When my child was about one month old, I took my first overnight trip alone to attend a conference while my husband stayed home with our newborn. It was a quick two-day, one-night trip, but it came with challenges due to breastfeeding. At the time, I was either pumping or nursing every two hours, so I had to figure out how I was going to fit in pumping during my four-hour flight to my destination and while attending the conference.
Finding a place to pump or nurse while outside of the home is a challenge that affects all breastfeeding mothers, whether they return to work or stay at home. While this challenge is not a recent development, state and federal laws have been slow to address this issue in the workplace and public space. For instance, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 was amended in 2010, when President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, to require employers to provide reasonable break time and a place, other than a bathroom, for employees to pump milk. However, only employees who work for employers covered by the FLSA and are not exempt from the FLSA’s overtime pay requirements are entitled to such breaks. The Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act of 2019 also requires certain, but not all, public buildings to provide a non-bathroom lactation space for use by members of the public. While there are laws in all 50 states that allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location, there is a lack of uniformity when it comes to providing access to a lactation space in public areas.
I have seen an increase in access to lactation space in public areas, such as at malls, airports, and hotels, but traveling while breastfeeding can still be a challenge. If you’re breastfeeding and you are getting ready to travel, either with your child or alone, here are some tips that you may find helpful:
Check the location of the nursing rooms at your airport. The Friendly Airports for Mothers Act of 2019 requires all large- and medium-sized airports to provide a non-bathroom lactation space. My local airport has nursing pods located near some of the gates, which are marked on the airport maps.
Book a room with a mini-fridge. The mini-fridge is an amenity that may not be available in all hotel rooms, so make sure you check that there’s a mini-fridge before booking a hotel room.
Purchase a wireless pump. While it’s not necessary, I decided to purchase a wireless pump because I wanted the option to pump without being stuck in one spot. This came in handy when I needed to pump as I was taking my car-share ride to the airport.
Pack a sanitizing bag and wipes. For longer trips, I recommend packing a sanitizing bag that you can use to sanitize your pump parts in the microwave. You’ll just need to make sure your pumps can be sanitized this way without damaging the parts. Otherwise, purchase sanitizing wipes or sprays, which are a convenient alternative. They’re also great for cleaning pacifiers and teething toys on the go.
Store breast milk in 3.4-ounce bottles. Breast milk in excess of 3.4 ounces is allowed in your carry-on bag, but you need to inform the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer, and they will screen your breast milk. You can inform the TSA officer if you do not want your breast milk X-rayed or opened. However, I was advised by a TSA officer that they are not required to screen breast milk if it is under the 3.4-ounce liquid limit, which can save you some time by skipping the mandatory breast milk screening.
Purchase a breast milk storage bag with gel packs built in. Gel packs, ice packs, or other accessories to keep your breast milk frozen or cool are also allowed in your carry-on bag. I purchased a lunch bag with gel packs built in for transporting expressed milk, instead of a breast milk cooler bag that’s usually smaller, because I can fit in more milk for long trips and it can be used as a lunch bag once it’s served its purpose as a breast milk cooler.
Traveling while breastfeeding will be a challenge, but it can be less of a challenge if you’re prepared.