Welcome to The Essentials, a new sometimes feature here on the blog where I can show some of the products that are in my survival toolkit. To kick things off, I’m starting with my “traveling mom” edition, a list of those products I found essential as a mom traveling without my kid. This list is mostly geared toward a mom who is still nursing/pumping, but there’s one little tip at the end that will also be helpful for traveling mommies in general. Let’s get started, shall we?
- A good pump. Of course, where else to start? I already have a heavy duty pump, since I pump for the kid while I’m at work. I personally have the Medala Pump in Style, which is a spendy little number, but for the trip, I considered just buying a little handheld job (like this one). I knew I was going to have to pump either at airports or on the airplane, and I thought a handheld might be easier. In the end, I opted to just take my big mamajama because I was going to be pumping 6 or so times a day to keep up with how often the kid was nursing. If he had been a little older, with fewer nursings per day, I might have gone the handheld route.
- Some pump accessories. If you bring an electric pump, and you know you’re going to have to pump while actually traveling (in the air/car/train), I would strongly suggest a battery pack if that’s an option, and some extra batteries. It was stressful enough to figure out pumping at the airport without having to worry about finding an outlet in a quiet spot. I would also suggest bringing one extra set of whatever you’ll pump into (bottles for me), and one extra set of membranes for your pump. Because if that gives out you’re going to kick yourself.
- Storage for the breastmilk. I didn’t want to spend all this time pumping while I was gone and just dump the milk. So, I needed a way to store it while on my trip. The first part of that: milk storage bags. I use these Lansinoh Storage Bags, rather than bottles. I’ve tried the Medala ones also, but I don’t like them as much, so I just stuck with what I normally use. Let me give you a tip though: bring more than you think you’ll need. I brought what I thought was enough, but I was wrong. Which resulted in a trip to the Times Square Toys R Us (in the rain, while I was sick) to pick up some more. Lest you not be near a Target or Babies R Us when you travel, take my tip and just bring extras.
- Storage for the breastmilk, part 2. Of course, what to do with all that breastmilk? Ask your hotel to help out. Here’s what I did: Three days before my trip, I called to verify my reservation. When I did, I asked the nice reservation guy if there were refrigerators in the rooms that can be used for guests items. When he said no (be prepared for that–even if there are minibar fridges, most hotels don’t allow you to use them), I asked whether there was anything the hotel could recommend if I needed to refrigerate items while I was there. For an extra $25 for my entire stay, I was able to request a mini-fridge all to myself. Totally worth the money, IMO. Based on my research, that may not always be an option, but I’ve heard of hotels allowing guests to use a part of their fridges. You just have to ask. Tip here: don’t be shy about the fact that you need a place to store breastmilk. Seriously, it’s a service profession and I can GUARANTEE they’ve heard much stranger requests.
- Lanolin (unless you’re allergic). One of the best tips I read when I first started pumping was to use lanolin EVERY time you pump. I promise you, this saved me from giving up on pumping. I personally love the Medala Tender Care, which goes on way easier than the Lansinoh stuff I had. Anyway, when you’re traveling, this is doubly important–you’re in airplanes and hotels that have lots of recirculated, dry air, which does nasty things to your skin, much less your tender bits. Seriously, every time.
- Cell phone. Besides that whole, calling to keep in touch with the family at home, your cell phone can play a very important role in this whole thing. Load that sucker up with photos of the baby. Record his voice (either with a voice tool, or just call your voicemail and record the baby). If you have the option of video clips, do that too. These are great tools for 1)when you miss that kid more than you thought possible, 2) when your meetings are draining your will to live and 3) when you have a hard time letting down to pump. Now, that last one, I wasn’t expecting. I’ve never had a problem letting down for the pump (knock on wood), but while I was traveling? Nope, no let down. It makes sense, between the stress and the missing him and the weird environment. But those things on my phone were super helpful to help with letdown. And even my old, non-smart phone had those capabilities, so you should have a few options here, no matter the sophistication (or lack of) that your phone has.
So there you have it, my list of necessities for a traveling, nursing mom (sans baby). It takes a little more planning, a little more effort, but it’s totally possible to keep it up while away from your baby.
Oh, and I didn’t include a way to get the milk home, because I went totally ghetto and just put it in my suitcase in ziplock storage bags that were wrapped in about 5 plastic grocery bags. You know, cuz I’m fabulous that way. I just froze some of them in the freezer part of the mini-fridge the night before I traveled home so that I didn’t have to worry about ice packs or anything. Again, cuz I’m fabulous. But it worked, without having to buy anything new or worry about paying to ship the stuff home.
As always, more lists can be found over at Anna’s at abdpbt!