Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Air Travel Tips for Pumping Moms: Part 2

Air Travel Tips for Pumping Moms

Air Travel Tips for Pumping Moms

Part 2: Pumping while Traveling

This is Part 2 of three part series on travel tips for pumping moms.  Last week, I focused on carrying breast milk and your breast pump through security and onto the plane.  You can find Part 1 HERE.  

Part 2 of Air Travel Tips for Pumping Moms focuses on pumping while traveling, not just carrying the pump with you.  For me this was intimidating.  Where will I pump?  Will I be able to find an outlet in a bathroom stall?  Will I need to pump by the gate with just a blanket over me?  Will I have enough time to pump?  What if the only decent place to pump is far away from the gate?

1. Where to Pump

At the Airport

The first time I flew as a pumping mom, I planned to pump in the airport during the layovers (more about timing later).  But where would I pump?  After doing some online research, I found that pumping moms have to be incredibly flexible when it comes to air travel and pumping.

The obvious option is a women's restroom.  But I found that the outlets are near the sinks and mirrors, not near the stalls. That would mean pumping in front of a steady stream of traffic in and out of the restroom.  I was not a fan of this option unless I could find an outlet in a stall, and I never did.  But if push came to shove, I would have done it.

So where to next?  A family restroom.  Most airports of any size will have a few family bathrooms in each concourse or terminal.  I was able to find a close family restroom at all of the airports we flew through with the exception of the Omaha airport, which is just too small, I guess.

If a women's bathroom or family restroom aren't options for you, I also found the case of one mom who used an electrical outlet in a corner near her gate and simply draped a blanket over her for privacy.  Personally, I thought that mom was very brave.  Though I will admit that motherhood has drastically reduced my need for modesty, I don't think I could be comfortable pumping in a public area.  But again, sometimes as moms, we just do what we have to do.

In some places, there are exclusive areas for breastfeeding and pumping, though it is rare.  Check out these:

The Mamava nursing station at Burlington International in Vermont.  Check out the video here.

Mamava Nursing Pod
Source: Mamava
Mamava Nursing Station
Source: Williston Observer

And dedicated nursing rooms at Changi Airport in Singapore.  How cool is that!?

Nursing Rooms at Changi Airport Singapore
Source: Stuck at the Airport

On the Airplane

Did you know that you are allowed to pump breast milk while you are on the airplane?  No joke.  I had no idea that this was a thing.  It never even crossed my mind!

To present a fair case, however, I should tell you that there have been incidents where pumping moms were not allowed by a flight attendant to pump in-flight.  BUT, the airline issued an apology and stated that they do not have a policy that prohibits the use of breast pumps during flight (except during takeoff and landing since a pump is an electronic device).  You can read the whole story here.

Like taking your breast pump and breast milk through security, this is another case in which you may want to print out the airline's policies pertaining to pumping moms.

But, yes, you can pump in flight.  If you have a battery operated pump, you can simply pump in your seat or in the lavatory.  If you do not have a battery operated pump, I recently discovered that there are seats with outlets on some planes!  How great for pumping moms!  I would also recommend a window seat if you are planning to do this.  And while it may be awkward, I would also recommend informing the passenger seated next to you that you are pumping mom and will be pumping during the flight.  That way they aren't shocked with you pull out your pump.  And don't forget a blanket or poncho to cover up with!  In addition, there are also cases of flight attendants allowing moms pump in the flight attendant areas and offering to store breast milk in the on-board refrigerators.

2. When to Pump

The answer to this depends on where you plan to pump.

If you are planning to pump at the airport, the best suggestion I could give you is to book flights with a long(er) layover.  I know, we never ever want to have a long layover.  But remember the scene in Home Alone, where everyone is sprinting through the airport.

Home Alone Running through Airport
Source: Adventures as Mrs. Janney
You don't want to have to be sprinting to the family restroom only to not have time to pump before you need to sprint back to your gate.  So, longer layovers are better.  I would recommend about an hour and a half layover if possible or more.  That gives you some leeway in terms of delays with your first flight and so on.  Longer would be great too, but you definitely want to allot enough time to pump during your layover.

If you are planning to pump in flight, you'll need to make sure that there's enough flight time designated for "approved electronic devices" otherwise, plan to pump before you leave or during your layover.

To recap, if you are planning to pump at the airport:
  • Book flights with a layover of an hour and a half or more.
  • Look for a family restroom.
  • Ask an airport employee for recommendations of where to pump.
  • Use an outlet in a women's restroom.
  • Last, but not least, find a quiet corner near an outlet.  Cover up.  And pump away.

If you are planning to pump while on board the airplane:
  • Book a window seat with an outlet, if possible.
  • Inform the passengers next to you that you will be pumping.
  • Don't forget a blanket to drape over yourself.
  • Talk to the flight attendant if you need more privacy.

Come back next week for Part 3 of this series, Air Travel Tips for Pumping Moms, to find out about all of the gadgets that can help you navigate airports and airplanes as a pumping mom.  And don't forget to check out Part 1 - Carrying On Breast Milk and Your Breast Pump.

Check out the rest of this series on Travel Tips for Pumping Moms.


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