If you’re a new mama heading on travel, there are all sorts of things to think through before you hop on a plane, train, or other mode of transport.  There’s the emotional dimension to leaving baby, to be sure.  And for those of you who are breastfeeding, there are all the logistical challenges of pumping, storing, and transporting milk.

By now, we’ve all heard about the companies that will ship milk home for you, like Milk Stork and FedEx milk shipping services.  But what if your employer doesn’t cover the costs (and you don’t want to foot the bill yourself)?  Or perhaps you’re traveling abroad – what then?

I queried a group of the smartest new working mamas I know, and these Mindful Return alums were eager to share their advice from the pumping trenches.

3 Best Cooler Bags for Transporting Milk

Yeti Hopper Flip

It’s not cheap, but mamas swear by the ability of this bag to keep their milk cold and frozen.  Yes, they’re heavier than normal coolers, but they’re remarkably durable and work fine as carry-on luggage.  One mama said she got the smallest size for a 3-day trip from US to Canada, and it fit all her milk with room to spare.

AO Cooler

Much less expensive than the Yeti, mamas also thought this was great.  Fits about the same amount of milk as the small Yeti, and gets the job done.

Medela Breastmilk Cooler Set

Best for shorter trips, or those when you’re carrying your baby with you and only have to carry a small amount of milk.  It holds four full Medela bottles (so approximately 36 ounces in total), and it keeps milk cold for a full work day.  One mama took frozen milk in it on a 24 hour plane ride, and the milk was still cold (but not completely frozen) by the time she arrived.

What About the Ice?

Cooler Shock Packs

These were the crowd-favorite, by far.  Just add water when you arrive at your destination, and freeze.  Especially if you’re going abroad and can’t figure out dry ice logistics, these are a life-saver.  You can bring them empty in your suitcase, fill them with water when you get to your hotel, and then ask to put them in the hotel’s freezer about 2 days before you leave.  They’re awesome for transporting frozen breastmilk home.

S’well Bottles

What if you have no ice?  One mama who had a 12+ hour trip without ice used some S’well Bottles (other insulated bottles would work, too).  And her milk stayed cold for the entire trip.

A Smattering of Other Great Pumping-on-Travel Tips

  • Check out the Spectra S1 pump, which has a built-in battery that stays charged for several days’ worth of pumping.
  • If you don’t have a Spectra, bring your external battery pack (like this Medela one) and a million batteries.
  • Ask your hotel to put your milk in their freezer at the end of each day.
  • For longer international trips, try to find a dry ice delivery service at your destination.
  • Check whether your power adapter is compatible for 220V. Consider buying a universal one to get your pump to work overseas.
  • Don’t fret about needing to pump in your airplane seat. The white noise of an airplane is VERY loud!
  • Consider bringing a hand pump, as one mama says, “in case you fry your electric pump”!

Bon voyage, mamas, and safe travels! 

Back to Work After Baby

If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.  




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