Last December I left my 3-month-old baby and flew to Florida for a work conference for 3 days. (Insert all the terrified mom emojis.) I had no idea how much work this trip was going to be! If you are in the same boat, here are all my breastfeeding and pumping tips for airplane and Disney travel.
While I was preparing, I quickly realized how amazing moms are. Every day, a mom out there is bending over backward to feed her baby – and continue working to provide for her baby. It is truly remarkable.
Have you taken a work trip like this? Just for a 3 day work trip, I had to…
- leave enough milk at home for my son
- plan to pump while I was gone
- travel with breastmilk
- keep breastmilk cold when I was out and about
- and, because our company took us to Epcot for the day – pump at Epcot
I am not complaining – because I am thankful every day for a company that supports moms and women in the workforce. But, months before the actual trip, I had to start preparing. And this is what I learned…
Working mom tips for work trips
I am going to break this down in chronological order…from the initial preparations to the flight – to the hotel – to our conference and time at Epcot – and my flight home.
Each step seemed complicated in its own right, and I really want to give you the best guide for breastfeeding and pumping for your travel. If I miss a step, PLEASE leave a comment below and ask questions. I want this to help as many women as possible! So..let’s begin at the beginning.
Breastfeeding and Pumping tips before you leave
Weeks before my trip, I began to pump milk to leave with my husband and baby. (Yes, my husband stayed home with our 3-year old and 3-month old for 3 days – super dad, I tell you!) I am super busy, so finding time to pump each day was really hard. Because I work all day, spending an extra 20 minutes to pump in the middle of the day was not going to happen.
Because my baby was about 2 ½ months old when I began this, his schedule lined up with me adding an extra night feeding. This is how my schedule worked:
- 7 pm – feed baby and go to sleep
- 9 pm – pump normal amount and freeze (5-6 oz.)
- 12 am – baby wakes up and feeds
This schedule worked perfectly for me, and let me have a slow little pumping session after my evening shower before bed. I began this weeks ahead and scheduled it so I would have enough milk for my trip.
Assuming my baby needs 4-5 oz. each feeding and would eat 8 times a day, at a minimum I wanted 40 oz per day. I rounded it up and aimed for 50 oz/day just to be safe.
For 3 days, that means I would need 150 oz. Again, I rounded up and aimed for 180 oz just to be safe.
When I pumped, I averaged about 5 ounces a session. This means I needed to pump a total of about 36 times before I trip. For me, this was starting about 4 weeks ahead of time. Some days I pumped more than 5 ounces – so I made my goal and had 180 ounces ready for that little babe before I left!
- Make and eat a lot of lactation cookies and lactation energy bites! These are my favorite recipes here and here. They are so good and I swear they work! (I even took a batch to take on my trip!)
- When you are at home or on your trip, look at a photo of your baby to get your mind and body in the right place.
- Make a pumping station in your room (or office) that has everything set up all the time. This cuts down on set-up and breakdown time.
The best electric breast pump gear
Let’s start with the actual breast pump. I have tried several pumps (I own two) and by far my favorite is the Medela Pump In Style.
When my daughter was 7 weeks old, I was rushed to the hospital with acute pancreatitis. I stayed in the hospital for 2 weeks – and during those weeks – every 3 hours – I pumped.
I couldn’t see my daughter. I just held a photo of her and pumped. Again, a few months later I needed surgery and pumped for 4 weeks. Each of those times, we adjusted back to breastfeeding fine.
The Medela Breast Pump was my eternal lifesaver.
It is hospital-grade, and I easily adjusted to and fro with it from the hospital. Also, the parts are EASILY accessible. If you need a breast pump recommendation, I definitely recommend this one.
The Medela Pump In Style Review
The Medela Pump in Style is easly one of the most loved breast pumps on the market. You can see all its top-rated 5 star reviews here.
I love how strong and adaptable it is. Being a working mom, you need a strong pump that won’t let you down. This one always has accessible parts to buy, is compatible with all hospital pumps, and is hands-down reliable.
For this trip, I also needed a TON of breast pump parts and gear. No matter which pump you have, you HAVE to have extra flanges, bags, connectors, valves, etc. I definitely recommend using a breast pump that has very easy-to-get-to parts. You don’t want to have to order discontinued parts from Ebay! These are the parts I recommend for a 3 day trip:
Buying the right breast pump working mom bag
Let’s talk bags. Y’all, this was my favorite part!
