Adventures in Breastfeeding: Traveling Mom

Last week, I left for a business trip to Nashville which I’ve been excited about forever until I started thinking about logistics. So, while I try to think about the fun I’ll have listening to some unknown artist in a hole-in-the-wall, I’ve also been anxiously fretting about the implications of my trip.

Business travel as a breastfeeding mom comes with its own special stresses and they start weeks before the trip starts.

milk> Building a supply

Ok, let’s do the math. How many feedings will I miss? How much milk is already in the freezer? How can I pump some extra to help build my supply?

> The children

Yes, you will miss your children. Yes, they will miss you. But my unrelenting fear is that I will return and my baby will decide she’s done with this whole breast thing. My heart will be broken and I’ll be attached to the damn pump for months without the joy that comes from looking at her sweet face as she takes nourishment from me.

Looks like a pump. Feels like a ... pump.
Looks like a pump. Feels like a … pump.

> Packing

It’s a three night trip. I should be able to fit it all in a carry-on, right? Until, of course, I try to pack that bulky pump in the same bag and it takes up the same amount of room as 3 pairs of heels. And don’t even get me started on the ice.
 Which brings us to ….

> Security

If you think the laborious and diligent swiping of your pump for explosives is a pain, just wait until you have 4 days worth of breastmilk to get through security. I once had someone spend 20 minutes swiping the milk and examining the cooler bag only to run my bag back through security to have someone say, “Ma’am, are you aware there is a breast pump in your bag?” with the same tone as if I had just smuggled in a condom full of cocaine.

Once you are through security, it might seem as if you are free and clear except for ….

> The wait

We all arrive at the airport early but, for the nursing mother, it’s a numbers game. How cold is the ice? How long can my milk last? When will I have to pump? Do I do it early in an airport bathroom or do I wait till my supply is built up and do it on the plane? Who is my seat mate? Did I dress appropriately to pull this off or will I be sitting in the airplane bathroom pumping?

On a flight back from California, I once went to the flight attendant practically in tears because the 2 hour delay meant that the limited time I had before the ice got warm was eaten up on the delay. God bless this poor man. He apologized that the airplane fridges had no extra room but five minutes later returned with a big bag of ice and said “Would this help?” My stress was immediately lifted as vision of 60+ounces of milk spoiling disappeared.

But it’s all worth it when you get to the hotel with a bed you can sleep in without infants or toddlers pulling at you, where you can have that extra drink with colleagues and feel like an adult.
… Except ….. that you need to make sure the room has a fridge, you have to get your ice packs frozen in the hotel’s big freezer because that little freezer tray in the room does nothing, and then you have to plan your schedule around stops back to the room so you can replenish that supply for your next trip.
 Ok, now that I’ve written all this out, I’m seriously questioning my sanity in going through this ritual …

And yet, at the end of the day, I realize a few things: First, this is just part of the reality of being a working mom. Second, my children need to know how to get along without Mom for a little while. Third, I picked an awesome partner in my husband – he is more than capable of handling them for a few days, even if I’ll later give him grief for putting the clothes away differently than I do.
And finally, as much of a pain as it is, I wouldn’t stop breastfeeding just because it made my life more complicated. Because the best part of leaving is coming home. When I got back, my three year old was ready to tell me all the fun things she had done. My infant saw me, touched my face, and just beamed, so happy for my return. And after all that worry – breast still trumps bottle every time.

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Cathleen Lewis
Cathleen, the Mayor of Lawrence Township & a full-time Public Affairs professional, counts her best job as being Mommy to Abigail (3 years) and Bridget (6 months ). A New Yorker originally, but Boston raised, Cathleen enjoys the challenge of raising the girls in a mixed household with her Yankee-fan husband Paul. She hopes to make up for the confusion by encouraging the family’s love of Rutgers football. She dreams of sharing her love of beaches, margaritas, music and adventure but is happy to squeeze in a family walk with the dog and a back yard BBQ these days. Formerly an avid reader and writer before work, life and children; Cathleen hopes she hasn’t lost her ability to capture thoughts through the written word but often can’t remember where the grocery list is.

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