Do you enjoy camping? Don’t let pumping stop you from participating in this great family activity! As an exclusive pumper you might be worried about how to safely store your breastmilk or how you’ll power your pump. This guide covers milk storage, cleaning, how to power your pump, and other helpful tips for pumping breast milk while camping.
The number one thing that I struggled with when I was exclusively pumping was feeling like I couldn’t do fun stuff – baseball games, trips, run a half marathon – because it would be just too hard to manage pumping and storing my breast milk. My pump started to feel like a ball and chain that I couldn’t escape for more than a few hours at a time.
The first time I pumped outside my house (using my car as a lactation room) required a ton of planning – both thinking about how the logistics of how I would do it and what I needed. The first time, I forgot the caps for the bottles. But I kept learning and trying different things and eventually go to the point where I could do anything, just with my breast pump in tow.
So – if you love camping, there is no reason to stop just because you’re exclusively pumping! Here’s everything you need to know.
Breast Milk Storage While Camping
The best way to store your breast milk while camping is to put it in a cooler with ice. According to the CDC, freshly expressed breast milk can safely be stored on ice in an insulated cooler for up to 24 hours.
When camping, we always bring separate coolers for food and beverages. This way the ice we need for drinks does not get tainted with any food we might be storing, like raw meat. It’s a good idea to keep your breast milk stored separately from your food to avoid any potential cross contamination.
For safety reasons, it’s also recommended to store your food and coolers away from your campsite at night time. Keeping them in your car overnight is your best bet. This is especially important when camping in bear country.
Cleaning Baby Bottles and Pump Parts While Camping
Cleaning baby bottles and pump parts is probably the trickiest aspect of pumping while camping.
If you have access to a clean potable drinking water source (like in an RV or a cabin) then you can just wash as you would at home. Some campgrounds even have nice dish washing stations that you can use. However, it is not advisable to wash your parts in a communal campground bathroom.
If tent camping is more your style then you’ll need to tackle cleaning a little differently.
I recommend washing bottles, nipples and pump parts just as you would at home. You’ll need a large pot to heat up water over the fire or camp stove and a wash basin. Once water is hot enough, you can submerge bottles and other parts and begin to wash with a biodegradable soap, which is always recommended while washing dishes in the woods.
Once everything is scrubbed clean you’ll need to rinse using hot clean water. This is where the wash basin comes in handy. Add clean hot water and rinse away the soap. Dry everything and you are good to go!
(This portable drying rack and bottle brush might be helpful.)
Other ideas for cleaning:
- Bring extra sets of pump parts so that you don’t have to wash frequently
- Medela Quick Clean Wipes can work if you aren’t able to wash pump parts between sessions
- Some moms choose to store pump parts in a cooler between uses. If you decide to do this, you can place your pump parts in a gallon sized zip-top plastic bag in your cooler. Wet bags are not recommended as they are water resistant but not waterproof. At some point, moisture from melted ice will seep through a wet bag. (Note: The CDC does recommend washing after each use.)
Powering Your Breast Pump While Camping
Pumps with a rechargeable battery like the Spectra S1, Spectra S9, Medela Freestyle, or a Willow are most convenient. Depending on how often you pump, your breast pump may hold enough charge to last through a full weekend camping trip.
However, if your pump requires an electrical source you can still make it work; you will just need additional equipment!
(Note: It is important that you chose the right voltage when powering or charging your pump. Using the wrong voltage could result in frying your breast pump.)
Some portable power options include:
The Medela portable battery pack (for 9V pumps):
Other Helpful Tips for Pumping Breast Milk While Camping
- Remember to snack frequently and stay hydrated to keep your milk supply up while performing physical camping activities like hiking, swimming and canoeing. (Here’s some great drink and snack recipes to help!)
- Use an alcohol based hand sanitizer to clean your hands before pumping if you don’t have access to running water.
- Schedule activities around your pumping schedule.
- Bring a manual pump for when you are away from your campsite or if you do not have an electrical source to power your pump.
What other tips do you have for pumping breast milk while camping? Leave them in the comments!References
- CDC. “Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk.” https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm