Are you getting ready for a holiday season full of events and visiting family? Worried about how to manage pumping breastmilk during the holidays? Here is a complete holiday pumping guide with everything you need to know about travel and pumping, when you need to pump and dump after holiday events, and how to deal with unsupportive family.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through and make a purchase, I’ll be compensated at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I love! More info here.
Holiday Events – Do You Need to Pump and Dump?
Want to have a glass of wine or a fun cocktail at a holiday party, but not sure what the “rules” are about alcohol and breastfeeding?
Ingestion of alcoholic beverages should be minimized and limited to an occasional intake but no more than 0.5 g alcohol per kg body weight, which for a 60 kg mother is approximately 2 oz liquor, 8 oz wine, or 2 beers. Nursing should take place 2 hours or longer after the alcohol intake to minimize its concentration in the ingested milk.
(Note that 60 kg is about 132 pounds.)
So what does that mean? If you’re just having one or two drinks, you can wait several hours until the milk is out of your system and then pump as you normally would.
If you need to go to bed before the alcohol leaves your system, or if you’re having a lot of drinks, then I would suggest pumping to maintain your milk supply and then either dumping the milk or using it for breastmilk jewelry or a milk bath.
Pumping on the Go
The holiday season is busy and can be filled with different parties to attend, shopping to do, etc. So how can you stick to your pumping schedule when you’re often out of the house?
The keys for pumping on the go are:
- Use a checklist to pack your breast pump bag so you don’t forget anything
- Find a place to pump that you’re comfortable in (the car can work well, or an out of the way place with a nursing cover)
- Act confident and like you know what you’re doing (i.e., fake it til you make it)
If you’re out shopping or running errands, these colder weather nursing shirts are great options for easy access while staying covered.
And if you have a holiday event, amazon has some great nursing dresses that are perfect for pumping before, after, or during:
More info on pumping on the go here.
Visiting Family? How to Travel and Pump
If you’re traveling for the holidays and your trip will take more than a few hours, you’ll probably need pump en route.
A few things that can make this easier include:
- If your pump doesn’t have a rechargeable battery, you will need to pack a power source. If you’re driving, it might be easiest to use a car adapter. If you’re flying, you may be able to use an external battery pack like this one. In both cases, just make sure the voltage is correct for your breast pump.
- Pack each set of pump parts that you’ll use while traveling in its own bag – I used gallon-sized zip-top bags or a Pumparoo. Put everything together before you put it in the back, as this makes it less likely you’ll forget a valve or your breast shields. (Since you can’t attach the bottle caps ahead of time, make sure you don’t forget those, either!)
- If you feel like you’ll want to be covered while you pump, a nursing cover can work well. You may also be able to get away with a baggy shirt.
If you’re driving, it’s easiest to pump while you’re a passenger in the car, though you may be able to pump and drive if necessary. (Just be sure to do it safely, meaning using a hands-free pumping bra and only making adjustments to your pump while pulled over.)
If you’re flying, you should make sure to carry your pump on even if the flight is short and you don’t think you’ll need it, as you never know when you’ll get delayed. Most airlines won’t count it as a carry-on (they usually consider it a medical device), but check with them to be sure.
Bringing Breastmilk With You
You may want to bring some extra breastmilk with you on your trip, especially if you are relying in part on your freezer stash, or if you like to have a bit of a buffer in case you don’t pump as much as you normally do.
So what’s the best way to bring your breastmilk with you?
In most cases, the easiest way to travel with extra breastmilk is to put fresh breastmilk in a breastmilk cooler (here is the one I used). Breastmilk can travel safely in a cooler for 24 hours; just make sure the ice pack is frozen solid when you leave and transfer right to a fridge when you get to your destination.
If you need to take frozen breastmilk on a longer trip (maybe you’ve weaned and are feeding from your frozen stash), you may need to store the milk in a container with dry ice.
Setting Up a Mobile Bottle Washing Station
Whether you’re staying as a guest in someone’s home or in a hotel, you’ll want to set up a mobile bottle station with a sink, bottle brush, and some drying space for your pump parts and bottles.
This Boon travel drying rack can be a good solution for packing the bottle brush and providing some drying space. If you’re exclusively pumping, you’ll likely need a bit more space, but putting down a paper towl or clean hand towel can work well.
Dealing with Unsupportive Family
Sometimes it can seem like everyone has an opinion about how you feed your baby – no matter how you feed you baby. Whether you’re exclusively pumping, nursing, formula feeding, or doing a combination of any of the above, someone will think you’re doing it wrong.
So what do you do when that someone is a family member that you’re spending time with over the holidays?
This obviously depends a lot on the person and your relationship and whether or not you’d like to engage in a discussion on the topic. If you don’t, one strategy that I’ve found to be useful is to blandly acknowledge the advice and then quickly change the subject.
So when Aunt Margaret tells you that you should really try nursing again and that exclusive pumping is way too much work, you could say, “I’ll consider that. Hey, can I get the recipe for this bean dip? It’s amazing!” Or, “I’ll remember that. Can you believe that it’s supposed to snow 6 inches tomorrow?”
Other Holiday Pumping Tips
- Do your best to stick to your pumping schedule, but it’s okay to be flexible. Say you normally pump at 6pm and 9pm, but you want to go to a party from 7pm until 11pm. It’s fine to pump right before you leave, right after you get home, and leave your pump at home. Just make sure to get your total pumping time in, and try not to go too much longer than you normally would in between sessions.
- If you’ll be out for a while and will need to pump at a holiday party, but you don’t want to haul your enormous pump bag with you and deal with finding an outlet, put a manual pump in a zip top plastic bag in your handbag. Use it wherever you get a chance and wherever you can get some privacy. If you’d like to keep the milk you pump, put an ice pack in the bag with the pump and breast milk to keep it cold.
- One thing that many exclusive pumpers struggle with is feeling isolated while they pump – it can be hard to have to leave a get together where everyone is having fun to go off into a room and sit by yourself to pump. If you’re comfortable doing it, try putting on a nursing cover and just staying where you are. Pumping doesn’t mean you have to leave, unless you want to.
- Remember that this won’t last forever. Next holiday season, you’ll likely be free of the pump!
I hope this holiday pumping guide is helpful! Let us know if you have any other tips for pumping breastmilk during the holidays in the comments.
You might also like: