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Traveling for the Breastfeeding Mama : Flying

Traveling for the Breastfeeding Mama

Just speaking the words “travel” or “flying” may send a breastfeeding mother into complete turmoil. Whether you were an traveler before baby, or not, adding the task of breastfeeding into that mix is totally daunting and overwhelming for many. Questions and concerns around this topic are ones we get pretty regularly. And while being a breastfeeding mama changes some things, it is totally do-able and extremely common. It will require a little more planning and preparation, but we’re breaking it all down for you here to make it all a little easier.  

Before travel
Things will vary a bit depending on whether you’re traveling with your baby, or if you’ll pump while away. Before your trip, it is highly recommended you look into your airline’s policy around breastfeeding and pumping on board. There are no restrictions on either, but each airline will have slightly different variations and may offer accommodations. Printing out or taking a screen shot of the policy to bring while traveling is also advised. It is rare, but if you come across a flight attendant or passenger that challenge your rights, having the policy on hand will be useful. Business Insider recently published an article listing 11 major airlines and their policies on breastfeeding/pumping. Here it is! 

If you have specific questions, don’t hesitate to call or email your airline (email is great if you want your answers documented). Bonus: if you personally reach out you may score a free upgrade or get special accommodations!

Between flights
It Is important to consider where you will be comfortable pumping or feeding while in the airport. Early arrival times, layovers and unexpected delays are common, and it can feel like an almost impossible task to find a quiet, private place in a busy airport. The Friendly Airports for Mothers Act passed in 2018 has pushed more airports across the country to provide dedicated lactation areas for breastfeeding mothers. Larger airports have renovated nursing rooms equipped with comfortable seating, outlets for charging your pump, and diaper changing stations. The most impressive and worth mentioning is St. Paul International Airport in Minneapolis. This airport has a total of THREE lactation centers (note I said centers not just rooms) with deep sinks for cleaning pumping parts or bottles and soft lighting for a more relaxing experience. Minneapolis not in your travel plans? Google any airport with “nursing room” to see what they have to offer. Another option is investing in a nursing cover up and comfortable nursing top or bra. Check out our favorites HERE!

While some medium and larger sized airports are awaiting grants and renovation plans for nursing suites, many are opting for more affordable “pods” called Mamava’s. These pods resemble a small camping trailer and offer an enclosed space with a bench, collapsible table, AC, USB power outlet and additional, yet limited, space for stroller, luggage, etc.  According to Mamava, the 10 Best Airports for Breastfeeding Moms are:

  1. 1. San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  2. 2. John F. Kennedy International Airport(JFK)
  3. 3. Logan International Airport (BOS)
  4. 4. George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
  5. 5. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)
  6. 6. Newark International Airport (EWR)
  7. 7. Orlando International Airport (MCO)
  8. 8. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
  9. 9. Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
  10. 10. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Over 1,000 pods are available at airports and a variety of other public spaces. Download their free app, here, for specific pod locations across the country! 

TSA guidelines on breastmilk
Yes, you CAN bring more than 3.4oz of breastmilk or formula past security. Isn’t that a relief? This is probably the most common question we get.  Just be sure to take it out of your bag and keep it separate from your other carry-on belongings at security.  Ice packs and like items are also allowed to keep milk from going bad. You can store expressed milk safely at room temperature for up to 8 hours and refrigerated for up to 24 hours using ice packs and a cooler bag.  Your pump may come with a cooler and specific ice pack to work with bottles, but if not - make sure you grab one that makes efficient use of your space while traveling! You can see some of our breastfeeding favorites here.

In a pinch for ice/or a cooler? Ask the flight attendant for fresh ice as needed, or if you’re comfortable, ask if there is free fridge space aboard the aircraft for you to use. It is unlikely, but may be worth the ask! If you are bringing an electric breast pump, it is considered a medical device and does not count towards your number of carry-on items! Become more familiar with TSA’s guidelines to assure security check points are a breeze. 

Things to Think About
  • - Choosing your seat: an isle seat may be better for more room.
  • - Will you wants an isle seat for more room or a window seat for more privacy?
  • - Stay hydrated the days leading up to and during your flight
  • - Keep stress as low as possible to minimize impact on supply
  • - How to pack your pumping gear for easy access
  • -Being aware of your specific pumps needs (Do you need an outlet? Or batteries- What type? How many?)
  • - Breastfeeding during take off/landing or using a bottle/pacifier to equalize pressure for your baby
  • - Considering TSA pre-check before traveling with a small child or by yourself with your pumping equipment. Pre-check can make for a much smoother transition through airport security, decreasing your stress and providing you more time to pump before getting on your flight if needed.
  • Traveling with a newborn? Check out our FREE guide HERE for everything you need to know!

Post written by Caitlin LeBeau, TBH Team Member & Doula

Don’t forget to check out our newest adventure The Birth Lounge, listen in to The Birth Lounge Podcast, and follow us on Instagram at @tranquilitybyhehe! 


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