Hey guys! Okay, I’m SUPER excited to share today’s blog with you! It’s fun when I can be your guinea pig and share my experience and results with everyone! Today it’s ALL about pumping and storing milk while traveling without your BF (breastfed) baby!
So, I booked a once in a lifetime Oprah cruise for my mom and I last June, I was SO excited about it (it was such an incredible experience!!) and when I booked the cruise I was about 6 months pregnant and in my mind, I was likely going to be bringing Annie with me … it wasn’t until I tried registering her for the trip that I realized you actually can’t sail on a cruise with a baby under 6 months old. I was shocked!!
My mom and I talked about canceling the trip but when I talked to Justin about it he was not going to let that happen and told me he would be FINE with both kids, BF baby, and dog (now a new puppy too!) for the week I was going to be away! OMGGG YASSS SUPER DAD!!! LOL!! It was about 3 days after that that he informed me of a guys golf trip the week after my trip so there may have been an ulterior motive there!! HAHAHA!
Before I go on, I’m going to answer the question you ALL are probably thinking … HOW DID IT GO WITH JUSTIN AND THE KIDS??!?!? Well, it went GREAT! To be honest, Justin is amazing with the kids and dogs alone! Everyone is always so well behaved with him (thanks a lot kids … lol) so I wasn’t surprised he nailed it. IN FACT … I think because Annie was getting a full bottle before bed versus my likely low supply (it gets low in the evenings) SHE STARTED SLEEPING THROUGHOUT the night consistently the first day I was gone!! Either that or he just didn’t wake up to her cries but either way … the children are alive and it all worked out!! TIME TO BOOK MY NEXT GIRLS TRIP!?!?!?
Once I decided I would go without Annie (at 4 months old) I had to decide what to do about my breast milk. I only BF Leo until 5 months so the thought crossed my mind to just use up the rest of our frozen supply in the garage and that would be it. But I have LOVED breastfeeding this time around (I wish I loved it this much with Leo!) and really didn’t want to go down that path.
My next thought was to just pump and dump to keep up my supply. No tips needed there … just pump, dump it down the drain and pick up where we left off when I got back home. But … that didn’t turn my crank either. So, I started brainstorming with Justin (who has amazing survival/camping skills and that comes in handy in a situation like this!) about how to make it through the week and all the way back home with my expressed milk. PLUS … Carrie from The Mama Coach got in touch with me and gave me SO many tips on pumping/supply and traveling (one of my favourites was to power pump at night to get the stimulation going – see tip 8!). Thank YOU, Carrie!!!
Overall, with these tips below, I found it to be QUITE an easy process and I’m back home with about 20 4oz bags of milk (total of about 80 ounces!!) and I’m actually SO proud of myself!!!! I would highly recommend this to anyone traveling without their babe! It’s not as daunting as it might seem (only catch is expressing on the plane but I’ll get to that) but I would say TRY IT!!!! OK, HERE ARE MY TIPS!
1. Getting Your Let Down
When we were in Hawaii, I was breastfeeding Annie and we were both naked and with the sound of the ocean, the birds and Maui sounds … I was just in heaven. It was one of my favourite moments with Annie and I decided to do a little selfie video of it. The video was about 30 seconds long and I hope to keep it forever!
Well, it turns out this is now also my “let down” video! IF you’re new to this … basically without the baby your body has a harder time letting go of that milk. You still make it but just pumping isn’t always enough to get it to come out. You really have to get in the mode to produce and catch! So, before you go, record your own little video. I have also heard of people bringing a blanket or a piece of clothing that smells like baby!
Even a video of your baby crying can help with let down. I would watch this video every time I pumped and it worked like a charm!
You’ll need a GOOD cooler, cooler pack, pump, bags (4-6 per day), tiny container of dish soap, baby wipes (or soother wipes), and a sharpie. For a cooler, I used Justin’s YETI cooler and his YETI ice pack. It’s really important that you make sure the cooler is ZIPPED UP TIGHT or closed all the way so that the freezer pack doesn’t thaw by the time you get to security (more on that below).
I did bring my Willow pumps with me for the plane and to stimulate production at night … but I only used them once. The Willow pumps are AMAZING if you are getting a full feed per breast but because my supply is lower right now, I am only getting a full feed from BOTH breasts which means I’m getting smaller amounts in each Willow pump bag and you can’t combine your pumps with the Willow. So, for me, it was just easier to use the handheld pump (as you know I’ve been a HUGE fan of the Avent handheld pump since Leo days and I’m still using the SAME $50 pump as I used with Leo!). The things I forgot to pack were a small thing of dish soap and baby wipes for cleaning. More on that below! Oh yes, don’t forget to wear a pump friendly shirt/shawl/sweater!
Here are direct links to the products you’ll need:
Going through security was WAY easier than I thought. Here is the BIGGEST PIECE OF INFO YOU WILL NEED. Make sure your freezer pack and your milk are FROZEN solid before going into security. If you’ve pumped since taking it out of a freezer, then try to keep those bags under 3.5 oz! You’ll have an easier time getting them through security but bottom line is, even if they are more than 3.5 oz it is your RIGHT to be able to travel with as much breastmilk as you want.
