It’s midnight. During your sleep, you hear a very small sound near you.
It is still surprising to you on how you can sleep through countless alarms in your phone, but you immediately wake up and look around when you hear that small sound.
You know what I’m talking about? The “hmm, err, ahhh” sound your little one makes during his sleep, right before he wakes up, asking for some milk.
As you cuddle him while breastfeeding him, a frightening thought appears in your mind, like a lightening in a quiet night.
“Holly shit, how am I going to do this when I travel without him?”
Yeap, you read that right. You are traveling while breastfeeding without a baby in a few days because of your work.
Now that you fill your head with mom-guilts, worries and countless questions regarding your little one.
“He will wake up to find me and I won’t be there for him.”
“He will cry his lung out”
“He needs mommy’s breasts, how can he drink milk from the bottles?”
“Will he miss me? Will he forget about me?”
“Will I lose my milk after the trip? Will my milk supply reduce?”
“How can I make it through this with less tears for my baby and me?”
When it comes to traveling while breastfeeding without a baby, there are certainly some prep work required, a list of items to carry and a whole bunch of notes to make.
In this article, we are going to make it as comprehensive and easy as possible. So that when you return home, your baby is still a happy baby and waiting for you.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Before you go: the prep work
When you are traveling while breastfeeding without a baby, you don't want to waste your milk or your baby gets so resistant toward a change, you want to start introducing the whole new concept (that you are away) before your travel date.
Get your baby used to bottles
If your baby is completely breastfed since birth, he might resist on bottles. Spend enough time before your trip to get your baby used to drinking milk from the bottles.
Leave enough milk at home so that your baby always gets fed
How many days are you going to be away? How often does your baby eat? How much does he eat a day?
Make sure you have enough milk stored at home for him. Ideally you should pump extra milk so that he will always get fed.
If you cannot pump enough milk for your little one before you leave, choose a formula for him and also make time to get him used to the formula.
Pack your luggage
Here's the checklist for mommies who are traveling while breastfeeding without a baby that you can use to pack your luggage.
The most important item of a working mom’s life. When you have to go to work, the pump is your friend for an hour after a quick lunch. Now when you are traveling without a baby, the pump becomes your best friend.
Not only it helps to maintain your milk supply, but also reduce the risk of clogged milk duct.
A hand-free electric pump is what every people recommend, and for good reasons. It is effective, easy to use and allow you to be alone and relax.
However, an electric pump can be bulky sometimes. Make sure you get the one for travel.
If you already own a bulky electric pump, a hand pump like Haakaa works just fine. I actually prefer to use Hanakaa while traveling, as it is simple, easy and doesn’t require any other parts, it doesn’t even require electricity!
A pump has many parts that you have to install and uninstall every pumping time. While some parts are really small, they can get lost after a wash.
So make sure you have some extra pump parts, those that you often lose like the valves. So that you will not have any problem during the trip even if you become clumsy here and there.
And I always recommend you to carry a small manual pump, just for back up of the back up.
Power adapters, battery, extension cord
These are essential items when you have to pump at a different place from your home, to ensure there will be no problem hooking up the pump to the power. If the outlet is different, you have something to fix the issue.
Even though using a battery for your pump will shorten its durability, but in case of pumping on the go without electricity, it is a life-saver.
What about extension cord? Remember how short the pump cord is? It can be hard to stand next to the outlet to pump for the next 30 minutes.
Hand-free pumping bra
To give you some relaxation time, turn on the TV or music, or make a video call with your little one while pumping milk. But wait, who will hold the pump for you?
Answer: the pumping bra.
Also see: Best nursing bras for large breasts.
I know you are a proud (or reckless) mom who doesn’t cover while nursing your baby in public. But it is kinda weird if you pump without your baby and without any cover.
You don’t want people to stare at your nipples being sucked out, do you?
Milk storage bottles are too damn expensive, so storage bags work well for me. However, as I don’t want to defrost the whole bag, and saving half of it until next feed, I store enough milk for each feed into one bag.
If Ethan doesn’t want the whole 300ml milk bag, mommy will pour those precious drops into 2 bags.
Bottle washing liquid and brush
Do not rely on the normal washing liquid or the washing gel of the hotel. You know even though we try hard to rinse the pump and bottles very well, a bit of washing liquid still stays there. And it might go to your baby’s sensitive tummy.
Carry your own baby bottle washing liquid and brush for ease of mind and safety.
Micro steam bags
I cannot carry a bottle steamer with me, so I take some micro steam bags on the road. All I need is a microwave (at any hotel) and some water. Then off the go to the microwave and everything comes out nice and clean for me.
Ease of mind.
A big bowl
Traveling while breastfeeding without a baby means a lot of pumping and cleaning during the day/ night.
Now that I’m just being very careful. Because I soak the pump parts and bottle into hot water once a day. And when I’m at the hotel, I still try to do this without taking those things into the toilet and dump to the sink.
So I carry a big bowl for that purpose.
Not just the normal wipes that you use to wipe your baby’s butt, even though you should carry some to wipe your breasts off any leftover milk.
These are the wipes that you can use to wipe the pump parts and bottles.
I’m not sure if you know this, but I will tell you anyway. You don’t have to wash and sanitize the pump parts and bottles after each pump. You can store them in a ziplock bag and put everything inside a refrigerator.
After you freeze all the hard-earned milk bags, now how do you take them back home? Pay for a special shipping service that can maintain the best condition for the milk and costs an arm and a leg?
That’s where a cooler comes to rescue.
It keeps the milk bags frozen for a straight 24 hours. So that even if you have to travel a very long distance, you are rest assured that your milk bags are safe for your baby to use.
In case you are nowhere near a refrigerator after you are done pumping, instead of leaving the precious milk as is, and dumping it later, you put them in a bag with ice packs. The ice packs keep your milk fresh up to 8 hours and then you can transfer them to the freezer.
If you travel by plane, make sure you take a look at the airline's guidelines. Generally speaking, you are forbidden to carry any liquid with you on the plane. So all the milk must be frozen.
On the road
If the traveling is too long, you might have to pump on the road. Make sure you have everything you need: pump, battery, nursing cover, storage bags.
How to wash your bottle and pump on the road
Let’s say you are on the plane and you have to pump your milk. After you get done, you put your milk into a bag with ice packs to keep them fresh. What do you do with your pump parts and bottles? Go to the toilet and wash them there?
I don’t know about you, but I never want to take any pump parts and milk bottles to anywhere near the toilet. I don’t know if everything in there is clean, the door, the handle, if the air in there is clean. And I can’t even tell if the water on the plane is good to use.
Here is the solution: special wipes for quick clean. You can try Medela quick clean wipes.
Is there any impact to the milk if being screened at the airport?
No. X-rays used in airport screenings have no effect on breastfeeding and breast milk.
What happens to you and your baby when you get home?
Many moms worry that their babies will forget about them after a few days away. And when they return, they might have to teach them how to latch and drink milk directly from the breasts again.
Well, young babies do have a short memory and they can easily forget things. But not their moms and how to latch. Especially when you are only away for a few days. They will be excited and happy to see you again. They will drink milk from your breasts while making eye contact with you, just to see your face (awww, so cute, I know).
However, though, remember not to jump straight to your baby right away. Take a very careful and detailed shower before even touching him. You know how crazy things are now and God knows how many bacteria and germs you bring home with you.
A few days getaway, even due to business or pleasure, is a great way to refresh your mind, get your body rested, and make you appreciate every precious moment with your little one.
If you are traveling while breastfeeding without a baby, make sure you print out the checklist as a guide on how to prepare and what to pack.