Travel Tips from a Breastfeeding Mom That Traveled Without Her Baby

Travel Tips from a Breastfeeding Mom That Traveled Without Her Baby

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of 1 Natural Way, a TRICARE breast pump provider. All opinions are entirely my own.

Some moms exclusively nurse their babies and other moms exclusively pump. Some moms supplement with formula or are 100% formula moms. If you are a mom who is giving your baby breastmilk, whether it is pumped and fed through a bottle or via your nipple, guess what? You are breastfeeding!

This might come as a shock, but sometimes breastfeeding moms have to go places…without their baby. Vacations, business trips, medical appointments, it’s all possible with the modern miracle of breast pumps!

Trip of a Lifetime

I was a combo breastfeeding mom. I started off exclusively nursing but pumped every now and then so my husband could bond with our son by feeding him, and so that I could also leave the house without a baby attached to me.

On some pretty short notice (like a month) my husband and I were offered a stay at a resort in Kuai, HI. All we had to do was buy the plane tickets and get there! The trip also coincided with our 5-year wedding anniversary. My parents even offered to care for our son while we were gone. I hesitated. My son was just four months old at the time and I had basically been exclusively nursing him.

Many of my “mom friends” said my baby was too young to leave for a week. “Just bring him”, they said. “He’s so young, it will be easy to bring him everywhere, its not like he’s a toddler”. But, I didn’t want to bring him everywhere in Hawaii. I wanted to go kayaking, lay out by the pool, sleep in, have too many frozen drinks, and spend time with just my husband. I didn’t know what to do, so I called my Mom. She told me to “get pumping” and she’s be there for me. When someone offers to babysit, take them up on it.

My son, safe with his grandparents
My son, thriving in the care of his grandmother

Tip #1: Physically and mentally prepare yourself for the trip

With basically four weeks to go, I had a huge supply of milk to create.  I know I could have switched to formula and made it a lot easier on myself. However, breastfeeding my son was a personal decision I made and wanted to keep. So, I cracked open my new Medela pump and got to work. In the morning I woke up early and I pumped. I pumped while I nursed my son. I pumped while my husband and I watched TV at night.Pumping basically became my part-time job. Sometimes like a squirrel admiring her stash of acorns for the winter, I liked to open the freezer door and stare at my carefully labeled and organized stash of milk.

Tip #2: Gear up with the right supplies

In the past, a huge barrier to pumping for breastfeeding military moms was the cost of a high-quality breast pump and breast pump accessories. The best pumps are unfortunately often the most expensive.  Fortunately, for us TRICARE beneficiaries, TRICARE insurance actually covers at no expense to you, a new breast pump, breast pump accessories, compression socks and even postpartum care supplies. 1 Natural Way is an in-network TRICARE breast pump provider for all TRICARE plans. If you have five minutes and you can follow five simple steps, a new pump like the popular Medela Freestyle, Spectra S1 Breast Pump, or the Medela Pump in Style Tote/Backpack will be yours! Navigate to 1 Natural Way information form and follow the steps below:

  1. Fill out 1 Natural Way’s insurance information form
  2. Select your breast pump model (TRICARE covers all models 1 Natural Way offers)
  3. Enroll in 1 Natural Way’s monthly breastfeeding accessories program (called Resupply)
  4. Provide 1 Natural Way with a prescription or your doctor’s information, and they will get one for you
  5. Your pump and supplies will ship right to your front door via UPS or USPS

Although I wouldn’t have my son with me during the trip, I still needed to pump to keep my supply up. I wasn’t going to be sending any milk home since I had pumped my heart out the month prior, but I needed to keep up my supply for when I returned a week later. I packed my breast pump, extra batteries (in case I wasn’t by an outlet), a hand pump, and some milk storage bottles.

Tip #3: Look up your airline’s carry-on rules for breast pumps

I’ve successfully traveled other times with my breast pump as my third carry-on item. However, on this trip it was all about vacation and my laptop stayed home. I packed my breast pump and supplies in its own tote as my carry-on and my purse was my personal item.

I’ve flown several different airlines and no one has batted at eye at me bringing my pump aboard as a “free” carry-on. However, it’s best to know the policy of your specific airline. Be prepared to comply…or be prepared to jam your breast pump in your other carry-on bag.