Some security agents were odd about it, but I found that just being nice and gentle typically worked and it all went smooth. What happened to me is … from Kelowna to Seattle I didn’t zip my Yeti cooler all the way shut and by the time I got to the next security stop, the Yeti ice pack had melted and they were telling me they needed to take it. I wanted to cry as it was my FIRST STOP. I explained what it was for and it didn’t seem to matter to them. I wanted to get angry but I calmly asked to speak to a manager and explained that I was really nervous traveling without my baby, that the ice pack was the only thing that would keep my breast milk cold and I don’t know why or how it melted so quick but please could they let me keep it. They ended up doing some tests on it and gave me a nice pat down and I was on my way.
To avoid this, travel with SMALL ice packs or make sure it says frozen! This is why the YETI is so important because they are literally the best coolers on the market and I found it really easy to lug around as well!
Here is some more info on traveling with breast milk!
So, I kind of screwed this part up but I’ve only ever washed my baby bottles by hand in the sink or in the dishwasher. I never did the whole sanitization boiling water thing. this wasn’t a big concern before I left and I don’t really have any HUGE regrets but if I do it again I’ll bring a little dish soap and soother wipes/baby wipes.
What I did was … if I pumped in the room, I was able to wash my pumps with hot water and soap/body wash and rinsed thoroughly and then put on a clean hand towel to dry. In the airport, I rinsed them under warm water and used a paper towel to dry. It, of course, was not ideal, but it did the trick. If you have any tips or tricks here please use the comment section below!
I basically pumped as often as I would feed at home. Sometimes the flight schedule or travel schedule or events didn’t allow for this to work out perfectly every time, so I would say I was pumping around every 2.5 hours to every 5 hours.
Once I found out that Annie was sleeping throughout the night back home, I stopped waking up to pump, I just pumped right before bed and right when I woke up. When I was drinking more than 1 glass of wine, I would just pump and dump!
Storing was a tad tricky but once you’re set up you’re good to go! For both our hotel and cruise room I was able to bring my entire Yeti cooler to customer service. Both had a freezer that i was able to use throughout my stay and all my expressed milk stayed there!
What I did was I would pump throughout the day, keep the milk in my room fridge and at the end of the day or first thing in the morning I would connect with guest services and bring my 4-5 bags of refrigerated milk to the freezer and add it to the supply. I didn’t bring a big ziplock bag with me and I would next time to transport your refrigerated milk to the freezer location.
SOME hotels will even put a freezer in your room … so it never hurts to ask!! I also found that the first time I asked the hotel/cruise it was obviously not a common question they got … but as long as you are nice and patient you’ll find that most hotels/cruises/airlines/security are quite accommodating! You are providing for your child and its an amazing thing!!!
7. Pumping on a Plane
This is like the exact opposite of getting your mile high club certification! LOL!! NOT exciting at all but still a bit of a thrill figuring out how you’re going to get your equipment, boobs, and milk out on a plane. I found THIS to be the biggest hassle of the whole process.
On the way to Florida, I was on 3 different flights and traveling for about 12 hours. I would say that pumping in an airport bathroom was easier but depending on your pumping schedule and your comfort level with your breasts this might not be possible. On the way down I used my willow pumps. I put them in right before we boarded and then went to the washroom to take them out and put the milk in the cooler (which I stored in the overhead bin).
On the way back, I wish I would have had a longer convo with the lady sitting beside me because I ended up going to the bathroom to pump (which stressed me out because I knew people were waiting for the washroom and I’m sorry but airplane bathrooms are not the cleanest!). Later on, I found out that the lady beside me was a grandma and would have been totally fine with me pumping discreetly beside her! With the right clothing, you can pump without having to expose your nipples so I would have totally done this. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m ALL for pumping and breastfeeding in public and I’m a pretty open person when it comes to this sort of thing but I’m a little more modest myself about it in public primarily for the fact that I’m on TV and a public figure so it makes me a little shy to whip out the nip! LOL!! However, if you are TOTALLY open to bust out your nipples in public … I’m applauding you!! I think it’s awesome personally!! LOL!
8. Power Pump
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was one of my favourite tips from Carrie! She told me that a big power pumping session before bed makes a huge difference when a mama is experiencing low supply or a drop in supply. She also mentioned that you won’t see huge volume then as milk supply is at its lowest but the stimulation is what is important! Find out MORE about Power Pumping, HERE!
Ok, so that’s all I’ve got right now!! If you’ve got questions, check out my vlog below for further explanation or write in the comments below and I will continue to update this blog!!!
PS. Carrie from The Mama Coach has GENEROUSLY offered to give away FIFTY 30 minute virtual sessions … 30 of them are going to mamas in need via Mamas for Mamas and she is giving away the remaining 20 to mamas (in Canada or the States!!) who need help with feeding (breast or bottle!). If this is something you would be interested please make sure to go follow The Mama Coach here for details and for your chance to snag one of the sessions!
GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY PUMPING AND BON VOYAGE!!!!!!!