As I finish up sharing all of my fun New York trip photos and memories with you, there is one part of the trip that I have yet to share: having a 5 month old, and all that goes with that!
I don’t talk a lot of breastfeeding on this blog. Women are very passionate about how they feed their children, some are completely committed to breastfeeding, others to formula and all in between. It is kind of like the Mac vs. PC argument… Well I am a Mac and a breastfeeder. I have nothing against women who choose not to breastfeed, it honestly makes no difference to me how others do it, this decision for me was based on my situation. Breastfeeding was really important to me, for a number of reasons. We’ve been lucky that it has worked out for me, I have had ample supply, E has done well, and everything seemed to fall into place really well. So when I was asked to travel 3,000 miles away, one of the first things I thought of was “how am I going to deal with the breastmilk!?”.
After doing some research on flying without E, I had a plan. I bought a cooler, I was going to pump and bring all of my milk home with me.
On the way to New York (I’m in California) I had to pump in the airplane lavatory, it was either that or the bathroom in the airport, and for some reason I just felt more comfortable on the airplane. It felt a little more private and there was a lot more background noise so the pump wouldn’t make as much noise. I had planned on pumping shortly after boarding my second flight which would’ve been about 6-7 hours after I last fed E. That is a little long usually, but I had to make it work as I didn’t want to pump more than once on the flight into New York, so I had to try and time it to be in the middle of my flight. The problem came when I had a window seat, and both of the men in the row with me feel asleep immediately upon boarding the plane, “shoot!” I decided to watch a movie and wait and see when they woke up, but as the movie came to an end and I felt the rocks in my chest becoming harder and harder I knew I would just have to bite the bullet and wake them up. So I politely asked to get out, took my pump to the bathroom and started pumping. To my surprise, the second I stripped down and attached my pump to me we started hitting turbulence- a lot of turbulence! The fasten seatbelt sign kept flashing and I kept ignoring it. I had to pump! I continued on as I was holding partially onto the wall of the lavatory and partially onto my pump, milk sloshing around, praying that something didn’t come detached soaking me along the way. Luckily I stayed dry, wrapped everything up and headed back to me seat. Success!
Throughout the week I had to pump multiple times a day, which left me with A LOT of milk.
By the end of the week I probably had close to 75 oz of breastmilk.
On the way back home I double bagged everything, filled some ziplocs with ice, packed them at the top and bottom of my cooler, zipped everything up and headed to the airport. I was going to carry-on ALL of my precious breastmilk.
Going through Newark airport was a breeze. I let them know I was carrying breastmilk and had no trouble. I pumped once in the airport bathroom in Newark before boarding, but the real trouble started when we boarded our flight and to head Arizona.
After about 30 minutes of being delayed sitting in the plane, waiting for take off, the attendant gets on the line and lets us know we are waiting for 4 meals for first class, catering had messed up. Fine, usually I wouldn’t care about delays, except we only had a 90 minute layover in Arizona and 30 minutes of it had been used because first class needed some meals!
So I was a little frustrated when we got to Arizona, and it just got worse. Upon exiting our plane we learned that because we were flying on a different airline, we had to switch terminals, which caused us to have to leave the airport, board a bus, re-enter another terminal, go through security all over again, and get yelled at by one TSA officer for standing in a line that another TSA officer told us to stand in! Note to self: avoid flying through Phoenix and if you have to, make sure you stay with the same airline. At that point I almost lost it…my face got hot and I felt the tears starting to pool in my eyes. Our flight was leaving in exactly 25 minutes and we were still waiting in line for security. I missed my little girl and husband and I wanted to GET HOME! If we missed this flight we would be stuck until the next day.
We finally got through the line but this time when I mentioned that I was traveling with a cooler of breastmilk the TSA officer didn’t quite know what to do.
He told me they were going to have to inspect EVERY bag of milk, to which I almost lost it! “You want to inspect 20 bags of breastmilk when I only have 20 minutes to catch a flight!?”, thinking to myself, “this is not my fault- stupid first class and their meals!”
Another TSA officer must have seen the sh**-show getting ready to start and came over to save the day. He told me they just needed to inspect one bag of milk, thank God! So they did, all was clear and we were off, running…literally.
We ran, we had 15-20 minutes left before our flight was supposed to leave so we ran. I ran carrying my purse, my carryon and my cooler. I ran so much that my throat was burning and I thought I was going to start dry-heaving…and I realized how incredibly out of shape I still am!
We ran all the way to the gate we were scheduled to depart from only to find out that there was a gate change…”this is a joke, right?!” The gate was changed to a gate that was about 10 feet away from the security checkpoint that we had just run from. So we ran…again…all the way back to the other gate. We got there and guess what…FLIGHT DELAY! You can’t make this stuff up friends! I was so mad and relieved the same time. Mad that I had just run all over the Phoenix airport and was on the verge of a heart attack for nothing, and relieved that we were not missing the only flight out that night to see my little girl.
So, I managed to pump one more time- again in the airport bathroom (I wonder if women were wondering where the bullfrog was hiding?). We boarded our plane and made it home safely. When I got home, E practically smelled me walk in the door. I bent down to give her a kiss and she sat up with wide eyed in complete surprise. She immediately took her hands and started touching my face, it was precious! We reunited, she nursed, we reconnected, it was wonderful!
I think overall my trip 3,000 away from E while still breastfeeding was successful. It was definitely a new experience, but completely worth it. I LOVE breastfeeding, which was a complete shock to me, but I am so excited that I was able to leave and come back and we picked up right where we left off!
Here are my tips:
- I used the Lansinoh milk bags– they were much more compact to pack on the way there and I only had to pack enough bottles to use with my pump- not for storage.
- Buy a good cooler, I purchased the Polar Bear Cooler- 12 Pack Soft Cooler– I was able to pack it flat in my luggage on the way there and carry it on the way back. It was heavy duty and my milk was ice cold when I got home- totally worth every penny! I also still had actual ice cubes in the bags of ice.
- Use a hands free pumping bra– in case you end up in turbulence and have to hold on!
- Call ahead to make sure your hotel has a fridge- if not request one- they usually have them and in some big cities (like New York) you just have to ask. Our hotel didn’t have them in every room so I’m glad I called ahead!
- Rather than washing your pump parts every time you pump, put them in the fridge or use the quick clean wipes. Then use the steam bags once a day- especially if you’re in a hurry.
- Bring a bunch of double-zip Ziploc bags with you, gallon and quart size, pack them in your suitcase. Use them to put your milk bags in and your ice- double bag everything that way if one of your milk bags opens you won’t have a mess and may be able to save the milk.
- Let the TSA know you’re carrying breastmilk when you are checking in- give yourself enough time in case they do want to check your bags.
- Here is the link to the TSA instructions.
- Get an aisle seat on the plane!
- These tips are for traveling within the U.S.- be sure to research your own security guidelines if living outside of the U.S.
Good Luck! I’d love to hear any other tips you may have!