I got to buy a new bag! I had nothing that fit EVERYTHING THAT I NEEDED. So, this was my criteria:
- Section for breast pump
- Section for laptop
- Section for purse items (phone, keys, etc.)
- Section for diaper bag contents for when I would be using it later
- Quality material because it was going to be HEAVY
- Under $100
I must have spent weeks researching bags. On Amazon. On Instagram. Talking to friends. I was determined to get something I would love for a long time. And I found it! I fell in love with the:
Idaho Jones Chertsey Breast Pump Bag
Y’all. This bag is so beautiful and SO AMAZING. Let me tell you all the reasons I love it.
This bag is the mecca of all bags. It holds SO MUCH. It has a laptop sleeve for my computer, a massive bottom section for my breast pump, a velvet-lined front pocket for my phone, another front pocket for purse things – and a huge section for regular life things.
Other things that make this bag stand out:
The Idaho Jones Chertsey has a bottom pocket for your breast pump. But, that bottom section collapses if you aren’t carrying a breast pump. This allows you to use the backpack to full capacity and not lose out on that storage space. Enter all the praise hands here.
It is compatible with all the pumps: Medela Pump in Style, Sonata, Symphony and Freestyle, Hygeia, Freemie, Spectra S1 and S2, Ardo, Philips Avent and Ameda, as well as their parts and accessories.
I have heard that the Spectra sometimes is too large for a bag – not so here!
Also, it comes with a 12-month warranty. They say “All our bags come with a 12-month warranty as we have confidence in all our bags’ workmanship and materials. If you ever have any issues, please reach out and we will make sure you are 100% happy.”
Also, it is just pretty, y’all. The black and gold design definitely feels like a step up from my quilted diaper bags!
Take a look here:
Preparing for your flight and hotel
Ok, let’s actually do this trip. Once you have all your parts, supplies, gear and whatnot, there are several things you definitely need to do before your trip.
Believe me, you want this handy so you know your rights. Things you are allowed:
“Formula, breast milk and juice for infants or toddlers are permitted in reasonable quantities through the security checkpoint.”
“Formula, breast milk, juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag. “
“Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk and juice are allowed in carry-on.”
“Inform the TSA officer if you do not want the formula, breast milk and/or juice to be X-rayed or opened. “
I’ll go through how this all works later in this post. But for now, DEFINITELY print off the TSA Requirements AND your specific Airline Requirements. For your airline, definitely read through each policy and call with all your questions. Some of these below are really vague!
Keep these in your purse:
TSA Requirements: Click to print
Even if your room doesn’t come with a fridge, hotels are required to provide one to refrigerate breastmilk. Make sure to call before you arrive so one is already in your room!
DO NOT SETTLE to use a communal fridge in a kitchen or breakroom. You will need to use this at all hours – even at night. You need it in your room.
Also, ask for a fridge that has a little freezer section. This is awesome to keep your ice packs cold. If they don’t provide this, make sure you know where your closest ice machine is – you will be using it A LOT.
- A soft cooler bag (separate from your bottle cooler) that you will use to bring breastmilk home in. I love this one here.
- Lactation cookies and tons snacks!
- A photo of your baby
- A bottle brush and a travel-sized bottle of dish detergent. Even if you have steamer bags to clean your bottles, you need a bottle brush and detergent. I like this one under $5.
- TONS of ziplock bags. I brought about 20 gallon-sized bags and 10 sandwich bags. Take more than you think you need.
- A nursing cover. Use the code 98BF59 here for a free nursing cover!
- Wet Ones wipes and hand-sanitizer
Ok, let’s take this trip!
Flying with breastmilk
Pumping on a plane
Rule 1: Bring a battery pack
Don’t be like me, who didn’t check to see if my batteries worked. Mom fail. I had this whole battery pack – with dead batteries. Make sure you have a battery pack for your pump and that it works.
Rule 2: Get a window seat if possible
If your flight is over 2 hours, you will probably need to pump on the plane. Either you can pump in your seat, or you might want to go to the bathroom during a quiet period. If you are in your seat, you will want the option to turn towards the wall, thrown on a nursing cover and pump in peace. Sitting between two strangers is not ideal!
