I’ve had the pleasure of travelling with our little family a few times now, abroad and around the U.K.
Breastfeeding has proved to have even more bonuses during these times as it’s saved a lot of room not packing bottles, sterilising equipment, formula and everything else that comes with artificial feeding. It’s been instant, the perfect comfort for a very stimulating day and keeps her hydrated too!
This week a story appeared on the BBC News website (my husband actually shared it with me) about yet another breastfeeding Mum having problems and confusing staff at an airport with her breast pump because she wasn’t travelling with her baby.
These stories also bring a lot of discussion on social media, lots of it from people who don’t really understand the importance of expressing whilst away from your child. They also repeatedly bring up the liquid restrictions saying the Mum should have known that but actually for breast milk they don’t fall under those restrictions (read more about that below). Thankfully it was refreshing to see a story highlighting the issues with the airport and not the mother…
All this reminded me of the lengths I went to trying to find out the rules and regulations about travelling with breast milk last year. I was planning to have a weekend away for a friend’s hen party in Dublin so would be gone a few nights and only travelling with hand luggage.
Alone and without the breastfeeding toddler.
How much would I need to pump?
What pump should I take?
How will I store the milk?
Will it get through airport security?
Soooooo many questions. I remembered getting quite anxious about what would happen transporting the milk and if it would get confiscated after reading one too many news stories about that very thing happening to some very distressed Mum’s.
Instead of worrying I did what every good planning obsessed person would do. I spent far too much time researching! So to save you time I thought I’d share what I learnt from that trip and hope it makes your plans that little bit easier…
Plan Ahead and Know Your Facts!
It’s worth contacting the airlines and airports you will be travelling through to get their official guidelines on travelling with breast milk without a child.
I found Twitter to be the best at getting a quick response and they would sometimes get in touch with more detail via email. Below was the helpful response from Liverpool John Lennon Airport…
And after following their advice I also contacted Dublin and got not only a friendly response but a helpful link too!
It not only gave actual fact on what I could do within their guidelines but also reassurance. It confirmed that there are no restrictions on the quantities of breast milk (a bit of a grey area when discussed online) and that I may be required to prove the milk is mine by sampling it…yum!
But also I had it all in writing should I need to reference it during a debate at security…
2. Pack Wisely.
I had an Ardo breast pump hired from my local children centre that helpfully had the option of using both a power lead AND batteries. So a good supply of batteries was needed as a back up in case there wasn’t an option to plug in.
I’d also need a few breast milk bags as although I planned to express a couple times a day I didn’t want to be mixing them together ideally so I took one bag per anticipated pump break plus a couple of spares.
I then took a couple of bottles so that I didn’t have extra worry of cleaning and drying between each pump break. Did you know that you don’t need to religiously sterilise breast pumps? Breast milk is naturally sterile so a rinse with hot (even soapy) water is all that’s needed between sessions. That’s another bonus, no additional cleaning equipment!
I packed all my pumping needs in a handy ziplock style bag I’d got off eBay that was clear on one side (in case I needed to get it out at the airport). Along with this I also packed a cool bag for the journey home. As Liverpool John Lennon stated, I couldn’t take ice packs with me due to restrictions without the milk on the way there but would be fine to buy some in Dublin and bring it back with the milk. I didn’t need to in the end as it was a short flight and I purchased a couple of bottles of water to keep in there too.
3. Work Out How You Will Store Your Milk.
I checked ahead that the apartment had a fridge to enable me to safely store my milk to bring home.
On long wedding days I email or call before the day to advise them of me expressing and if they could store it for me. They always helpfully do so and it’s such a relief. Not all hotels have mini bars or fridges so it’s always worth checking options to save any stress once you arrive.
4. Back Up Plan.
At one point this all seemed like such a faff and a lot of planning. I wasn’t sure if I was even going to pump that much!
What I did know is that I needed to pump to keep my supply going and make sure I was comfortable all weekend. Not only that but I was not going to pump and dump. Ever.
Thanks to a helpful friend over in Dublin my back up plan was to donate the milk to a local charity so at least someone would be benefiting from it. There’s lots of information online about donating milk and worth looking in to should you see that as a great option instead of transporting it home.
5. Enjoy The Break.
Personally for me expressing is such a chore. I’ve never been one to fill bottle after bottle in a matter of minutes and would need to express for half an hour to get an oz or two out.
The thought of having to spend at least half an hour twice a day on a hen weekend was a little nerve-wracking (I didn’t know all the girls so wasn’t sure how they would respond, or even what all the plans were to factor in enough time). I was getting a little anxious about the whole thing in general! When actually, it was great.
I got to sit down and catch up with social media, read some online stories and digital magazines I’d downloaded, enjoy actual adult conversation…things I barely get a second to do at home. It also got a few of us talking, comparing Mummy notes and giving each other high fives on doing such a great job.
I hope my handy Top 5 tips for travelling without your child whilst breastfeeding proves really helpful. There was nothing online to point me in the right direction and a lot of conflicting views and opinions.
I’d love to hear if you have any tips you’d add? It seems like such a huge step leaving your baby for the first time and made even more challenging wondering how it will affect your breastfeeding journey. With a bit of planning it’ll be fine, I promise xx