Airport travel for breastfeeding or pumping moms can be a daunting task. So many questions run through your head. Where am I going to pump? How can I pump on a plane? What will they do when I try to take my milk through security? And many more. I’m here to help ease your fears with my tips, tricks and lessons learned from all of my airport travel including pumping at airports and on planes. So get your pumps ready ladies, we’re taking off!
Best Tips for Airport Security
Airport security can be a pain in the rear sometimes. Most of the time, I’ve had a good experience with kind TSA employees helping me. Breastmilk and formula fall under the same category as liquid medicines, so it doesn’t have to follow the 3oz rule. That doesn’t mean it will always be a breeze as you walk through, so here are my tips for getting through security easily with breastmilk.
Before you go to the airport
- Put all of your milk in a cooler that is within your airlines carry on limits. What I mean is, don’t expect to bring a giant rolling cooler on the plane! I recommend a soft shell cooler. (Check out mine and my other travel pumping essentials!)
- If you have the opportunity to freeze your milk, do it! Then TSA doesn’t even have to check it. Most hotels only have a mini fridge with no freezer, but it yours does have one, use it!
- When storing your breastmilk, store in smaller quantities like 3-5 oz each to keep the milk colder longer. (Note: I don’t always follow this rule, but I’m always very diligent about restocking my ice bags)
- Use plastic baggies as ice packs! I fill a sandwich size bag up with ice and place it inside a quart size bag. Every couple of hours, pour out water and refill with ice.
- Tip: Starbucks will always refresh your ice for free with no purchase or questions asked! I’m sure other airport restaurants will do the same.
At the security line
- Be sure to pour out any water from melted ice before sending your breastmilk through the scanner.
- Tell the TSA agent watching you put your bags on the belt that there is breastmilk in your cooler. That will at least give them a heads up.
- Know that they WILL check your milk. Make sure whoever is checking it puts on a new pair of gloves.
- When they’re checking your milk, be kind and happy. I know it’s a pain, but they’re just doing their job to ensure our safety.
- TSA agents do NOT need to open your milk. If for any reason someone attempts this, ask to speak to their manager.
- Ice packs are allowed through security!
- In most cases (I’ve never had an issue), breast pumps are considered medical devices and will not count towards your two item carry on limit. Be sure to check this with your airline before traveling if you need to bring your pumping bag!
Places to Pump at the Airport
Airports are busy places with lots of people going to and fro. It can be scary to figure out where to go to pump privately!
- Mamava has many locations for pumping and nursing moms especially at airports! You can also use their app to find other lactation spaces available for you.
- Some airports have specific nursing/pumping spaces for moms. Do some research before you leave to see what’s available at all the airports you’ll be passing through.
- If you have access, airport lounges are perfect places to pump at the airport. This is my go to place to pump because I can get some snacks and a drink, find a nice quiet corner and pump in peace. Sometimes lounges are busier, but I just use my nursing cover to pump discreetly. There are outlets near all of the lounge chairs as well as tables, so it makes pumping a breeze.
Pumping on the Airplane
In the picture above, I may have been upgraded to first class (whoop!), but you can pump on an airplane from any seat. Trust me, I have done it!
1. Choose a window seat
I recommend sitting by the window. It’s a little more private from nosy, prying eyes. This way you won’t have to deal with people walking down the aisle. While most people probably won’t be staring at you if you choose an aisle seat, you will possibly deal with getting bumped into while pumping. Doesn’t sound like much fun to me! Thus, I always choose a window seat and enjoy the privacy it brings. Well, at least as much privacy as you can get when pumping on an airplane!
2. Keep your pumping gear at your feet
Since you’re able to bring your pumping bag on the plane as an additional carry on, I recommend keeping it under your seat for easy access. Since you probably chose the window seat, you don’t want to get up and down just to get your pumping gear. The most important items to have readily available when pumping on the plane are:
- Your pump and parts (duh)
- Pump battery pack if not battery operated. Not all planes have outlets at each seat to plug into. (Motif Duo is an awesome affordable option for a compact battery operated pump. Perfect for travel! Yes, I love it that much!)
- Nursing cover
- Wipes to clean pump parts
- Bottle lids! I know this seems like it would go with pumping parts, but you’ll want to make sure you have a lid for your bottle in an easy to access spot as soon as you’re done pumping.
3. Use your nursing cover for privacy
Once you have your pump set up and bottle caps easily accessible for when you’re done, put your nursing cover on and get situated! If you have on a hands free pumping bra (something I highly recommend!), then grab a book or your tablet, sit back and relax while your pump does the work. I personally like to read or listen to a podcast while I’m pumping on the plane. It makes the time fly right by!
4. Don’t use the bathroom water
Use your Medela pump cleansing wipe instead of the bathroom water to clean your parts after you pump. Water in airplane restrooms is not what you want on your pumping parts! While we’re talking about airplane bathrooms, don’t use it to pump! It’s not clean or necessary on a plane. I promise that most people won’t even know that you’re pumping in your seat.
There you have it. Just a few tips, tricks and lessons learned about airport travel for breastfeeding and pumping moms! I really do mean lessons learned because I have learned quite a few things from the 3 flights I’ve taken without Brody this time around.
The biggest takeaway from it all for me is to do everything in confidence. You are doing something AMAZING for your baby. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. The more confident you are in what you’re doing, the easier it is and the less you care about any odd looks you may receive. For the record, while I may have gotten an odd glance now and then, I’ve never had any rude stares or comments made while pumping at the airport or on a plane.
Now go out and travel with confidence! With or without your baby. Flying and pumping doesn’t have to be scary or daunting. Don’t let breastfeeding or pumping keep you from exploring the world or passing up an awesome trip or opportunity!
Don’t forget to check out my post on Must Haves for Pumping and Traveling to see what products I’ve found made my life so much easier!