So I traveled a lot in October. Not just my normal day-travel where I am in the car for 5-6 hours during the day, but home for dinner... October was complicated. I traveled by airplane, leaving my boy for several nights in a row. I was away from my normal pumping or breastfeeding routine. Wesley is 9 months old and I have been privileged to give him nothing but breast milk (with the exception of purees) for his whole life. There are definitely times where it is challenging, pumping and feeding. The first few weeks of October were challenging.
The first trip took me away from my little man for 4 days. I did my best to pump like crazy during the weeks leading up to our trip. I took phenugrek three times a day in order to keep up my supply. I’m able to bank 6-8 ounces of “extra” milk everyday, thanks to pumping early morning and late night while Wesley is sleeping. This is awesome, but it takes a lot of milk to be gone for 4 days! Beyond that, I was only home for a few days before I had to turn around and leave again! I needed all the milk I pumped while away to make it through the next time I needed to leave Wesley. I didn't have the luxury of pumping and dumping just to keep up my supply – I needed every ounce!
While I was gone I pumped. I pumped in the car during breaks, woke up early to pump before our conference, and pumped before going to bed. It was very cold in Kansas so my cooler and ice pack were sufficient to keep the milk cold before I was able to get everything back to the fridge in our hotel room. It was an awesome fridge and everything I put in it froze completely in about 12 hours. Thankfully, our flight was short and I didn't have to worry about pumping at the airport or on the plane…
My second trip was a completely different story. While I was only gone from Wesley for 2 nights, my flight was 3 hours long. Add in travel time, I was away from privacy for 5+ hours. Although I wish I could have avoided it, I pumped at the airport.
Pumping is much more cumbersome than nursing. When I’d just cover up and nurse Wesley anywhere, I do not feel as comfortable pumping in “public.” Add in the fact that I need an electric outlet, ice pack, and my pump is large, it is inconvenient to say the least.
I've pumped in public restrooms before and really hate it. I end up dumping ever ounce because it creeps me out. It’s nearly impossible to relax in the restroom. But where else could I pump? I considered the $50 day pass to the American Airlines lounge, but couldn't justify $50! Thankfully, DFW is a huge airport with lots of electrical outlets. While scoping out the food situation, I checked for quiet sections of the airport. I found a corner chair in a lobby near a plug. While there were other people around, it was relatively unpopulated. I situated myself, plugged in, covered myself with a blanket, and pumped away. If anyone noticed, they didn't gawk. After a few minutes, I got comfortable and surfed the internet on my phone. Mission accomplished!
I chose to carry-on my pump in my overnight bag. I had an ice pack, milk bags, lunch bag, pump, scarf for privacy, and lots of anti-bacterial gel. Having all of this in my possession rather than checking a bag also ensured that if anything were to happen to my checked luggage, I’d have my pump. I actually found that pumping in a public location to be easier than I thought. Definitely not ideal, but not as challenging as I thought. If I hadn't found a corner chair, I was ready to ask for a free pass to the American Airlines Lounge or speak with the chaplain about the chapel. Thankfully, everything worked out just fine.
My return trip had me flying out of LAX - a HUGE and VERY busy airport. I was in more of a hurry and never found a quiet corner. I ended up pumping just before I left my retreat center and as soon as I got to the car I plugged in again to pump. It was about 5-6 hours, but I was fine.
Next month I will be walking 60 miles in 3 days. Believe it or not, I think this year is actually going to be more challenging than last year…even though last year I was 31 weeks pregnant! How will I pump on the route? There aren't any outlets… Wesley and Jarrod will be around to cheer for us, but I cannot guarantee that Wesley will be hungry when I am around. We’ll work it out, but it’s definitely stressful to think about how I’ll make it work.
I know there is not a medal for breastfeeding for a year. I know there is no medal for a medicine-free birth. The reward is a healthy baby and doing what I can to encourage a healthy lifestyle for my child. No judgment for anyone who cannot breastfeed – I know I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to breastfeed as long as I can. I also know that I am incredibly stubborn and am willing to make a lot of sacrifices to stick with it...not to mention thrifty!I know I’m not alone – lots of mothers have made incredible sacrifices to ensure that their baby gets breast milk for as long as possible. I am so lucky that Wesley takes both the breast and the bottle willingly. I am lucky that Wesley hasn't displayed any allergies. I’m also blessed that we haven’t had any major breastfeeding complications. I’ll keep feeding him as long as he’ll have me.
Here are a few things I learned this month because of my travels:
- Pump whenever you can. If you don’t know when you’ll be able to pump again, pump. Even if you just did or just fed the baby.
- Don’t be embarrassed. Find a quiet place and do it. I pumped wherever I would feed Wesley. Before this month I’d look for a very private place but I’m over that now. If I would pump Wesley sitting in a lounge at the airport, that’s where I’ll pump.
- Carry an ice pack and thermos lunch sack. Milk is good for about 5 hours without being refrigerated. But when a fridge isn't handy, a cooler is just about as good. I put my whole used pump and milk bag right in the cooler. I am not comfortable “cleaning” the pump stuff in a public restroom so the cooler is just as good!
If you are struggling to keep going, here's come encouragement - you aren't alone! I struggle everyday to keep pumping. Discouraged because you aren't able to breastfeed? Take heart - you're a fantastic mama and are doing a wonderful job!