Pumping while Traveling sans Baby

Before we left on the trip to St. Louis last weekend, I was incredibly nervous about how the pumping aspect would go, especially when such a big portion of the (very quick) trip would be spent in very public places. I’m all about nursing in public and feel like I can do it pretty dang discreetly, but pumping in public? Ugh.

At this point I can easily push it to 5-6 hours without pumping during the day without engorgement, BUT, I’ve been struggling with my supply tanking lately (boy do I need to write a post on that), so I had zero desire to go more than 3 hrs without pumping. This schedule was both to help maintain my supply and also to minimize the hit to my freezer stash that my MIL was pulling from back home in order to feed Harvey. I used to get 3-4 oz each pumping session, and lately I get 1.5-2, even though he still drinks 3oz bottles when I’m gone. Also, I must have a “small reservoir” in my breasts, but it doesn’t matter if I pump after 2 hrs or 6 hrs, I get the same amount, so pushing the times between pumping sessions really is bad for me!

At any rate, I think it was eye opening for Charlie to realize how often I nurse/pump! I adore the nursing relationship, but it really is a huge time commitment to have my boobs available all the time, and I think that fact really hit home to Charlie this weekend when we had to keep doubling back to the hotel every couple of hours so I could pump again.

Overall I brought home 33-35 ounces, and my MIL isn’t sure, but she thinks he ate around 45 ounces. That number seems low to me with him only being 8.5 months old, but he actually CRUSHES solid food 3x/day, so I’m choosing to believe that he’s already on the slightly older baby schedule of milk intake (average 14-19 oz/day between 12-24 months). That would make sense if he is eating 2.5-3 ounces, 5-6 times a day (which is about right).

In regards to pumping while in airports / planes:

  • The bad news – it sucks to pump in airports. Bathrooms are gross and tiny and I refused to do it. The other option is pumping in the open (there are no designated lactation rooms at any of the airports I was at), which is awkward at best, but doable. I just had a hoodie with that I held over my front as a nursing cover of sorts, found the quietest area I could, and kept my back to the crowd.
  • The good news – pumping on an airplane (with my husband next to me as a buffer between me and the rest of the passengers) was easy peasy! It was a pain to set up, but honestly, I was most worried about the noise, but the background noise of the plane is so loud you couldn’t even hear my pump! I’d use my hoodie to cover up the pump and my exposed nipples in the flanges, plus I made sure I was wearing a nursing tank top + tshirt over the top both travel days, so my chest & torso were both covered and it really wasn’t a big deal at all. I’d wager a guess that nobody even realized I was pumping on any of the 3 flights I pumped on!

My Pumping Schedule:

Friday pumping:

  • 4:30 am – Woke Harvey for a dream feed before we left.
  • 7:30 – In Denver airport on our layover (awkward, but not bad – I literally sat on the floor in the corner by our gate and pumped)
  • 9:30/10:30 *time zone change* – On the plane from Denver to STL (this allowed me to avoid pumping in the car with Charlie’s grandpa next to me later!)
  • 2:00 pm – In our hotel after lunch with Charlie’s family
  • 5:30 pm – In our hotel after walking around Union Station and grabbing a drink
  • midnight – After the wedding. This pump was purely to pump & dump. I should have pumped 1 more time around 8pm, but I just didn’t want to deal with bringing my pump to the reception & pumping in the bathroom, so I didn’t.

Overall I didn’t pump as much as I’d have liked to / should have that day, but it’s so hard to pump on the go, so I’m glad I at least got 4 sessions in. The 5th session at midnight I only did a few minutes and then said screw it and went to sleep because I was drunk. Oops. 😉

Saturday pumping:

  • 8:00 am – In our hotel room after sleeping for 8 hrs straight. Bliss! (Harvey often sleeps through the night now (or does one wake-up to nurse around 4/5) but it’s just different to sleep without one ear open, you know?
  • 11:00 am – In our hotel after walking back from breakfast
  • 2:30 pm – In our hotel after walking back from lunch with Charlie’s friends.
  • 5:00 pm – In our hotel after taking a quick nap & chilling for the afternoon.
  • 7:30 pm – In our hotel after walking back from dinner.
  • midnight – I skipped this since Harvey often goes from 7:30-7:30 without nursing anyway and I was tired. I figured my boobs could handle it just fine.

Overall I’m okay with this schedule. Harv nurses / takes a bottle 5-6x/day at this point and I pumped 5x, so that was good.

Sunday pumping:

  • 8:00 am – In our hotel room
  • 11:00 am – In STL airport while sitting on the ground between 2 chairs. I had a clogged duct on the left that SUCKED
  • 1:30 / 12:30 *time zone change* – On the plane from STL to Denver
  • 3:30 – On the plane from Denver to home
  • 6:00 pm – At home because my MIL had given Harvey a bottle at 5pm. He wouldn’t nurse and the clogged duct was killing me!
  • 7:30 pm – Harvey nursed before bed.

This day went really smoothly, especially with me more comfortable with pumping on the go.

Quick tips:

  • Keep your pump charged / have a spare battery pack with you. There were not outlets on ANY of the planes I was on, and finding outlets in the airports that weren’t surrounded by people charging their phones was impossible.
  • Quick clean wipes are great when you don’t have an alternative for sanitizing everything. There was not a microwave in our  hotel room, so I couldn’t even use the quick clean micro-steam bags that I’m used to!
  • Carry a small, hard-sided cooler for milk storage. Mine happened to be the same dimension as my freezer storage bags, so that worked perfectly. I just put a ziplock bag of ice on top of them and it kept everything nice and cool for transport home (about 9 hrs).

