The Ultimate Guide to Pumping and Traveling

Returning to work in itself is already hard enough, and then you find out you have to travel. On top of that, if you're still breastfeeding, you may have to navigate pumping + traveling for the first time. You're probably frantically googling "What are the airport regulations for breast milk?". "How long does breast milk stay cold for?" "What do I need to bring if I'm pumping and traveling?".

We've been there. We've forgotten pump parts and didn't realize it until we were on the plane (cue all of the tears). We've pumped next to our bosses bosses boss on a plane. We've pumped in Ubers, in yellow New York cabs, in restaurants, on the airport floor, and in public restrooms. 

So we're here to bring you tips, resources and product recommendations for things that helped us along the way, in the hope it helps you get through business travel while pumping.

 

If you have any tips that aren't covered here, please share in the form below, or email us at thereturnityproject@gmail.com. 

We're all in this together.  

Pumping + Traveling Tips

Before you go

  • Call your hotel to make sure there's a fridge in the room to store your breast milk. Most hotels won't charge you if you say it's for breast milk. Also make sure they have it plugged in and ready to go for when you arrive.

  • Research where the nursing rooms are in the airports you'll be traveling through. Note a new law recently passed (Friendly Airports for Mothers Act) that requires all large and medium sized airports to have lactation rooms. 

    • You can also check it Mamava exists in your airport.

  • Triple check that you packed all of your pump parts. Literally go through the steps of putting it together to make sure you have everything. 

  • Check if your company offers MilkStork to cover shipping your breast milk home. If they don't, use this pre-populated email to request reimbursement before you travel. 

  • If you're attending a conference or meetings, ask ahead of time if there will be lactation rooms so you can plan. 

  • Block off your calendar to pump! This one seems easy but when you're traveling, you're running around and can lose track of time. Put pumping on your calendar so you never miss a session. 

What to Pack

  • Your pump

    • Make sure it's fully charged. And bring spare parts if you have them, just in case. ​

    • A breast pump is considered a medical device, which means it doesn't count as one of your two carryon items on the plane. See below for our favorite roundup of pump carry bags.

  • A cooler bag with frozen ice packs to store freshly expressed milk

  • Plastic storage bags. Lots and lots of them.

    • Sometimes you may find that the freezer packs in your cooler bag won't be cold enough for your journey. Put ice into disposable plastic storage bags to keep in your cooler. Before you go through security, ditch your ice bags. But once in the terminal, any restaurant should kindly fill new bags with fresh ice for you. Or your flight attendant will be glad to do it en route too!​

  • A hands-free pump bra

    • Bonus points if it can be worn as a regular bra for the entirety of your trip, so you're not strapping on a separate pump bra on the plane. See below for our favorites!

  • Cleaning supplies for the plane and your hotel room

    • Keep wipes (baby wipes or specialized breast pump wipes) on hand for a quick wipe down ​of your pump parts if pumping in transit.

    • Bring a small travel soap to clean your pump parts in your hotel room.

  • A Wet/Dry bag, to quickly stash your wet pump parts after pumping. See below for some good options.​

  • Wear a large sweatshirt or bring a pumping cover to pump in transit 

  • Enough milk storage bags or bottles to safely store the amount of milk you expect to pump while away.

Air Travel Regulations

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), expressed breast milk is allowed through airport security (even if your child is not with you) and is not subject to the volume limitation of typical liquids. It is in the category of “medicines,” so the rules do not apply. However, it is still subject to screening. 

 

At the airport, notify the TSA agent before you go through security of your transporting breast milk. Remove the milk from your carry-on bags and place it in a bin separate from the rest of your items. These liquids are typically screened by X-ray. 

TSA officers may need to test liquids for explosives or concealed prohibited items. Officers may ask you to open the container and/or have you transfer a small quantity of the liquid to a separate empty container or dispose of a small quantity, if feasible.

Inform the TSA officer if you do not want the formula, breast milk and/or juice to be X-rayed or opened. Additional steps will be taken to clear the liquid and you or the traveling guardian will undergo additional screening procedures, to include a pat-down and screening of other carry-on property.

