how to: travel for work when breastfeeding

Recently, I shared a few thoughts on my entrance into the world of Working Nursing Traveling Moms (WNTMs) and how complex it is to leave your little one for work while still nursing. While there are all kinds of great tips out there, I couldn’t find many that spoke to how to travel for work, and so in case it helps someone else out there, here are my top 13 learnings and advice (to take or leave, as all parenting advice is!):

Pump and freeze like Armagedon is around the corner.
Store up. Sneak in pumps the way smokers sneak in cigarette breaks. Try not to leave your baby beforehand unless you are sure to pump. (If you are lucky enough to store up the full amount before you go, kudos! If, like me, your baby doesn’t want to sleep through the night and 90-100 ounces is too daunting, just keep going as best you can.)

Channel your inner organization freak.
Because that’s what this takes. Of if you don’t have an obsessive list-making, type-A, over-prepared personality, like me, click here for my checklist and 3-day schedule. (All this good planning can’t go to waste!)

Guesstimate how much your little one eats at night.
Here’s where this gets really complex…you’re planning something with more effort than your wedding and you have no idea the most important variable – exactly what you need. Try a test night away with the grandparents to get an idea or use KellyMom’s handy calculators and then just prepare to have undershot. (Or if you overshoot, you’re on your way for your next trip.)

Pick Your Flights Wisely.
Ones that allow you to spend the absolute least amount of time away from your wee babe and still be able to properly justify the expense to your boss or clients. Nurse right before you leave for the airport.

Gather the (boatload of) equipment.
Consider buying a second seat on the plane just to carry on all this stuff because there is no way in hell you’re going to check it and then have it not arrive. And no, I don’t mean your electric pump, hand pump, plastic bottles, daily cooler and ice pack, freezer bags, though you’ll have to pack all these too. I mean your foam coolers, boxes, and dry ice. Also, don’t forget to make sure your room has a fridge/freezer and pack lots of snacks!

Get to know dry ice.
Really, know dry ice. Where you get it. The weight of it. How much you put in an overnight shipping box (plan on 5-10 lbs for 24 hours depending on the size of your box), how much to take on the plane (no more than 5.5 lbs or 2.5 kg). That blocks break up easily and last longer than pellets. Find a woman like Meg at Ben’s Dry Ice who can be your amazing resource, or call Meg for tips.

Become a shipping expert.
FedEx locations. Labels. Which ones handle dangerous materials (usually not the Kinkos). Be prepared for this to all go a little off-plan. Make sure you say no signature for retrieval when the box arrives. Tip: When shipping overnight, if you can choose the second earliest (rather than by 8 a.m. drop-off) you will save yourself a good deal of money.

Obsessively Google “Shipping Breast Milk”.
And then get side-tracked, really side-tracked reading all the amazing moms who are selling and donating breast milk and sharing how they are healthy, organic eating people with qualities listed like personal ads. (Would my baby prefer milk from someone who likes long walks on the beach or the occasional pina colada?) I found good tips but also found myself moved by all the other mamas out there: so generous!

Forget getting a ‘hotel bed’ dreamy night’s sleep.
Because you still have to get up and pump so as not to lose your supply and have enough to ship and carry home, and then you have to transfer said milk to freezer bags and put it in the freezer so it’s all ready to go the next morning. Keep everything plugged-in, bed-side before you turn in so you can roll over and pump quickly before returning to sleep.

Get used to being uncomfortable.
You can make it through security with frozen milk but it always makes me jittery getting on the other side. Most everyone has been nice but each time my box gets pulled aside and checked. (If you can travel with it frozen, rather than liquid – other than what you’ll pump en route – it will likely save some grief.) Prepare to ignore the businessmen’s shifty looks on the plane. (“Yes, it is a titty cave and I am pumping under it.” Offer them a dash of your milk in their coffee.) Be prepared to pump in the bathroom stall or in very random places. Know there may be a lot of sweating while thinking about your next milk move. Finally, be prepared to answer a few questions about what’s inside your “perishable” box. (Hint, gentleman: it’s not lobsters.)

Get out your credit card.
I won’t lie, beyond the time and emotional investment, it costs more to nurse and travel. You’ll pay for boxes to ship milk in, the shipping itself, dry ice, and airline fees. (United, you ready to take this one off the list yet?) Opt for JetBlue or Delta to avoid fees.

Seek out support.
Meg at Ben’s. The wonderful and understanding and supportive people you work with – others are moms and dads too! From Berna, Frances, those who can help you ship. (For me, from my friend Jenny for helping me deal with the chaos and taking over her freezer and not minding all the interruptions.) From your husband who endures this crazy-making time. And most importantly, from other WNTMs out there.

Prepare for the milk circus.
And the interruptions. And for things to go wrong. Have a back-up plan. Have a few. If it all goes astray, know that your baby will be okay and so will you.

But also…
…prepare for the joy that comes from knowing you can do it and in the end, you and your baby made it through. Prepare to feel a little like a rock star.

Cheers to all the moms making it work out there, traveling, working, nursing or not. 
– amy