Have Pump, Will Travel
What every breastfeeding and pumping mom needs to know BEFORE attending a conference.
Travel Tip #1: If it’s a small conference or training, let work colleagues or training administrators know you are a nursing mother and will need to take breaks to pump during the conference or training. That way, they know that you aren’t just ducking out.
What to bring:
- Breast pump with extra pump parts
- Be sure the pump is fully charged and extra parts are clean and stored safely
- Consider also bringing a manual hand pump (and make sure you know how to use it) in case the electric pump stops working, AND a cover-up in case you need to pump in a more public space (like a plane)
- Extension cord
- Microwavable sanitizing bag
- Extra bottles with caps or breast milk storage bags
- Insulated freezer bag
- Reusable freezer packets
- Nursing pads
- Sanitizing wipes
- Large ziploc storage bags
Travel Tip #2: Taking a large (non-rechargeable) pump can seem like a great idea, but in practice can present challenges aside from lugging another heavy bag around. Many travelling moms buy a smaller, rechargeable pump, enabling them to pump anywhere without needing an outlet–including on the plane itself.
What to ask for from the hotel:
- A room close to the conference area if you plan to go to your room to pump
- On-site lactation rooms
- Extended checkout if needing to pump at end of conference before heading to airport
- Small bottle of dish soap for washing pump parts
- Freezer in room for milk storage
- Shipping services
Travel Tip #3: Pumping in your hotel room can impair your ability to participate in the conference. If your room is too far, ask the conference coordinators to reserve a room on the conference floor, just steps away from the action. They’ve done this without any issue for guests at previous Translational Science meetings and even went above and beyond and provided a refrigerator, hand sanitizer, pens, and a key for security.
Travel Tip #4: Ask the hotel to store your milk in their restaurant freezer. They do this on a regular basis and usually have the process down. Write your name and room number on the Ziploc and try to pre-freeze the milk enough to where it lays flat, then put several frozen-ish bags in a large Ziploc to give to the hotel clerk helping you. If bags are not yet frozen, tell the attendant that the bags need to lay flat in the freezer. Be sure to include your liquid ice packs to re-freeze as well.
- Get to the airport at least two hours prior to boarding, no exceptions. This allows you to get through TSA, find your gate, and pump in a nursing room prior to take-off.
- Look for nursing rooms or free-standing nursing pods like Mamava, and download the app so you can easily look for locations near you when at airports, universities, and arenas/convention centers/stadiums nationwide.
- Know your rights. TSA allows breast milk to be stored in carry-ons (with or without your child) and breast milk is exempt from the 3-1-1 liquid rule. All American airlines allow expressed milk on board, but not all flight personnel are aware, so consider printing out the TSA and airline guidelines on traveling with breast milk. Breast pumps and related equipment are considered medical devices and do not count toward your carry-on limit (meaning you can have your standard large and small carry-on plus a bag for your pump).
Travel Tip #5: Keep in mind: pumping AFTER you go through security will be easier than trying to bring your expressed milk through the checkpoint. Related, traveling through TSA with frozen milk is beneficial, as TSA will not have to test frozen items. If milk or frozen packs are not fully frozen when going through TSA, they will need to test the milk and will potentially remove your frozen packs altogether if the liquid inside cannot be easily tested.
Special thanks to Natalie Chichetto, PhD, MSW for contributing to this post. Natalie is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Florida.