Pumping Logistics While Traveling Without Your Exclusively Breastfed Babies

March 4, 2013

I love being able to nurse my babies and pump milk for them to drink when I’m not around.  I mean, I don’t love pumping, but I love that they never have to drink formula.  Recently, I had to fly cross country (San Francisco (SFO) to Washington DC (DCA)) for work where I’d be for about ­2 days.  Before I left, I tried to find information about the logistics of pumping when traveling and couldn’t find that much information, so hopefully this post will help moms in the same position.

Since it was a long flight, I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with pumping.  From the time I left my house to the time I got to the hotel would be about 8 hours, so I would have to pump somewhere.  I decided that I would pump on the flight there because I saw online there was an empty seat next to me.  I hoped that the person in the aisle seat and the flight attendant would be women, but no such luck.  The guy in the aisle seat was kind of dopey.  He had his laptop on the middle tray and was facing me, so when I was getting set up to pump, I explained to him what I was doing, hoping that he would turn away, but he was so dopey that he didn’t really understand.  So, I spelled it out for him and thankfully he turned away awkwardly.  I still don’t really think he understood, but when I started half undressing under a nursing cover, he got the gist!  While I was pumping, the flight attendant came by with water and asked if I wanted any.  I was really thirsty and he was offering, so I said yes and reached out giving him a knowing smile since I was attached to a pump and had a nursing cover over me, clearly not your standard flight attire.  Since I had limited reach being attached to my pump, he obviously noticed.  He started walking away, then paused and said, do you mind if I ask you what that is.  I didn’t miss a beat and said it’s a breast pump.  His reaction was hilarious and his recovery was impressively quick.  He said, oh, I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t an oxygen tank because those aren’t allowed, but those (motioning to my pump) are.  I couldn’t help myself, so I asked if that happened often and he said, no, but that some people did bring portable oxygen, but they’re prohibited because they’re flammable.  The dopey guy just seemed dumbfounded that I was having a conversation while pumping.  Overall, it wasn’t bad and it was amusing to see people’s reactions.

I called the hotel in advance and let them know that I would need a fridge, freezer, and late checkout.  Initially, they told me that I wouldn’t be able to get late checkout.  I told them that I would need a private place to pump then after I checked out.  A few days later, they called me back and told me they had upgraded me to a room with a fridge, freezer, microwave (handy for sterilizing pump parts), and could stay until 4PM.  Hurray!  I was only away from home for about 60 hours total, but it didn’t dawn on me how frequently I’d have to pump since I wasn’t nursing at all.  Thankfully, the conference I attended was in the hotel I was staying at, so I just had to go upstairs, but it was hard timing my pumping.  Since conference session breaks are usually only about 10 minutes, it wasn’t long enough to go upstairs, pump, and get back downstairs, so I had to either sneak out of sessions early or walk in late.  It was okay, but not ideal.  Overall, the pumping in the hotel was a minor hassle, but fine.  I also didn’t think about how much milk I would end up lugging back.  It gets heavy!

The DCA airport security was ridiculous.  I didn’t want to go through the xray security screening, so I opted out.  Along with the free groping from TSA, they searched my bag, including my pump parts and cooler FULL of milk.  The guy doing this search was obviously not enjoying himself and quite frankly, I didn’t want him massaging my milk either.  Seriously, is this really making us all safer?  The lost productivity of these inane TSA procedures is infuriating, but I guess it’s a job creation program!

I didn’t think I’d be able to pump on the plane on my way home since the flight looked full online, so I decided that I would just pump in the airport right before my flight and then in the airport when I landed.  In the airport (DCA) before my flight, no one knew about the nursing lounges that I had read about online, but there was a “companion lounge”, which was a single stall bathroom without a working toilet and a changing table.  It wasn’t terrible, but it certainly wasn’t a “lounge”.  I pumped standing up because it didn’t feel particularly sanitary and there wasn’t really anywhere to sit.  On the plane, since I wasn’t going to pump, I put my pump and accessories in the overhead compartment, only to find that there was an empty seat next to me again!  Drat!  It would have been so convenient to pump on the plane since I had chatted for a long time with the guy in the aisle seat and he was super nice and had kids, but I was too lazy to get my bag and get set up.  Also, I read online that SFO has nice “nurseries”, the name they use for their nursing rooms, so a little bit of me wanted to check one out.  Mostly, I was just being lazy.

When I got to SFO, the nursery was conveniently located right by my gate and the gate attendant knew exactly where it was.  I picked up a phone outside and told the person who answered that I wanted to use the room and was given a code.  I went inside and there was a sink, a comfy chair, and music.  I set up, pumped, cleaned up, and off I went to be reunited with my boys.

