I recently reconnected with an old friend who is taking on a new job requiring travel, and she reached out with some questions regarding pumping on the road, so I thought I'd share them here.
Some insightful airports have nursing rooms and you can find a list here, but you'll find that some of them are just family restrooms (yuck!), and even in California, one of the most progressive states, only SFO has nursing rooms!
For airports with nursing rooms, it usually has a posted sign indicating that only
parents with children are allowed, and most are locked with a number to call if you want to use it.
I'm sure that they will probably make exceptions for nursing moms without infants, but I have personally never tried to use one, so can't be sure of amenities.
If you have the unfortunate luxury of being a frequent flier with airline lounge benefits, that is also sometimes a good place to pump. I've yet to find a lounge with a nursing room, but their restrooms are always much cleaner, and some of them more private workspace cubbies (with outlets!) where you can set up and pump.
Because of all the airport uncertainty, I've done a few things to mitigate -
First I always try to pump or breastfeed right before I leave for the airport. Even if it's one last pump at the office, or a meeting place, it can really help with not having to worry about breaking out my pump at the last minute. Plus, there is nothing more stressful than pumping while worrying about missing your boarding time!
What has really saved me though, is my trusted Medela Harmony hand pump. It's lightweight, quite efficient, and i carry it almost everywhere I go.
This hand pump allows me to discreetly pump in a taxi while I'm headed to the airport, so i can take advantage of the down time. Remember to bring spare milk storage bags with you, so that you can pour your milk into them when you're done.
I keep all of the parts in a ziploc bag, so that when I am done pumping, I just put it back in the bag for easy, mess free storage.
My trusted hand pump also allows me to discreetly pump on the plane. The drop in pressure and altitude always causes me to let down, and is actually a good opportunity to pump before the aisles start to get crowded with people getting up and moving. For added discretion, simply wear your nursing cover, and you'll have that additional coverage from your companion travelers.
On a cross country flight, I'll pump at least once, and up to two times. The most important thing is not how often you're pumping, but that you are keeping to your regular pumping/nursing schedule. With the flexibility of a hand pump, you can keep to your schedule.
I also make sure to bring my insulated bag with a frozen cooler pack, so once I'm done pumping, can safely store my milk.
The alternative to this is your battery operated double pump. I still use my electric pump when I am not in transit - so it's set up in the office, at the nursing rooms, in the hotel etc. Because it has more parts, it's not as desirable for me to pump on the go.
Remember that if you are traveling with breast milk and don't want to put it through the X-ray in security, you can always request for a hand check. Your insulated bag and cooler pack can also be hand checked together.
Hopefully these tips will mitigate travel being a nursing barrier, and help more moms nurse until they are ready to wean!