Rule 3: A hands-free pumping bra is invaluable
I have this one by Simple Wishes, and it is so good. But, I think I might buy a new one that is a little more bra-like and form-fitting. The goal would be to wear this all day, so when you need to pump it is just there. I have worn mine a lot – and I love it. But, on this trip, I wish I had something a little more normal feeling. I’m adding this one to my cart right now!
Rule 4: Wear layers with a nursing tank
The key is to wear a tank top underneath your shirt. This keeps your belly from just hanging out. Don’t be like me and wear a button-down shirt. Another mom fail. If you wear a button-down shirt (even though it’s great for nursing!), it will splay open and show off both boobs. Instead, wear a nursing cover or a blousy top that can lay on top of your pump.
Airport and pumping tips
Rule 1: You have to be ok with it being weird.
It’s JUST WEIRD. Hauling around this equipment, telling your friends you’ll be back after a 30-minute pumping break, leaving early from events, even pumping on the floor of a tiny bathroom with your boobs hanging out. It’s going to be weird.
Just be glad you can do it.
Rule 2: Find a Mamava Pod
Heaven bless the mother who thought of this. These FREE pods are in almost every airport. You can find them near airport gates, in the food court, in baggage claims, almost everywhere.
Compared to nursing rooms that are available in airports, these are a gift to the mama’s soul. They are private, clean, quiet, have a few supplies in them – and are just a gift.
Also, I love just following them on Instagram to see all the encouraged mamas that are out there traveling!
I’d definitely recommend downloading their app here to find the closest Mamava Pod.
Rule 3 – If you can’t find a Mamava, find a family/baby changing, nursing room
Every airport has them, and they are worth the walk if they are down the terminal. You will find a chair, an outlet, and a minute for you to be alone and have some peace and quiet.
Breastfeeding Tips for Travel
If you are pumping and dumping, it is so much easier. Go you! But I really wanted to bring my milk home to my baby, so the actual process is more cumbersome.
On the first day, your ice packs will still be cold, so just keep your milk in the bottles – in your cooler – in your pumping bag. (Follow that?) 😆
On subsequent days, you will need to find ice machines to fill up your coolers. I used ice from restaurants in airports, from my hotel, from Disney – just make sure you always have a pile of ice handy. This is why you need a million ziplock bags.
In your hotel, keep a little pumping station set up. I set up my pump, a pile of milk storage bags to quickly move milk into the fridge. I brought a sharpie to write dates on the milk.
And, near the sink in the bathroom, I set up a cleaning station with my bottle brush and detergent.
The goal was to have a fast, mindless process so it didn’t get in the way of my actual work and fun.
Pumping at a conference – tips for working moms
There are so many working trip scenarios – and you kind of have to be ready for all them.
If you are going to a conference, you will have the advantage of being near your hotel room. I kept my pump set up in my hotel room and every 3 hours I just excused myself and ran to my room to pump.
If you are working with understanding and family-friendly people, just warn your boss that will be disappearing regularly. They should understand!
If you aren’t near your hotel room, talk to the head of the conference and see if they can set up an empty room for you to use. Maybe even pal up with other nursing mamas to find a solution together. Don’t be afraid to ask!
If your only option is a bathroom, you have no option but to park yourself near an outlet (or in a stall if you have your battery pack). I can’t count the number of times I have parked myself on the floor of a bathroom near an outlet – and just profusely apologized to every lady that came in. What can you do?
Pumping at Disney
Disney Baby Care Centers at Epcot
At Epcot, there is a great Baby Care Center that has a quiet nursing/pumping room, a family kitchen with high chairs for feeding, tons of changing tables for changing diapers, and a little family sitting room. This is a lifesaver!
I also love that they have a shop offering formula, baby food, juice, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, over-the-counter medications and clothing for purchase.
This Baby Care Center at Epcot is in the Odyssey Center between Test Track and the Showcase Plaza. If you are walking from the front of the park towards the World Showcase, you take the little bridge over the water past the Test Track and before Mexico. It is easily accessible from anywhere in the park.
