Typically, I’m a work-at-home momma. I work full time for a company based in another state, which means I’m fully “at the office” (read: my room) for 40+ hours per week, with the luxury of being able to immediately commute home should emergencies arise. For our family, we made a commitment to nursing for the first 12 months, another decision made easier by my remote employee status. I traveled a few times during both my kids’ first year, and invested a lot of worrying into the planning process. At the end of it, I made my goal of nursing for 12 months with both children, and managed to feel successful in my professional obligations as well.
Behind the scenes, though, was equal parts meticulous planning, furious researching, and copious worrying.
When I traveled for six full days for work in the final month of nursing my second baby, I was happy to have finally landed on a few things that make life easier for traveling, working, pumping, breastfeeding moms.
I’m mindful of how fortunate I am to have many brilliant women before me establish a much easier road, and hope my navigation list helps some other non-sleeping, list-making, and possibly panicking mom focus her energy somewhere more valuable.
- Reserve a space. By law, workplaces must have accessible, clean spaces for pumping – and provide pumping breaks. Call ahead to understand what that looks like at your location. And, bring a cover in case accommodations are cramped, cold, or otherwise not as private as desired.
- Ask about nursing stations/mom rooms in airports. These aren’t widely distributed yet, so be prepared to hike it to another terminal, or be directed to a bathroom. (Yep, I spent 30 minutes in the family bathroom at O’Hare fending off impatient knocks because my schedule didn’t allow time to jet over to another terminal).
- Ask for help. Many hotel rooms will accommodate a fridge/freezer if you tell them you’re nursing.
- Follow the rules. If you aren’t carting milk back home, your freezer pack still has to be frozen. I have a very kind TSA agent to thank for this one, who pulled me aside and said, “I’m supposed to confiscate this, but I’m going to go home and make a bottle for my four month old, and I know how hard this is.”
- Stay supplied. Bring steam cleaning bags and a mini dishwashing soap to keep parts clean while you’re on the road.
- Explore shipping options. I used MilkStork on my last trip, and was amazed by the level of detail put forth with this product. Not only did my box arrive early, but it was entirely prepped for someone staying in a hotel, right down to the circle stickers that sealed my box. While not cheap, this service also has a pre-written lobby for company sponsorship, which creates a lovely opportunity to educate and advocate for future mommas.
- Dress for the occasion. While the prospect of wearing dresses may be an exciting one, don’t forget that nursing logistics still stand when you’re pumping. No one says you can’t wear whatever you want, just be sure to think through what maneuvering an ensemble is likely to require when it comes time to pump.
- Know the value. Prioritizing nursing when you’re on the road requires commitment to the decision. Decide for your family where the value lies – and where it ends – so you can feel confident when you’re making your accommodations or making a decision to mix up your baby’s food sources.
- Expect to adjust. Even with careful planning, achieving a perfect pumping schedule when you’re already on an altered routine may be asking too much. Expect to miss a few sessions, and budget time in for longer ones in the morning and evenings before and after meetings.
- Ask your tribe. Many women are happy to share their own tips and tricks. I found myself sharing the company nursing room with a colleague acquaintance, and was thrilled when she e-mailed a few weeks later to ask for my advice on her upcoming travel. It’s human nature: we like to share things we know. Prior to that trip, I was on the receiving end of sage advice when I reached out to a local mom’s group via Facebook, asking what others did for work travel at 11 months. Along with the referral to the milk shipping service, I heard stories about introducing cow’s milk or adding in formula, all with the underlying theme that this wasn’t the massive hurdle I had mentally created.
Now it’s just a matter of packing.