A Breastfeeding Mom’s Experience Traveling Without Baby

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Traveling tops the list of my favorite ways to recharge. I love exploring new places, seeing beautiful things, eating good food, and being temporarily free from the responsibilities I have at home. When my husband expressed interest in going to an away football game this fall, I jumped at the chance to tag along. Thanks to our wonderful families, our son was in good hands at home while we adventured through Pennsylvania.

There was one responsibility I wouldn’t be able to put on hold—breastfeeding. Days before our trip, I texted a friend in panic, “How do I do this?!” Being away from my baby for four nights meant I would need to pump roughly 20 times and fly home with nearly 100 ounces of breastmilk. I made a last-minute Amazon purchase for ice packs and prayed the TSA would look kindly on me. Now that I’ve lived to tell the tale, I’ll share the lows, highs, and whether it was all worth it. 

Lows

Finding time to pump in between all of our activities was a big challenge. At home, I nurse five times a day, so that meant I needed to pump the same amount. Unlike being at home, we were on the go every day, so I often ended up pumping in the car. That meant packing a cooler, cleaning equipment without a sink, wearing something I could pump in, and planning our day strategically. That’s a lot of brain power to exercise on vacation!

Additionally, pumping in the car means you can find yourself in some interesting scenarios. Most of the time we were able to park in a more private area, but the day of the football game that was NOT the case. We bought a parking pass to be near campus and quickly discovered that unlike our alma maters, this school actually did tailgating at their cars. I’m not overly modest, but handling breastmilk while people drink beer and play corn-hole right outside your window feels as weird as it sounds.

The second big challenge was keeping everything cold. Ice packs and a cooler were our best friends while also being the bane of our existence. Each night, we handed off our ice packs to the bed and breakfast staff to store in their freezer; each day we traipsed around with our cooler. Watching my husband walk around campus on game day toting a floral cooler filled with milk instead of beer, I couldn’t help but feel like we really were carrying around “liquid gold.” Suffice it to say, traveling as a breastfeeding mama is not without its challenges!

Highs

Let’s be honest, there aren’t too many highs when it comes to pumping. I salute all the working, nursing moms who do it multiple times a day! That being said, I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged by a few things. First off, both airports we traveled through had special nursing areas for moms needing to feed their baby or pump. I really appreciated having a private, comfortable place to go in the midst of a bustling airport.

Additionally, my prayers were answered and TSA didn’t show the slightest bit of concern over my cooler, ice packs, or very large amount of liquid. They do have a few stipulations regarding breastmilk, but going through security was truly an easy process. Lastly, no one around me was ever bothered or made me feel uncomfortable. I know that some mamas may not feel comfortable feeding or pumping in public or carrying breastmilk around, but I am glad to have the option to do so. I’m very grateful those things are more widely accepted these days.

So, was taking the trip worth the hassle of lugging ice packs and cleaning pump parts? For me, it was. It was such a gift to get away for a few days and bring back milk for our son. I love that moms today, nursing or not, have more resources and freedom to do the things we enjoy and care for our children at the same time.

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