Tip #4: Read (and print) TSA’s latest policies on traveling with breast milk

I didn’t have any problems going through security with my pump. However, I also didn’t go through security with any liquids since I wasn’t trying to save any of my breast milk during this particular trip. You can travel with liquid or frozen milk, with or without a baby. However, you may be subject to additional screening. If you are traveling with frozen milk and need ice-pack to help keep it frozen, try using frozen bags of peas instead of an ice pack. When ice packs start to thaw and become slushy, you might have to spend additional time in screening. A frozen bag of peas won’t turn into slush like an ice pack.

My best advice is to keep current on the TSA Policy for traveling with breast milk. 

Does this count as a carry-on?

Tip #5: It may be tough, but find a spot that is comfortable to pump FOR YOU

Not everyone you encounter will be accommodating or helpful on your breastfeeding journey. We arrived at LAX via a connecting flight and I started to look for a private place where I could pump. I grabbed my breast pump and I found a “Mother’s Room” but it was locked. The sign on the door said the room needed to be unlocked by an airport employee. I located a LAX employee and asked him to unlock the room for me. He asked me where my baby was. I simply explained, that I was not traveling with my child but I still needed to pump. He told me the room was only for parents with children. I didn’t have time to fight with him. I needed to pump and catch my next flight. So, I saved all my angry words for a future e-mail to LAX and went onward in search of a place to pump.

Tip #6: Be prepared for complete strangers to tell you their thoughts on nursing, pumping, and raising your baby in general. Smile, nod, and ignore.

In search of an outlet, I ended up in the women’s bathroom, next to a trash can right across from a long line of women waiting in line to use the bathroom. I received a lot of praise for pumping. Some people wanted to know where my baby was. One lady gave me a water bottle. I could see one mom explaining to her daughter what I was doing. One woman offered me the handicapped stall to pump in.

I wasn’t trying to create a movement or make a point, I was just trying to find an outlet so I could pump and get back to my trip.

Woman cheersing
I had become a pumping martyr in the women’s restroom…all I really wanted was to get back to my drink.

All I really wanted to do was pump and get back to my frozen drink with the umbrella in it. This was about three years ago. I know many airports have made giant strides in providing private places for moms to nurse or pump. The last time I traveled, it was encouraging to see Mamava breastfeeding pods in the airport.

Tip #7: Ask for help when you need it, most people are kind-hearted and try to be accommodating

Since I was on a flight that was about six hours, I knew I would need to pump at some point so I didn’t explode. I was a quick pumper, so I knew I just needed about five minutes in the bathroom to pump. To my horror I realized that my pump’s plug would not fit into the super old “shaver’s only” outlet in the bathroom. The flight attendants were super nice and helpful when I explained my problem. They let me try the outlets they had in their galley, but it wouldn’t work there either.

Tip #8: Don’t try your new equipment for the first time when you’re 37,000 feet in the air for six hours

I tried using my pump’s batteries, but they must have been close to dead because the pump barely functioned. I put my husband’s sweatshirt over me and hand-pumped my way to relief. If privacy is a concern for you, try to secure a window seat or bring a cover. Don’t worry about the noise a pump makes, remember that the plane’s engines are extremely loud. Nobody will be able to hear your pump over the roar of the engines.

Tip #9: Get over the guilt, get to pumping, and enjoy your vacation!

Since I wanted to continue to exclusively nurse my son, I needed to make sure that I was on pumping schedule even on vacation. I pumped when I woke up, before we went out for the day, in the car, before dinner, and before I went to bed. For me, it wasn’t the most glamorous thing to be doing on my anniversary trip, but it was important to me.

All that pumping was worth this view!

The hardest part wasn’t finding time to pump during my activity-packed days in Hawaii. It was dumping out all that liquid gold I had just pumped. 

Whoever coined the phrase, “no use in crying over spilt milk” was obviously not a breastfeeding mother.Click To Tweet



2 thoughts on “Travel Tips from a Breastfeeding Mom That Traveled Without Her Baby”

  • Love this post! And love that you got to go to Hawaii. What a blessing! These are some great tips for Mommas who might travel away from their baby. I know I wouldn’t have known what to do. It’s awesome that Tricare hooks us up with quality pumps through 1 Natural Way!

  • Wow! This is quite a story and you are so brave. Thank you for these amazing tips and for being bold enough to take a trip without your baby. I’m sure that did wonders for your marriage and I appreciate this story so much.

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