If your TSA agent asks to stick a test strip directly into your milk, immediately ask for a supervisor as this is not protocol and can be avoided.

Transporting Breast Milk

​How long you can safely keep expressed breast milk depends on the storage method. Consider these general guidelines for healthy infants:

  • Room temperature: Freshly expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to six hours. However, use or proper storage within four hours is optimal. If the room is especially warm, the limit is also four hours.

  • Insulated cooler: Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to one day.

  • Refrigerator: Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of the refrigerator for up to five days in clean conditions. However, use or freezer storage within three days is optimal.

  • Ship it home using MilkStork and it arrives to your home overnight. No hassle and no worry!

  • As a general rule, don’t freeze your milk while traveling. If it defrosts on the way home, it cannot be re-frozen and will need to be consumed (or discarded) within three days.

Product Must Haves

Breast Pump Carry Bag

These bags can do it all - designed to hold your pump and all it's parts, while also serving as your purse, laptop sleeve and diaper bag - talk about an all-in-one!

Sarah Wells

Lizzie Breast Pump Bag w/Laptop Sleeve

Sarah Wells

Abby Breast Pump Bag w/Laptop Sleeve

Sarah Wells

Marie Breast Pump Bag w/Laptop Sleeve

Sarah Wells

Claire Breast Pump Bag w/Laptop Sleeve

Charlie G

The New Yorker Breast Pump Bag w/Laptop Sleeve

Ju-Ju-Be

Be Supplied Breast Pump Tote 

Ju-Ju-Be

Be Nurtured Breast Pump Backpack & Diaper Bag

Skip Hop

Tray Chic Dry and Store Pump Bag

Kaylaa

Premium Breast Pump Bag w/Laptop Sleeve

Kaylaa

Premium Breast Pump Backpack w/Laptop Sleeve

Bananafish

Breast Pump Backpack

Breast Milk Cooler

Keep your milk cold or frozen while you travel. Some of these are designed to pair with other products on this list!

Sarah Wells

Cold Gold Breast Milk Cooler Bag w/Ice Pack

PackIt

Cooler Bag w/Freezable Cooler Walls

Medela

Breast Milk Cooler Bag w/Bottles and Ice Pack

Kiinde

Twist Cooler Bag

w/Ice Packs

Wet/Dry Bags

Safely store your clean and dirty pump parts in these handy wet/dry bags, designed to pair with the pump bags recommended above.

Sarah Wells

Pumparoo Wet/Dry Bag for Pump Parts

SkipHop

Waterproof Wet/Dry Bag for Pump Parts

Charlie G

The New Yorker Wet/Dry Bag for Pump Parts

Hands Free Pump Bras and Tanks

When pumping on a plane, the last thing you'll want to do is figure out how to strap on a separate pump bra. These lifesavers are multi-functional and can be worn as normal bras, but used as pumping and nursing bras too.

Momcozy

Hands Free Pumping and Nursing Bra

Bravado!

Hands Free Clip and Pump Nursing Bra

Rumina

Hands Free Pump and Nurse Bra

Rumina

Hands Free Pump and Nurse Tank

Pumping Covers

If you don't have a big sweatshirt or wrap to cover you while pumping, you may want to invest in a pumping/nursing cover. We love products that do double duty, and many of these also serve as scarves, car seat covers and more. 

QAQADU

Nursing/Pumping, Car Seat, Shopping Cart Cover & Scarf

Lucine

Nursing/Pumping, Car Seat, Shopping Cart Cover & Poncho

Kids N Such

Nursing/Pumping Cover and Burp Cloth

Other Helpful Supplies and Resources

If you don't have a big sweatshirt or wrap to cover you while pumping, you may want to invest in a pumping/nursing cover. We love products that do double duty, and many of these also serve as scarves, car seat covers and more. 

Kiinde

Pump, Store and Feed all-in-one system

Medela

Quick Clean Breast Pump & Accessory Wipes

The Fifth Trimester

Check out the chapter on traveling and pumping

Work. Pump. Repeat.

An entire book dedicated to pumping and working

Anything we haven't included that was a game changer for you? Let us know!