It is no secret to us Mom’s that what we see on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest is a far cry from what a real Mom’s life is like. Perfect homes with perfect pictures and perfect bokeh and nails done at the salon every two weeks grace our screens as we aspire to SuperMom status.
We all know this isn’t reality, we understand that carefully crafted views into the lives of others are, well, crafted. We also understand that the messiness of our own homes and lives is part and partial to the roles we are playing. Wife, mother, employee. How messy it might be depends on the person.
Being a breastfeeding mom comes with its own set of challenges. My first son was bottle fed as breastfeeding just didn’t work (not for a lack of trying). I was lucky in being able to work from home with him, and within a year I started traveling. I don’t travel much, maybe 2-3 times a year, but as a bottle feeding Momma I didn’t have to think about things like how to pump on an airplane.
Fast forward six years to baby number two. I still work from home, which has helped tremendously, but when I travel it is usually for anywhere from 3-5 days at a time and that has proven to be extremely difficult.
Problems I Had to Solve
I was scheduled to attend NAB, a (very large) conference in Las Vegas, Nevada early April of 2019. This lead to all kinds of questions about issues I wasn’t sure about navigating. Those hurdles included:
- Be able to pack pump parts and still have room for my equipment, cloths, and all the things
- Flying on planes and dealing with layovers
- Navigate staying in a hotel, having a refrigerator, and hope it was cold enough
- As I was working a booth, I had to make sure I could get away every couple hours to pump
- I had to find somewhere to go to pump whether at the airport or at the conference
- Figure out how I was going to keep pump parts clean while at the conference, as well as in the hotel (I mean, hotel bathroom counters… ewwww….)
- Get my milk back home, cold and drinkable (because as much as I know I shouldn’t, I TOTALLY cry over spilt milk)
This seems overwhelming, and that is because it is. As soon as I discovered I was headed to NAB, I started to do my homework and find solutions to these problems.
Packing The Suitcase
Usually when I work a conference, I don’t just have the usual cloths and makeup and such, I also have laptops and power cables and cameras and enough crap to carry to make my shoulders hurt for a month.
Now I have to add pump parts, oh my!
Admittedly, I didn’t find much of a solution here as my suitcase just wasn’t big enough so I reduced the equipment side as much as I could. That said, here are the pump parts I packed:
- Medela Pump N’ Style pump motor, tubing, and wall plug
- 6 sets of flanges, bottles, and the fixin’s (you know, those little white things that get lost and ripped every other pump session, yea those)
- Double pump bralette
- Medela Harmony pump (manual pump), and the fixin’s
- Small soft sided cooler
- Ice pack
- Pump cleaning wipes (I like the singles so I can stuff them in my bag)
- Bottle cleaning brush and a straw cleaning brush
- Small bottle of Dawn dish soap
- Dish cloth and dish towel
- Bottle of Lysol wipes
This seems like a lot, cause it is. I could probably cut back a little, but I’m one of those folks who insists on being prepared for everything and honesty, I used every single item on this list.
So where did I pack it all? Most of all this stuff went into my suitcase. I brought my big pump for the hotel room, primarily. I kept my manual pump, cooler, ice pack (that is an interesting story in and of itself), straw cleaning brush, and wipes in my day bag.
Navigating TSA, Finding Pumping Rooms, and Dealing with the Flight
I was warned about taking ice packs through TSA, so I packed my ice pack in my suit case. I went through security, hoped on the monorail to get to the airside of the airport, and located my gate. Then, I set off to locate a place to pump.
Pittsburgh International Airport hosts a Mothers’ Nursing Lounge right off Concourse C. The room is locked, requiring a code entry. A phone right next to the door allows you to call the security line to request the code to gain entry.
This room is super comfy, with nice wall paper, a nice squishy chair, an ottoman, and a coffee table. Inside the coffee table drawer was a bunch of extra diapers, just in case you run out. The room was quite clean, and offered a sign in book where you could leave your review of the room. My only wish was that they would add a sink, but there is a sink in the kids play area right across the hall.
Now I have a problem. I have milk, I have no ice! Remember, I packed it for fear of TSA. So I took a stroll over to my friendly airport Starbucks and purchased a coffee, some flight snacks, and a bottle of water. I asked the cashier if they would be willing to fill my zip lock bag with some ice for my cooler to keep my breastmilk cold. She was fast to oblige with a very large smile.
Thanks Starbucks!! ❤️
I flew into Dallas/Lovefield airport. I set out again to locate a room to pump in. This proved to be a much harder find. It is located walking from security to the terminals, toward the food court. It is directly across from the kids play area, right next to a woman’s room.
To be honest, I was spoiled at PIT. This room has everything you need, a big chair, power for your pump, even a sink. But it was sparse, and the door fit high so you could see all the feet walking past and it sounded like the folks were in the room with you which to me was a little unnerving. Am I nit picking? Absolutely. But, I also really struggle with pumping and need the ability to relax to be able to produce any real output, so this setup didn’t really work for me. With all that said, they had a room that had everything you need which is more than you can say for many other public places!
Flying home, I went from McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas) to PIT. This time, I brought my ice pack (ensuring that it was completely frozen solid). TSA double checked my bag, but as soon as they saw it was pump equipment in there, they moved right along.
