How to continue breast-feeding while traveling w/o baby?
December 11, 2008 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Must travel without baby -- but want to keep breast-feeding. Complications and doubts.

I'm going to a conference in February and think it'll be best to leave my (then) 8.5-month-old with her grandparents. That'll be about 3 days. I've been pumping at work and breast-feeding when I'm at home with her in mornings/evenings/weekends, and I really don't want to stop because of this trip. What are my options? I can bring my pump, but...I'm going to be out and about all day. Assuming I can even find a place/time to pump, how to store the milk? Or would I just have to (SOB) pitch it? I have problems with supply already, so it would just kill me to lose the stuff.

Maybe someone out there's been in a similar sitch and can simply share what she did?

And on a related note, is 8.5 months too young to leave my daughter with her grands? I don't really love the idea, but I'm having a hard time imagining how I'd be able to handle the conference and her.
posted by maybephd to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
When my sister-in-law was in a similar situation she took both the baby and the grandmother with her. Grandma watched the kid all day while mom was at the conference, and it allowed mom to keep up the regular pumping/feeding schedule she had going. Obviously, this might be cost-prohibitive depending on your individual situation.
posted by thejanna at 11:47 AM on December 11, 2008

8.5 months should be fine, if she's been with them before. If not, can you get there a day early for acclimation?

I didn't have any 3 day events, but I did have to take all day classes, and I just took my pump bag and made a discreet inquiry to the person in charge asking for a room with a plug. I really couldn't pump during the morning or afternoon breaks, but doing it during lunch and right after was ok.

If it's a battery operated pump, then the plug is no problem. I was renting a medical grade pump at the time, so no battery option.

Conferences typically run from 9 to 4, so you might get one session in just before leaving, one at lunch, then one right at the end. How close is the hotel to the conference?

As for storage, I never did the refrigerator thing. I had a small bottle bag that I kept an ice pack in. It can stay there during the day. Breast milk is very storable. If you don't have a freezer in your room, maybe you could request one? Freeze it all and take it back.

As for dimensions, my "pump bag" was actually pretty big, so I had room for the horns and tubes and pump and bottles. The damned thing had shelves on it to keep everything sorted out. That's not something you could really lug around at a conference, unless you get a rolling backpack, and lots of conference attendees have those.

If you don't want to make a huge production (ha!) out of it, maybe you could get a largish purse and take a hand pump and the small bottle bag and etc. I had the Ameda and it did a fair job when I needed to relieve the pressure.

All in all, baby will be ok, and so will you.

Good luck!
posted by lysdexic at 11:57 AM on December 11, 2008

And on a related note, is 8.5 months too young to leave my daughter with her grands?

No. :)
posted by tristeza at 12:19 PM on December 11, 2008

I have colleagues who have brought younger infants to conference sessions in a Snuggli, but 8.5 is probably too big and noisy for that.

Best solution is probably to get a room and bring baby and grandparents to stay overnight. If the conference is at a hotel and you're staying there, you could conceivably duck out for a mid-day feeding.

Ask the conference organizers where you can pump. Some larger conferences either set up a nursing mothers suite or can at least direct you to/find you a nicer secure area than the handicapped stall in the bathroom. (Also, if moms don't ask, the conference organizers don't realize that it's a need.)

/works for an org that holds conferences
posted by desuetude at 12:34 PM on December 11, 2008

I just wanted to chime in and say that I completely understand how miserable it is to have a low supply and have to pump incessantly! I have pumped at many a meeting myself (sometimes just standing in the common area of the bathroom trying to pretend to be invisible...). If your conference is in a hotel facility ask the staff if there is a private/single user bathroom or small room that you can use. Ice packs and a small hard plastic lunch cooler are the way to go for all day. If I had questionable cooling options (i.e. more than one ice pack dependent period such as at a meeting in the fridge overnight and then traveling home) I just pitched the milk (which was so gut-wrenching hard to do the first time) but the reward was being able to continue nursing when I got back.

I like lysdexic's suggestion that you get to the grand's a day or so early to help your kiddo acclimatize.

Good luck.
posted by rosebengal at 12:43 PM on December 11, 2008

My wife did the same thing as lysdexic. She packed freezer packs and a hand pump. TSA did not even bat an eye at her once she told them her cooler was full of breast milk.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:17 PM on December 11, 2008

Since people have already chimed in with storage advice, I'll just say that if you have to pitch it, don't stress too much. The main reason to pump is to maintain your supply as much as possible.

