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Business Travel and the Breastfeeding Woman

By Heather C. Chase MS, RN, IBCLC

Many breastfeeding women returning to work after maternity leave are faced with the additional challenge of business travel. Although this challenge can feel insurmountable at times, many women have been able to do both successfully and have given us some tips to make things easier. The most important element is to plan ahead.

Planning ahead begins while on maternity leave when you can start pumping and storing extra milk to put in the freezer for the times when you are away. If your work involves a great deal of travel, you may want to include pumping once on the weekends to add to this freezer supply.

Typically, while away on business, a woman will pump on her baby's nursing schedule.  So if the baby is feeding every three hours the mother will pump every three hours while away. This behavior will assist a nursing mother in maintaining her milk supply while she is traveling. Once she returns home it is recommend that she nurse frequently, as a strong healthy baby at the breast will always maintain or increase milk supply much more efficiently than any breast pump on the market!

Women often have questions pertaining to milk collection and storage while traveling.  While on short business trips (two to three days) it is possible to have hotel management empty out the mini-bar or request a small refrigerator in the hotel room. For longer business trips, you may need to "overnight" your expressed milk back home. Details on how to accomplish this can be discussed with a Lactation Consultant.

You do not have to assume that the bathroom is your only option for pumping: more and more public places and corporate workplaces have nursing rooms. Log on to this website for a helpful nursing room locator: http://www.MomsPumpHere.com. Also, workplaces that you are visiting will often designate a private space in which you can pump.

A creative option that sometimes is forgotten is to bring the baby along.  Many babies (under the age of six months) are good little travelers and grandparents or other care providers often enjoy a few days away.  If you choose air travel with babies, remember nursing during take off and landing can help them adjust their ears to cabin pressure.  Another benefit to the breastfeeding infant-and a plus for fellow travelers, too!

Air travel without the baby can pose some interesting challenges, such as where to pump and how?  Top-of-the-line electric pumps will have a mechanism to switch to a non-electric hand pump.  Although this is less desirable, it will work quickly to relieve breast pressure in the privacy of the bathroom during long flights.  Some of these breast pumps come with battery packs that can facilitate pumping while away from electrical outlets.

And don't forget about manually expressing your milk: even if you cannot manage to save it effectively and hygienically in the constraints of a tiny-and less-than-clean- bathroom, at least you can avoid feeling over-full, or becoming painfully engorged. Expressing milk by hand is usually easy once you learn how and try it a few times. Refer to a book on breastfeeding, go to the Lactation Institute website at www.lactationinstitute.org, or to www.breastfeeding.com/, or contact a Lactation Consultant for more information on manual expression of breast milk.

Here are some additional tips regarding air travel as a breastfeeding woman:

  • If you have membership in an airline lounge club, this is a good option, and if not, this is a great time to join. These provide a cleaner, more private area for pumping or nursing.
  • Plan to pump immediately before take-off.
  • Use polypropylene (hard plastic) screw cap bottles to transport pumped milk. Some women find that the milk storage bags and soft plastic storage containers can get crushed and leak.
  • Purchase a cooler that folds and fits in your carry-on bag.
  • You CAN carry breast milk with you in your carry-on, and you should NOT be required to taste it. Go to www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/children/formula.shtm for more details.

Business travel by car involves other creative strategies.   Milk storage can be a challenge in the hot summer. Many sales representatives have advised us that investing in a good cooler is paramount to success.  Energy sources for pumping in the car are a consideration.  Battery packs for breast-pumps are great for short periods of time, however the batteries can be expensive over time. Another alternative is a car adaptor for the pump that plugs into the cigarette lighter. This is recommended if a woman is anticipating a great deal of time pumping in a car.  Safety is a priority when pumping in a car.  Find a safe and well-lit place to stop, always lock your car doors, and never drive while pumping!

Check with a Lactation Consultant on ways to help make pumping during travel more comfortable, cleaner, and safer for both you and your baby.

© Heather C. Chase

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