Flying as a breastfeeding mother can be stressful! Nursing moms have to worry about privacy and whether or not the airline will allow them to nurse uncovered. Moms travelling without their babies have to figure out how to navigate TSA regulations, where to pump in the airport and on the plane, and how to store their milk in transit.
Exclusively pumping moms travelling WITH their baby have to figure out not only where and when they can pump, but how to take care of their baby at the same time. In this post I’ll cover a few different scenarios of flying with your baby when you are exclusively pumping.
One important thing that applies to all of the below scenarios: no matter how short your flight is, if you are an exclusive pumper, I would strongly recommend that you carry your pump on. Even if your flight is half an hour long, or if you have a serious aversion to pumping in an airport, or if you don’t have room for it with all of your other stuff, it’s still a good idea. You never know when the airline is going to lose your bag, and you don’t want to have to haul your exploding boobs to Target to buy a new $300 pump when you arrive at your destination.
(Also, remember your battery pack and your charger!)
Scenario #1: You are flying with your baby and another caregiver (i.e., your partner, a grandparent, etc.)
This is the easiest scenario, as you have someone else to hold the baby while you pump. If your flight is on the short side (less than however long you usually go without pumping), you can either plan to pump before you get on the plane or on the plane itself.
If you choose to pump before you get on the plane, one option is to do it in the car on the way to the airport. Taking care of it then makes it easier to focus on checking in and everything and taking care of your baby once you’re in the airport, but there’s still a chance that you’ll need to pump again at the airport or on the plane if you get delayed.
Your options if you decide to pump in the airport are the women’s restroom, a family restroom, or empty gate area. If I had my choice I would choose the family restroom, but I’ve pumped at a gate and it went fine (no one paid any attention to me). The most important thing is to use a cover and act like you know what you’re doing.
If you decide to pump on the plane, you can pump in either the restroom or your seat.
If you decide to do it at your seat, pull everything that you need (breast shields, bottles, pumps parts, caps for the bottles, a Ziploc bag for used pump parts, your pump, hands-free bra, and your cover) out of your pump bag. Put on your cover, set up the bottles and pump parts, and start the pump. Again, act like you know what you’re doing. It’s unlikely that anyone will be able to hear the pump due to the noise of the plane.
The other option is the plane bathroom. If you decide to do this, wait until there isn’t much demand for it, and have everything ready to go ahead of time so that you can hook and unhook yourself quickly. It’s also not a bad idea to let a flight attendant know what you doing. I would suggest limiting your pumping sessions in the plane restroom to 10 minutes or less. If you would normally pump for 20 minutes, then maybe you can go twice for 10 minutes.
Scenario #2: You are flying by yourself, and your flight time is less than you would usually go between pumping sessions.
How to handle this depends a bit on whether or not your baby has a seat. If you bought a seat for your baby, you have most of the options as in the first scenario, with the exception of pumping in the airplane bathroom. (I don’t think juggling both a pump and a baby in the bathroom is possible, but maybe I’m wrong?) If you choose to pump in your seat, you’d most likely want to wait until your baby falls asleep in her car seat, so that you don’t have to quickly unhook yourself to take care of a crying baby.
If your baby is a lap child, probably the easiest thing on a short flight would be to find a quiet place in the airport, such as a family restroom or an empty gate, and hook yourself up to pump right before boarding the plane. Then do the same right after you get off of the plane. It might be a good idea to bring a blanket for your baby to lay or sit on while you pump, depending on her age.
Scenario #3: You are flying by yourself, and your flight time is more than you would usually go between pumping sessions.
In this scenario, I would strongly recommend buying a seat for your baby. The best way to handle this is to get your baby to sleep in her car seat and then immediately pump in case she wakes up before you would expect. If it’s a really long flight, it’s a good idea to pump every single time she falls asleep in case she gets fussy later and you don’t get another chance to pump. And if you get desperate, see if you can find a grandmotherly type to hold the baby while you pump. It might not be ideal, but it’s also not like they can run off with your little one!
Have you had to fly with your baby as an exclusive pumper? Share your experience!