Being a working mom always has a certain level of complexity. When you add breastfeeding into the mix, the complexity increases. When you add business travel into this mix, the complexity is further amplified. While I’m not a road warrior (my travel is about 25%), I still find that it makes continuing to breastfeed my daughter a bit more difficult.
First of all, there is the logistics… Trying to minimize the size of your bag to allow carry-on luggage, is quite difficult when you’ve got to pack a breast pump. This has taught me to be quite lean with my outfit choices, and a bit less of a fashionista. When I’m lucky enough to fit it all into a carry-on size piece of luggage, there’s the TSA adventure. My bag is almost always selected for search with the breast pump inside. So, I have to factor that into my timing. If I check my bag, I’ll often find a little ‘love note’ stating that my bag was selected for inspection. I totally get why this is done, but I can’t help but to feel slightly violated.
Traveling through the airport with a breast pump is NOT fun. There are rarely designated areas for nursing or pumping in the airport (although every once in a while, you get lucky). I try my best to avoid having to pump in the airport or on the plane, but if you’re on an overnight flight to Europe, there’s no real way around it.
Also – you’ll need to take advantage of the battery packs when you’re outside of the US. I fried one of my breast pumps when I plugged it into the outlet using an adaptor. Shame on me, too, because a colleague told me that she’d done the same once.
Then, once you reach your destination, you have to figure out how to handle the pumped milk. Many hotels don’t have refrigerators in the rooms. I’ve requested a refrigerator be brought into my room on some occasions. When I’ve done this I’ve had to pay an additional charge. When they do have refrigerators in the room, they are small ones meant for storing beverages and the temperature in the main section is not cold enough. So, I’m stuck with only the very small freezer section, that can barely hold one or two bags of pumped milk. Other times, I’ve asked for the milk to be stored in the deep freezer in the hotel kitchen (if they have a restaurant). This has generally been the best option for me.
When I check out, I collect all of my frozen pumped milk, wrap it up, placing the most recently pumped milk (not yet frozen) in the center, and then pack it into my suitcase. Lots of zip top bags and a small lunch cooler works well for this. (I need to make sure that I have the ability to fit it in – so the luggage can’t be filled to the brim when I’m leaving. Otherwise, I’ll need to have another bag to use on my return.) On my return flight, checking the bag is necessary, because you can’t bring the milk on the flight in carry on luggage sans baby.
So, with all that in mind, you can imagine how absolutely thrilled I was when my employer introduced a breast milk shipping program for nursing mothers who travel. They sent out an announcement about the program during World Breastfeeding Week.
It has really eliminated some of this complexity for me. I no longer need to figure out how to store and handle my pumped milk. Through a partnership with FedEx, we are able to order coolers in advance of our business trips and have them delivered to our hotel. I used this last month, and it was great. I went online, ordered my cooler, and when I got to my hotel in Chicago, it was waiting for me when I checked in! The next day, after pumping my milk, I put the milk into the specially designed cold temperature shipper, activated the package, and sealed it up. I addressed the package to my home, alerted my husband to look out for it, and called FedEx to arrange a pick up at the hotel.
The shipper is designed so that it will store the milk at 2-8°C and comes in a variety of sizes. Milk can be shipped both domestically and internationally. My generous employer also allows us to expense the cost of this service. I have always been proud to work for the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. However, introduction of a service such as this really reinforces how much they care about their employees and families. Thank you to all those who contributed to the development and implementation of this program. This support has helped me to continue my breastfeeding journey.
Blog written by Laverne Bastress, BRC Board of Directors