McCarran employs Mamava pods in several areas of the airport. If you are a nursing mom and haven’t come across these little slices of nursing/pumping nirvana, you are missing out. Mamava pods are portable pods of varying sizes that can usually accommodate at least one person with a baby and a small stroller. The door is secured (depending on the model, you may use a code entry, or even Bluetooth unlock using their smartphone app). There are seats, tables, power, light, pretty pictures of momma’s with their babies, and other amenities.
The Mamava app (iOS / Android) will tell you where pods are and even provide a map to help you find them. Even better, users can enter pods they find, or other nursing rooms so even if it is a physical room, it will tell you where to go to find it.
I didn’t bother pumping on the plane. If I had brought a cover, I might have using that with my nice and quiet manual pump. But I tried for all of half a second in the bathroom just as relief… that was a massive failure. I actually got motion sick from being in such an enclosed area, while moving, while looking down in a smelly room trying to get milk to come out.
At the Hotel….
The next challenge was the hotel. Being Las Vegas, my room was spartan. It had the necessities, but it lacked a coffee maker (the nerve!)…
Needless to say, there was no refrigerator. Down to the desk I go to request one, just to find out that it would be an extra $20 per night to have a fridge! I informed them if I must I must, but I need it to store the breastmilk I’m storing.
And just like that, I had a fridge sent to my room at no extra cost. The catch, of course, is making sure it is the right temperature. I need to be able to get the milk home, I’ll be gone for four whole days (so it will get frozen as soon as it makes it home), so I need the milk to be cold but not frozen.
I also need to freeze the ice pack.
MilkStork Is The Most Amazing Thing Ever
I mentioned earlier that I cry over spilt milk. Breastfeeding didn’t come easy for me, it was a very hard fought and won battle so the idea of loosing a precious drop just…
So I took to my local Facebook based breastfeeding group to ask how ladies handled getting milk home while on a trip. One of our kind members pointed me to the most AMAZING service ever.
Ever. As in ever. Ever ever.
MilkStork makes it easy to have a cooler arrive at your hotel (it even comes with milk storage bags), and when you are ready to travel home you can put your bags that you’ve kept cold in that hotel fridge into the cooler and either overnight it home using the prepaid label or bring it with you on your trip.
I opted to ship mine home.
The service is certainly not cheap, but it is so well put together and super easy to use. They take All the guess work out of the process, and you may even get your employer to expense the cost.
Working the show
I love conferences. What are people like me called… conference junkies? Anyway, I love networking, I love learning, I love seeing new tech, I love seeing my friends that I don’t get to see any other time thanks to distance.
I don’t love having to pump while working a conference. Oopha.
The best bet here is to make a plan for yourself. Know what time you plan to be there (and give yourself a little extra time to pump before the show floor opens), know when you want to have lunch, know when it is time to leave.
Luckily, the Las Vegas Convention Center has Mamava pods available, so I made sure to combine my pump trip with my bathroom break, and the same at lunch. My coworkers understood that this was something I had to do and made sure to give me breaks to get it done. Using the Mamava app helped me find the pods, the nice men (who didn’t even bat an eyelash when I asked) at the information desk had no problems not only telling me where they were but also how to get in touch with security if I had any trouble at all.
I took my manual pump, cooler, and ice pack with me that I packed in my day bag. I also had a tiny straw brush (that I kept clean in a plastic baggy), Medela pump cleaning wipes, and wet ones. The Mamava pod was kindly stocked with a garbage can, sani-wipes, even a mirror (you know, it is good to make sure you are fully covered again when you leave the pod…).
Drink TONS of Water
Make sure, especially when you are working or walking a conference, to drink LOTS of water and tea. You WILL have trouble with your voice. The air WILL be dry and suck. There WILL be tons of germs. Water and tea will help keep you healthy, hydrated, and the milk flowing.
Don’t Forget to Eat
I am the absolute queen of feeding my household multiple times in a day and then realizing I haven’t eaten a thing and it is 3pm.
Don’t be me.
Make sure to keep eating, as healthy as possible (though that is hard at a conference so give yourself some slack). Calories will help you keep your energy throughout the day and continue your milk supply.
Bring Hand Sanitizer
You will shake lots of hands, and depending on the type of show you are at, touch lots of equipment other hands have already touched. Keep those paws clean.
Conferences are insane. Things get super busy, super fast and it can be hard to remember when you last had a potty break. Seriously, take the breaks when you can. Walk the floor, use the restroom, pump, grab a drink and a snack, stretch, whatever. Take.the.breaks.
Heading Home to Your Family
After a few days, I got to head home. I had fun at the show, I always do. As excited as I was to go, however; I was just as excited (if not more) to come home and see my husband and babies (and dogs, and cats…).
Unfortunately, since I’m such an inefficient pumper, usually by day 2 I am all clogged up and the nausea has set in. I deal with it as best I can, I know it will happen so I just have to do everything I can to avoid Mastitis (pump as often as possible, lots of massage and warm compresses, I’ll even express in the shower… spilt milk and all). That means my little milk monster has some work to do!!
When I get home, he does quite the job of catching up and I just love all the snuggles. I also love that in an overnight trip, all the milk I pumped and stored and kept cold has arrived home and is ready for my munchkin.