Breastfeeding has many advantages. One of them is not the ability to mix well with business travel. I have been able to combine business travel with breastfeeding, and I thought I would share some tips.
Building up a frozen stash before your trip
If you want to exclusively feed your infant your own milk, you need to start planning your trip well ahead of time. If you don’t have a large supply already in your freezer, you need to build up your supply so that you can freeze the extra milk that you produce. I would start at least one week ahead of time, plus one week for each 24-hour period that you will be away, and if you can an extra week to allow you to reduce your supply again before you leave. I counted on producing about 5 ounces (150 ml) extra per day once I got going, and if I saved this amount every day for 1 week it would be enough to feed an infant aged 4-6 months for 1 day. Older infants drink less and you can probably get by with less.
You can store milk in the plastic bags that are provided by Medela or other breast pump manufacturers, but they can be expensive. Other possibilities include glass jars, plastic jars like they use in hospitals for various biological samples, or bags made of PC, PE or PP (see a rather technical article here about the pluses and minuses). You probably want to have a little section in your freezer for all the milk.
When I started, I thought initially that I would just pump what I had left over at the end of the day. Unfortunately, it seemed that I didn’t have anything left by then. So I changed tactics and pumped in the morning after the first feed, on the side that was fullest after the feed. This worked out fine, and in a few days my supply adjusted.
On your trip:
- Try to plan your trip so that you will be able to express milk regularly. How much you need to express depends on your current supply and how uncomfortable you normally feel if you express less regularly. Expect to have to express milk at the start and end of the day in your hotel room, and probably at least twice during the day. Phone ahead and ask at your location about facilities for expressing milk.
- Take your breast pump with you everywhere you go, including into the plane as carry-on baggage. Travel plans may change (e.g. I have been stuck on a plane for 8 hours extra due to poor weather) and you don’t want to be caught without it.
- You might want to pack a large scarf so that – if necessary – you can pump on the move (e.g. on a plane or in a train).
- Try to arrange access to a refrigerator or freezer before your trip, e.g. at the hotel and wherever you will be going. Frozen milk will stay frozen if you pack it together in something that insulates (e.g. your clothes) and is checked into the hold of the plane. If you can take your expressed milk back with you, it will mean that you are prepared for your next trip 🙂
- It’s a good idea to have your battery pack loaded in addition to the power cable, especially if you are not sure where you will be able to pump or are going to a location with a different voltage.
- Take plenty of storage containers or bags, extra breast flanges, and batteries with you.
- You might find that you have difficulties with the “let down” response after you have been away for a bit, or that you get clogged ducts while away. Make sure you are giving yourself plenty of time to express milk. Encourage a good “let down” by looking at photos of your baby, thinking about what it is like to nurse, etc. I also find that breathing out while imagining the milk flowing out is a good way to get it to flow well. Express milk after a warm shower, and encourage the water onto your breasts during the shower to help clear blockages.
- Don’t forget your breast pump!