All in all, I’m impressed with how smoothly it went, and I’m stoked I’ll never have to do it again. 🙂 Our next trip isn’t until Christmas, and by that point Harvey will be almost a year old – PLUS I left 24 oz of milk there from August, so no more pumping for me. YAY!


  1. TheRedhead · · Reply

    Pumping sans baby while juggling air travel is obnoxious – I did it twice and it required a lot of planning! I never had to do an airport pump but that’s only because I had direct flights (less than 2 hours) and pumped in the car on the way there and/or pumped standing up in a bathroom at the hotel where my conference was taking place right before I left! I still stretched it a bit longer than I would have normally, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. Battery packs are an excellent idea (I had one as well) and the clean wipes are definitely necessary 🙂

    1. Yeah, if Harv was a bit older & I wasn’t so stressed about supply lately, I would totally have pushed it a bit to not have to pump as much in the air, but I was so freaked about my tanked supply going into the trip that I didn’t dare!

      1. The Redhead · · Reply

        I never had a really stellar supply – so oddly enough that worked in my favor when I needed to stretch it out. It didn’t make it go any lower than it already was – ha!

  2. You are amazing! I am so impressed! I plan to exclusively breastfeed so I am sure I will be using some of your tips in my future!!!

  3. Dedication.

  4. Gawd, pumping on vacation sucks. I hated it, and only did it 3-4 times a day (except that first night when I had to pump in the night, WTF??). It’s great that you could bring it home with you! It’s even greater that you never have to do it again!!!

    1. Yeah, I got a clogged ducts that last morning, and trying to pump it out while in STL airport SUCKED. Thanks again for leaving your milk with me here in CO – it’s part of what helped me get Harv through that time apart without killing my stash!

      1. I got a plugged duct too while pumping sans baby – and it was horrid. It seems that I get them whenever I get the pump out (which is almost never now).

        I’m just glad you could use it! I should send you all the stuff I pumped last year and early this year that’s in our deep freeze. Bryson isn’t interested.

        1. I’d totally take it, but I’ve heard it’s horridly expensive to ship. 🙁

        2. And my frozen milk smells like metal. I have too much of some enzyme. He could easily turn his nose up at it. I wouldn’t drink it – and I’ve tasted many bottles of fresh breast milk. I understand why Bryson doesn’t want it – but I should just start mixing it with his cows milk.

        3. Hm… excess lipase I suppose? Curious what Harv will do! We used most of yours fresh, but I did freeze a bag or two I think if I remember right. We shall see!

  5. Good for you! *applause* Even without travel, I only pumped until 8 months with both kiddos before I threw in the towel and welcomed formula with open (yet expensive) arms.

    You go.

    1. Yeah, it’s totally because of my stubbornness, pride, and lack of expendable income that we’re still sticking to EBF. I truly do love the BFing relationship, but MAN do I hate pumping. I’m hoping I can quit pumping entirely by 11m at the latest like I did with Stella (I have enough in my freezer to get me through that last month or so of daytime bottles while I’m at work).

  6. You have my respect, sista!

  7. Wow… you rock mama!! It sounds like you did an awesome job keeping up with the pumping while away. I don’t know if I could do this.. which is why I never leave my children..Ha! I have a wedding on NYE this year and a reception dinner the night before, neither of which is allowing even the little child so this will be my first experience which several pumping sessions and bottles (eventhough I will see her in the day time of both days inbetween). Eek! I will be asking for tips. I know nothing about pumping, milk storage, etc. other than what I have heard from you and other mamas who have been there.

    1. You’ll be fine with a hand pump just for two nights! KellyMom has a good storage guideline chart – http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/milkstorage/milkstorage/ Have fun at the wedding!! Feel free to email with any specific questions!

  8. You are so lucky that your baby sleeps through the night. Mine is 10 months old and will sometimes wake up 3-4 times a night to eat (and we do not cosleep). I’ve pumped on vacation and its not fun. It really shows you how completely attached you are to your baby. I’ve also pumped through work conferences where I had to make special arrangements to have a place to pump. I love bf but cannot stand pumping. Like you, I don’t have an excess supply. I only have one bag of frozen milk. Daycare just started this week supplementing formula with my milk because I can’t keep up. I would feed him whole milk at home already but they won’t there. Anyway, I enjoyed reading your pumping story.

    1. Yeah, Stella was doing the 3-4 wakeups a night around this age and then started waking up every 45 minutes and it broke me. We started a whole new consistent bedtime routine, put her down drowsy but awake, and let her CIO for up to 6 minutes, and it was a game changer for us. I hope your little one starts sleeping longer chunks soon!

      Pumping at conferences sounds horrid – it’s the reason I’m trying to get out of one at the end of this month!

  9. This is awesome info, Josey! Thank you for sharing. BTW, we learned when I did the CLC training that you don’t need to pump and dump. Alcohol moves in and out of your breast milk as your body metabolizes it. So, if you pump while you’re drunk – you do want to dump. But if you wait until you’ve sobered up and then pump, keep the milk! It’s fine. 🙂 xoxo

    1. Ya, I RARELY pump and dump for that reason! Usually just wait it out. However, I skipped my 8pm pumping that night and was many many beers deep (10-12?), so for my own comfort/supply I wanted to pump after the wedding so I wasn’t engorged Saturday morning.

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