Birth Your Way Jax



The Traveling, Working, Nursing Mom

by Kin Chao

August 2001

I am a first time mom and didn't have much experience when I told my client that I could travel for a meeting. I was travelling from the Washington, DC, area to Albuquerque, NM, for about 4 days, including travel time. I had about three weeks to prepare.

I didn't know how long I could not pump before my body stopped producing milk so I called one of the La Leche League Leaders in my area. She told me that, after about two days of not pumping, my body would probably stop producing milk. She suggested that I pump and dump. She said another alternative was to put it on dry ice and Fed Ex it back.

My baby was so young at that time (about 1 month) that I didn't want to give him formula. Before the trip, I pumped as much as I could to get about 30 to 35 ounces, which was a little over one day supply. After every feeding, I would pump as much as I could. I didn't get much at each pumping, but half an ounce about every three or four hours for two weeks does add up. It was painful, since I had sore nipples, but I managed to collect two or three ounces a day.

Before I went on travel, I called Mail Boxes Etc. to see if they provided dry ice with their packaging. They said no and asked me why I needed dry ice. I told them I was shipping breast milk back to my baby. He said if I had the milk frozen solid when it was shipped (5:30 PM was the latest pick-up), it would still be cold when it arrived the next morning. I also did some research to find the Fed Ex locations and latest pick-up times in Albuquerque.

Another preparation for me was to find out how to get dry ice and how long it will last. I found out that dry ice does not last long at standard room temperature and pressure. I also got on the net to find out where in Albuquerque I could buy dry ice. I found a dry ice maker near where I was going and made a call to see if they sold the items to the public. He said he does not sell small quantities, but he said most grocery stores do. In the Washington, DC, area, though, I called 7-11 and grocery stores and they do NOT sell dry ice.

I bought several bottles with tight lids, Q-tips and dish soap (to clean the pump), cooler bags, zip-lock plastic bags (for putting ice in just in case the blue ice packs melted), and batteries for my pump.

The first leg of my flight was about 4 hrs, and I had to pump on the plane (I used a Medela mini-electric). I just used the extremely small restroom on the plane. I also had a one hour layover in Denver, and I pumped at that time also. I carried one of those cooler lunch bags. I could easily fit the ice packs, pump, and two 8 oz. bottles in the cooler.

I made reservations to stay at a hotel that did not have a refrigerator in the room. I was planning on asking the hotels to refrigerate and freeze the milk for me. But while I was on the way to pick up the rental car, I saw an Amerisuite hotel so I change my reservations to Amerisuite - which had a refrigerator with a small freezer compartment, kitchen sink, dinnerware, and microwave in the room.

I pumped about every three hours that day. Between the pumpings, I drove around the city to find a grocery store with dry ice and to find Mail Boxes Etc. or a Fed Ex location. Luckily, the first grocery store I found sold dry ice. I bought a 3lb chunk (this was the smallest amount sold). One thing you have to realize is that dry ice is very cold and you can't handle with bare hands as it will freeze your fingers. You must use a glove. I didn't have one with me so I used a sock. It also evaporates extremely quickly, especially in Albuquerque, where it is hot and not very humid.

I went back to the hotel and stored the dry ice in the refrigerator. I pumped one last time about 5:30 PM and went to the Fed Ex location which stayed open the latest (so that the milk would stay cold as long as possible). I packed the milk with the dry ice in one of the cooler bags and shipped it. My husband got the milk the next day at around 10 AM - still cold!

The next day, I packed my cooler/lunch bag with the bottles, pump, zip-lock bags, and frozen ice packs. One of the guys at the meeting made a joke about whether I brought lunch for everyone in the meeting. He didn't realize the bag did not contain my lunch but my little boy's. It was good that I had the zip-lock bags because my ice packs were melting fast. I had to get a cup of ice during lunch to keep the milk cold. After the meeting, I went back to the hotel, pumped and placed the milk in the freezer and waited as long as I could before going to Fed Ex. I got the frozen milk that I pumped the night before, placed it in another cooler bag with the latest milk and shipped it to my husband. The milk stayed cold.

Unfortunately, I couldn't pump regularly. I was trying to pump about every three hours; but on the last day, we were behind schedule so the group didn't take a break and I couldn't pump for six hours. I was so worried that I was going to get plugged ducts because I was off schedule. But what I learned is that the more the hours between the pumping sessions, the more milk I produced. That means that I didn't have to pump every three hours. I could wait four or five hours occasionally without the supply diminishing much.

I was gone for less than 1 week, but I was amazed how much my baby boy changed in that short time. He grew, and he had a fat little face. I got home around 2 AM and gave my little boy as much milk as he wanted. I just wanted to hold him and nurse him since I missed my boy so much.

Read the latest TSA policy for flying with expressed breastmilk