All in all, pumping while traveling wasn’t terribly inconvenient, but it did feel a lot like uncharted territory – not because no one has ever done it before, but because I couldn’t find a lot of information about how to plan or what to expect before I went on my trip.

Tip Summary:

  • Imagine your plan – what do you need?  I brought my pump, a freezer ziploc bag for my pump parts, way more milk storage bags than I thought I needed (I used almost all of them), two bottles (easier to pump into than bags and then I poured into bags), microwave sterilization bag, cooler bag, lots of ice packs (mini fridges don’t get that cold, so I kept ice packs with my milk in the fridge), extra batteries, pump bra, a separate bag for all my pumping stuff that I put in a carryon so I could just pull that out when I pumped on the plane.
  • Try to make arrangements with your hotel in advance.  I’ve found that when you tell anyone that you’re a nursing mom and need accommodations, they do everything they can to help you out.   Well, other than TSA.
  • Check your flight’s seating chart when you check in.  If you can, move your seat to a row where there’s an empty middle seat.  Also, I didn’t try, but I’ll bet if you explain to the gate attendant that you need to pump on the plane, they’ll try to find you two seats.

Happy travels!

Pressure to Breastfeed

October 4, 2012

Can most women produce enough milk for their baby/babies?

Before I gave birth, a friend told me that she thought all women, with few exceptions, could produce enough milk for their babies.  This seems like it should be true given that breastfeeding is natural and we should have evolved to produce what our babies need (we should also have evolved to make childbirth less painful, but that’s a different post …), but lately, I’ve been wondering if this is true.  Uncharacteristically, I haven’t read the latest medical journal articles about this, so these are just my musings.

I am fortunate enough to produce enough milk for twins and even extra to donate without having to spend all day pumping or taking supplements.  On the other hand, I have been donating milk to a mom whose daughter was born three months early, who pumps ALL the time, and takes tons of supplements.  I also donate to another mom to twin boys who pumps all the time, including through the night, and only gets a couple ounces each time.  (To give you a sense of twin mom output, I get 6-8 ounces if I am pumping every 2-3 hours.)  I also hear about problems twin moms are having pretty often on my twin club listserv.  This is obviously not a statistically significant sample, but it does make me think that there are moms out there who can’t produce enough milk and not for their lack of effort.

What about women who don’t?

I feel really lucky that I haven’t had any problems other than the first couple of weeks when we gave our preemie babies some formula, but I also feel terrible about the pressure women put on themselves and each other to nurse.  Not so long ago, people thought formula was better for babies, but when I was pregnant, I was inundated with the message from my doctors, books, and online forums that breastfeeding was the key to success.  I was starting to believe that if I didn’t breastfeed, my babies would be meth-addicted, high school dropouts.  Then i remembered that I was formula fed and am doing just fine!

I do believe that breastmilk is better for babies than formula, but I wonder about how this impacts women who want to breastfeed, but have problems doing so.  I know that breastfeeding is hard at first and I know lots of women probably give up because it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient, but I know that the two women I donate to have gone, and still go, above and beyond to give their babies as much breastmilk as possible.  I worry about how the stress of not producing enough milk or any milk has on a mother who wants to breastfeed and her baby/babies.

I hope public health advocates can find a way to get the “breast is best” message across without making moms feel like formula is poison and a sign that they don’t care about their babies’ wellbeing.

Alcohol and Breastfeeding

August 7, 2012

I’m no boozhound, but after not drinking for my entire pregnancy (because of paranoia) or the first 3 months of breastfeeding (because of liver development), a girl wants a beer … especially on those nights when bedtime involves sad, pouty baby faces and/or sad, crying babies.  Since there are so many opinions on what’s allowable, I was nervous.  On the one hand, I watched a friend’s wife drink several glasses of wine while nursing her baby.  I’m admittedly too tiger mom for that.  On the other hand, sometimes I want a beer.  This posting helped me make peace with drinking – reasonable guidelines backed up by research.


  • 1 drink at a time.
  • Don’t nurse if you feel drunk.
  • Try to wait at least an hour after drinking to nurse, but as long as you feel okay, you’re fine to nurse.

Now, head on over to happy hour!

Not So Benign Sweet Tooth

August 7, 2012

Remember when I said I had developed a post-birth sweet tooth?  I thought it was no big deal and was indulging myself since I am burning massive amounts of calories nursing two babies, but a friend told me it might be a sign of a protein deficiency.  After reading this article and this one, I think she’s right!  I need to eat more protein and carbohydrate rich foods.  It’s really no surprise since I had little to no time to eat while I was on maternity leave.  Now that I’m back at work, ironically, I have time to eat, so I’ll have to be more careful about meal planning.

