Air Travel Series: Pumping On A Plane (Less Scary Than Snakes)

Oh yes, my friends. Breast pumping on an airplane. I’ve done it many times, and I promise you – it’s possible! My tips for a successful travel pump sesh below.

Before You Go: Make sure to check that the plane you’ll be on has outlets under/by the seat to plug in your pump. This is pretty standard now on planes, but you can check out Seat Guru to be sure. Seat Guru is a website that lets you see the map of any airplane – seat layouts, amenities, etc. It’s pretty cool especially if you’re planning a long/international trip.

At Security: Make sure to let the TSA agent know you’re traveling with pumping stuff and have the cooler separate from your bag if there is milk or ice in it. They will likely need to scan. They HAVE to let you bring breast milk on the plane, by law.

What Not To Do: Use a hand pump. Listen, it’s going to be awkward either way, but if you’re under the nursing cover manually pumping (aside from it being labor-intensive) it’s just going to make it that much more awkward for you and your neighbor. I don’t think I need to elaborate.

What To Bring

Pump Bag: I like to use this awesome bag from LL Bean because it’s the perfect size for under the plane seat, has a zipper, and has a water-resistant thermoplastic interior in case of spills. It fits my pump, hard cooler, my nursing cover, all my pump pieces, and any other odds and ends I need easily accessible on the flight.

Pump: Duh.

Pump Pieces: Don’t forget all of them. It’s a lot to remember, honestly. I like to pre-assemble 2 entire “sets” (bottle, pump, suction cup, flange) and place in ziplock bags the night before a trip. That way when you get on the plane and need to pump, you’re not fumbling around trying to assemble everything. Imagine dropping (and thus contaminating) a piece while you’re on a plane with your boob out. Hells no.

Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags: No matter if you’re traveling for one day or 5, you will need to reuse the bottles you’re pumping with, so bring plenty of them. 

Sharpie: Sounds silly, but it was a huge hassle when I forgot my sharpie pen once. I had to write the date and quantity on each milk bag with a regular pen and it smudged everywhere and became basically illegible.

Igloo Mini Playmate Cooler : Do you think I’m crazy for suggesting you bring a cooler on a plane? No guys, this thing will save you! You can use a soft cooler if you like for space saving, but I found that a small hard cooler was PERFECT – much better insulation to keep the milk cold, and perfect size for carrying on in a big bag/transfering to a fridge at your destination.

Reusable Ice PacksOne or two will do the trick – you can also fill up ziplock bags with ice at the airport lounges and again on the plane during beverage service, if you have a lot of milk to keep cool.

Ziploc Gallon Slider Storage Bags: Lots of them. You’ll want to have bags to keep sets of newly washed pump pieces and bags for dirty sets. You can also use them to fill with ice to keep milk cool (see last point). The longer you’ll be gone, the more bags you should bring.

Babyganics Foaming Dish and Bottle Soap On-The-Go: This is my preferred method for cleaning pump pieces on the road – with hot soapy water. Medela makes easy wipes as well, but I find them weird and greasy and I’d rather use soap.

Bebe au Lait Muslin Nursing Cover:  This will really cut back on the awkwardness, especially if you’re sitting next to a weird guy in his 20s watching Silence Of The Lambs on a 7 AM flight to Tampa. Not that that ever happened to me… I like this one because it’s soft, has adjustable straps, and comes in lots of prints (some of them are not hideous!)

Now you’re all set to pump! I like to warm my seat mate ahead of time that I’ll be pumping. 9/10 times it’s been either a kindly grandmotherly woman or a nice business traveling Dad who totally get it and are very nice about the whole thing. Good luck lil Mama!

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