There's already a link to Kellymom, and I'm sure you know all the supply tricks - oatmeal, fenugreek, etc. Bring pictures and something that smells like your baby with you when you travel. Even if you don't normally need those items to help you letdown during pumping, it may be different when you're away for 3 days.
posted by peep at 1:25 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Some things I think my wife would suggest:

- Bring an extension cord, or a battery pack adapter if your pump has one. She often had to pump in a bathroom and either there wasn't an outlet or one wasn't close to a stall.

- If you're staying in a hotel do try to get a refrigerator, as others suggested. You can store up everything you pump (using a cooler/ice pack during the day), and decide when you finally leave how much you'll be able to take with you.

- We had one experience with TSA like Pollomacho had, but another time they still wanted to dip their little test strips in it. We told them, "No way", so we got the full-service search routine instead. Don't let them even open your bottles.
posted by DakotaPaul at 1:35 PM on December 11, 2008

I had a disastrous breastfeeding experience, so I can't help with that, but I will tell you we started leaving our baby w/Grammie and Grampy for overnights at about six weeks, and now, at four months, we do it maybe every other week.

And my God, is it glorious.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:12 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow. Glorious? I don't know what to say...

But, I think 8.5mo is too young for Mom to disappear for a few days.

Unless talking about a bottle-fed baby who is quite accustomed to the grandparents and separation from Mom I don't think this warrants a ":)." I think baby would be quite ":(". I think bringing baby and a sitter is the best call if you absolutely have to go.
posted by kmennie at 5:18 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

kmennie: Wow. Glorious? I don't know what to say...

Then maybe you shouldn't have said anything at all.
posted by peep at 6:34 PM on December 11, 2008 [4 favorites]

Well, I mean glorious in the sense that we send her over with a bottle of tequila and a little sombrero and they play bullfight with the pitbull next door.

So, I mean more 'glorious' in a Hemingway type sense than in a 'glory to God' type sense.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:49 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sleep is a helluva drug.

We don't know how well kidlet knows the grands. If she starts now, slowly, mom can get baby used to the idea. Since maybephd is already pumping at work, it's a good guess that baby takes a bottle from someone else. Both mom and baby can get used to it by the time of the trip. Familiar blankies, an unwashed pajama top, or something with Mom's scent can be left with the baby, too. Just hearing mama on the phone helps as well.
posted by lysdexic at 5:01 AM on December 12, 2008

Let's not automatically assume that maybephd can afford to transport and house the grandparents on this trip.

If the baby is already familiar with the grandparents, leaving him/ her with them is not a bad option.

The conference is in Feb- perhaps there is a way to research and arrange childcare at the conference. Without knowing where it's located and what the schedule is, I can't speak much more to that. But I do have friends who have brought there babies on business trips and left them with a caregiver/ facility during the day and reunited in the late afternoon/ evening.

As others have said, the main concern here is being able to maintain your milk supply. It seems that there is enough time to research how you could store breastmilk at the conference and how you can take breaks in secluded areas in order to pump. This, of course, can mean sitting in the ladies room running your pump that sounds like a vibrator- but, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.. right?
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 9:48 AM on December 12, 2008

I left my son when he was eight months old for five days. He stayed home with mr. ambrosia and I took the breast pump with me. My son was fine, he and my husband not only survived but I think the experience was good for everyone. After all, the way you really develop a relationship with a baby is by caring for them- you can't have deep meaningful conversations but they do become attached to their various caregivers, so baby maybephd will be just fine with her grandparents. (And it's not a zero-sum game: just because a baby becomes attached to another caregiver doesn't weaken her attachment with her mother.)

I pumped for five days and froze the milk before I left. I had access to a freezer, but I know some traveling moms have arranged with the hotel to freeze the milk in the hotel's big freezer. I had no issues with the TSA either- I told them it was frozen breast milk as my bag was going through the x-ray, they nodded and that was that.

and I am secretly jealous of A Terrible Llama- to have grandparents so close and so willing. It takes a village, after all.
posted by ambrosia at 4:48 PM on December 16, 2008

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