping suggested you should take your pump out to an easier public place (admittedly, planes can be really hard to pump in for some moms), practice there first, and see how it goes.
2. Pick Pump Friendly Clothes
This is individual to your style and comfort level. A pumping mom might wear a certain bra that aids in an easy pump session. Or maybe there is a certain shirt or sweater that helps a mom get hooked up to the pump with little fuss. Some women prefer to pack a nursing cover as well for their pumping sessions. And although you don't have to, the Exclusive Pumping post from above pointed out the most of the general public hasn't seen a pumping apparatus which could trigger a lot of stares. If stares don't bother you then by all means pump away with no cover, but if you feel like it will make you self-conscious it's best to pack a nursing cover so you can relax and feel confident.
3. Assemble Part Of The Pump At Home Before The Flight
Depending on the pump, you should be able to assemble some parts of the pump before you even get on the plane. It's less of hassle to hook and unhook parts at home before you get on a cramped plane. The Exclusive Pumping post suggested moms put everything together except breast shields. And don't forget some bottle caps.
4. Choose Your Seats Ahead Of Time If Possible
Most airlines will let you select your seats beforehand. As a frequent traveler with and without kids I'd say the most private seats are window seats. Also, if you get on the plane and notice some empty rows you could always ask to be moved there. If you're traveling with your family, it might not be a bad idea to get a row that has extra leg room.
5. Bring A Hand Pump Just In Case
Batteries die and malfunctions happen. You never know if your pump will give out mid-flight, mid-business trip, or mid-vacation. If you have the room in your bags, I'd bring a hand pump just in case.
6. Bring A Small Cooler
You might need to store your milk on your trip so it's a good idea to bring a small cooler. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines allow the use of coolers and ice packs to keep breast milk cool. If you don't have refreezable ice packs or forgot them you can always ask a restaurant in the airport for some ice in a little bag or ask a flight attendant when you get on the plane.
7. Speak Up To Those Seated Around You (If You Feel The Need To)
We all have our own different comfort levels and ways of coping in social situations. I personally like to announce my actions, behaviors, and just potential weirdness up front.
Same can be done with your pumping if it makes you feel more comfortable. You can announce to your seat mates before you take off that you're going to be pumping, that way it's not so shocking to them when you whip out the pump. I wish people weren't shocked by the pump, but hopefully that will change.
8. Ask For Help If You Need It
That's what the flight attendants are there for - helping passengers. A flight attendant's job is to make sure you're as safe, comfortable, and as happy as possible on their aircraft.
9. Try To Relax
Easier said than done for some of us. Anxiety over flying is very common in general, but adding the stress of pumping can seem like stress overload for some moms. You can try to breathe, meditate, or distract yourself with podcasts or movies on your devices.
Keep in mind that you're pumping to feed your baby. There's no reason to justify it or defend it to anyone. If someone takes issue with you pumping on the plane, the best thing you can do is to smile at them about go about your business.