Information Sources: Pre-Pregnancy to Introducing Solids

July 30, 2012

Here’s a list of the resources I found most helpful from pre-pregnancy to introducing solids.  It’s broken down into the “waves” of reading I did/am doing.  I read lots of other books, but these are the ones that were key for me.  Also, some of them are good resources or skimable.  You don’t actually have to read them cover to cover with a highlighter in hand.

Do I actually want to be pregnant/give birth or will we adopt?

See this previous post.

I’m pregnant.  What is happening?

I found out I was having twins pretty early on, so I read the books below to learn about twin pregnancy, but if you didn’t do research ahead of time to make sure you wanted to be pregnant and give birth, see books referenced above.

Yikes.  We’re having twins!

  1. When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads: Proven Guidelines for a Healthy Multiple Pregnancy by Barbara Luke and Tamara Eberlein– #1 tip, gain as much weight as possible as soon as you can and drink at least 100 oz of water a day.
  2. Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding & Caring for Twins or More by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada – See below.

The following are non-essential, but quick, skimable reads with helpful tidbits:

  1. Twins!: Pregnancy, Birth and the First Year of Life by Connie Agnew, Alan Klein, Jill Alison Ganon
  2. Double Duty: The Parents’ Guide to Raising Twins, from Pregnancy Through the School Years by Christina Baglivi Tinglof
  3. It’s Twins: Parent to Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence by Susan M. Heim
  4. Twins 101: 50 Must-Have Tips for Pregnancy Through Early Childhood from Doctor M.O.M. by Khanh-Van Le-Bucklin
  5. Twin Sense: A Sanity-Saving Guide to Raising Twins — From Pregnancy Through the First Year by Dagmara Scalise

If nursing is natural and best for my baby, why is it so hard?

  1. The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins – This is a good resource when you’re nursing and are trying to problem solve or self diagnose
  2. Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding & Caring for Twins or More by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada – I recommend every mom of multiples put a copy of this in her hospital bag just in case her babies are born early, she has a c-section, or experiences any complication that impacts milk production.  I didn’t have it and wish I had.

What about the other “fun” stuff?

  1. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins: A Step-by-Step Program for Sleep-Training Your Multiples by Marc Weissbluth – You don’t actually need to read this book other than the two or three pages on which he describes how to do sleep training.  The graduated extinction method described here is what worked for us, but I think sleep training is an area where you have to pick the method, including no sleep training, that suits your family.
  2. Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods – and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett – We haven’t started feeding our babies solids yet, but we plan to use this method and I know a handful of parents who do this and love it.  The book is a quick read and handy resource.  Who knows if it will help my babies avoid the we-will-only-eat-french-fries stage, but for ease of introducing foods and maximum cuteness, it can’t be beat and makes a lot of sense.

I’m not a tiger mom, but I want my child to be a well adjusted genius.  What do I need to know?

  1. The Wonder Weeks: How to stimulate your baby’s mental development and help him turn his 10 predictable, great, fussy phases into magical leaps forward by Hetty van de Rijt – An easy to read, very straightforward summary of what to expect during growth spurts.  You can skip all the quotes from other parents.
  2. Your Baby’s First Year by the American Academy of Pediatrics – Another very straightforward summary of what to expect during your baby’s first year.  My pediatrician recommended this and it’s been a useful resource.
  3. Gymboree – The Parent’s Guide to Play by Wendy S. Masi and Roni Cohen Leiderman (or any gymboree book)
  4. Rockabye Baby Lullaby CDs – These are so much more bearable than many lullaby CDs out there.

A note on moms’ groups

I attended a moms of multiples support group that I loved for three reasons: 1) it forced me to leave my house, which is not so easy with two babies, 2) I could get advice specific to twins, and 3) I met cool, new people I can imagine being friends with for a long time.  So, if joining a moms’ group will do these things for you, join one!  That said, I think if I just had one baby, I’d probably just hang out with my friends who have babies.

I also feel very fortunate that I have twins because my local moms of multiples club listserv is invaluable.  Since there are parents on the listserv who have twins of all different ages, you can better prepare for things that will arise in the future and also get advice from people who are months or years ahead of you.  So, for example, if you have questions about sleep training, you hear the details of how to do it from people who just did it recently and also hear from people who did it a couple years ago and can reflect on how it’s impacted their kids’ later sleep habits and what they wish they had known or done differently.  If you don’t have twins, I think online forums are a good option, but they feel more impersonal since you’re communicating with people you’ll never meet.

Happy reading!