Make sure you add the Odyssey Center to your Disney app when you are planning your day! You can just circle back to the Epcot Baby Care Center every few hours!
Pumping gear for Disney
For Disney, I brought my Idaho Jones Chertsey bag and it was perfect! Everyone wears backpacks, so it didn’t look weird at all.
I was really curious to see if you can wear backpacks on Epcot rides – and you can! I went on several rides – all which were backpack friendly. I went on:
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Journey into Imagination and Figment
- Spaceship Earth
It was really easy to bring my backpack on each of these. For Soarin’ Around the World, there is a small backpack basket under your seat to hold all your personal belongings. My backpack barely squeezed into this basket – but I made it work! Of course, the basket was full of water, so that was gross. Maybe check your basket before you cram your $80 bag into it!
As far as gear, I needed my nursing cover, my cooler full of ice in ziplocks, my empty 4 bottles, wipes and hand sanitizer for my hands and parts, extra bags for trash, and I also brought an extra top just fo safety.
Everything worked great! I had to duck out from events about 3 times to go pump – but honestly – expected it to be a lot harder than it was. I even bonded with all the other moms who were pumping and nursing in the Epcot Baby Care Center. We are all in this together!
Taking breast milk home with you
I think the last leg of the trip is the hardest. Not only do you have to pack and fly and maneuver an airport – but now you have to do it and pump. And transport milk. So fun.
The first thing to do is to get your milk ready. Y’all, the more I type this the crazier it sounds.
All my milk was divided up in 3-4 oz. milk storage bags. I packed these bags into larger gallon-sized ziplock bags. I think I had about two large ziplocks full.
Now to pack up your milk, place those gallon ziplock bags inside of your soft cooler bag. Make sure to get A LOT of ice from the hotel ice machine, fill up even more gallon bags with the ice, and surround the milk bags with the ice bags.
The Memphis Mama recommends filling one actual bottle full of milk and keep it separate in the cooler. Chances are that TSA at security will want to inspect your milk – and giving them one bottle is easier than a huge bag of milk bags.
This cooler bag will not count as a carry-on if you declare it at the airport check-in.
Breast milk through security
When you get to security, dump out the ice (keep the ice bags!), and start the process. I found it a little unnerving talking about breast milk with strangers, so these are my tips:
- Make sure you have dumped the ice out of your cooler.
- When you approach security, try to get a female TSA worker’s attention, and ask if she will personally check your bags. A TSA employee will probably look through your bag manually, so I wanted to take charge of who and how this would be done.
- Ask that TSA employee to put on new gloves.
- Explain where your milk and your pump are. Chances are they will just go ahead and give you a complete, manual pat-down. I went ahead and told her where everything was, and just expected the longest security check ever.
- I think your milk bags can go through the x-ray machine. Personally, I wanted to avoid that if possible.
- Always have your TSA regulations printed out and in hand.
- They will check the outside of your milk containers for fumes, explosives, gunpowder, etc. Make sure they are wearing clean gloves. And, it might help to hand them one separate bottle to check. Regardless, they never touched the actual milk storage bags because of the ziplocks.
When you are done, head the nearest restaurant because…
Transporting breast milk through the airport
As soon as you are done with security, you need to head to the nearest restaurant and ask for ice. LOTS of ice.
I got several weird looks and people saying “we can’t hand out a lot of ice.” But, as soon as I mentioned that it was for keeping breastmilk safe, people just gave me what I wanted so I would go away. 😂
One super nice manager filled up multiple bags for me and was so sweet. Thank Jesus for nice people just helping a mom out!
Once my ice was filled up, I had to stop and pump again, head on to the plane. My milk stayed perfectly cold all the way home.
Don’t forget to enjoy being a mom. To enjoy your baby. To enjoy the privilege of being able to feed your baby.
Don’t forget to enjoy the peace and quiet and hot Starbucks while you have a little hard-earned “break”.
Don’t forget to love on that baby when you get home. Thank God for going home.
If you know of a working mom that could use these tips, please share this post with them using the sharing links. I want every mom to feel empowered and to not feel alone!
I want to thank The Memphis Mama for her Travel + Pumping guide. I used that guide about 100,000 times on my trip, and because of her I was prepared for my trip. Thank you!