Yep! It’s all possible & you can totally do this!
I spent the first few months of my daughter’s life feeling like I couldn’t get a break. I returned to work when she was 13 weeks old and after that immediately started balancing working, pumping and traveling (both domestically and internationally). It wasn’t so bad once I established my routine; I was basically pumping based on her at home feeding schedule.
I had my moments where I thought to myself why in the world am I doing this? Number 1 why did I go back to a job and take on a new role that required me to travel upwards of 30%, why did I take on a new job where I had way too many direct reports for one person to manage with the promise that things would get better & most importantly why did I do this to myself knowing that I had a new baby at home?! I guess I must like challenges! LOL! I figured out a way to make it work & honestly by 2 weeks in I had my routine down & was a pro. Here’s how I made it work for me & quite frankly how you can make it work for you:
On a regular work day:
- Prepare yourself the night before for a workday with scheduled pump breaks – C was responsible for washing all pump parts and putting my pump bag together. The key things I took to work were my Medela Freestyle pump bag with breast pump, 2 sets of flanges, 4 – 8oz bottles, Munchkin bottle storage bag, 4 Medela cleaning wipes, zip loc bags and an ice brix to keep the milk cold while I was at work.
- When I returned to work I scheduled meetings in my calendar that corresponded with my daughter’s nursing times at home. Basically when our au pair was giving her a bottle, I was a busy little bee pumping milk for her at work. If I felt stressed by work I would look at pictures of her while I pumped instead of focusing on work. Thankfully my job had a separate room for pumping, but when that room was occupied I booked a conference room & pumped there.
- After each pumping session I would put my flanges inside the zip loc bag, stick the milk back into the little carrying case & put the milk in our shared refrigerator. Everyone knew I was pumping at that point so no one touched my milk.
- At the end of my day, I’d take everything home, clean up the parts, transfer milk into bottles for the next day, freeze the extra & then start all over again.
Traveling for the first time was a challenge. I followed the same process as above once I was at whatever location I was working from; however, I carried quite a few extras with me.
- Polartech Insulated Cooler – I always carried an insulated cooler to #1 keep my milk contained, but to also have dedicated space for my milk to be carried onto an aircraft. I have used these insulated coolers from Amazon on 50+ flights domestically and internationally – trust me they are tried and true. I have them in two sizes – small and medium. Small for short trips (usually domestic 2-3 days) and large for longer trips (usually international 5-7 days).
- Ice brix – I LOVE these things…they’re basically dry ice replacements. I traveled for over 12 hours with my icebrix and insulated cooler, milk stayed cold the entire flight and car ride home.
- Nuk Milk Storage Bags – I switched between brands, first use Kiinde which I loved for when I was at home, then used Avent for traveling, but my favorite for travel was Nuk. I was able to get all the air out quickly & arrange these pretty close together in the cooler to ensure there was no leakage.
I had no problems during all of my domestic travel. I carried the TSA regulations with me related to breast milk. There were a few airports that I had to undergo additional screening, but I was upfront about my situation. Because I carried breast milk on the plane with me, I would check my luggage even though it was carry on size. When going through security screening, I always notified the TSA officer that I was carrying breast milk and understood if they needed to do additional screening for me or the milk. In so many cases this was much appreciated and I was thanked more than once for being open about my “situation.” Generally speaking, the milk went through the security scanner and in some airports (Vegas, Hartford, Miami, San Francisco, and LA) I had to have an additional pat down & a couple of bags had to be put into the screening machine. There were no issues, no leaking of milk & everything was handled quite delicately. Most of the time women screened me so they had lots of questions. When I was screened by men, they were either silent or very talkative explaining that they would share these tips with their wives.
Traveling internationally came with its own set of challenges. My international travels were countries in Europe & the rule(s) seemed to be the same. No more than a certain amount if baby was not traveling with you. On majority of my trips I was traveling alone, so I had to figure out a way to transport milk safely back home to my very hungry M-pillar! I was generally gone 5-7 days internationally and didn’t have access to a freezer, only to a refrigerator. So I would post in Human Milk for Human Babies about donating milk for the first few days of my trip & then take home the milk from like Wednesday onwards. I met/helped several wonderful women whose babies thrived well on donated breast milk. The night before I was scheduled to fly home, I’d ask my hotel to store the ice brix in their freezer so that they could be frozen by the morning (they would not store milk for health reasons so they say). In the morning before leaving for the airport I would request my ice brix from the hotel & then ensure all of the milk was flat and sealed. I’d line them up in a row and then put bubble wrap around them to ensure the milk bags didn’t move around a ton during transport. After that I’d line the bottom of the cooler with ice brix, put the rows of milk in, put ice brix on top and then put the lid on. I’d then tape the cooler shut so the top wouldn’t come off. Last thing I’d do is pack the cooler in my suitcase and secure it with clothes and shoes wedged in to make sure the cooler itself didn’t move around much. I realize that airlines are not super friendly with luggage, so I took extra care to ensure my milk’s safety! THOU SHALL NOT WASTE LIQUID GOLD! 😉
Some of my trips were longer/harder than others, but I made this all work for me & you can too!
I now know what to expect is baby #2 ever comes along & I’m (still) working, pumping and traveling!