Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day Trip Mama

Hooray for Nursing Room! Then I realized it was a bathroom too.

My coworkers think it's hilarious, but I'm known for my day trips for work travel. I get up very early and head to a city to meet with clients and then head home that night. The longest I've flown for the day is Phoenix and it was about 21 hours away from home! I had to transfer in Memphis on the way out, but I got home on a direct flight.

I love day trips because it's easier on my family being a mother to a young kiddo. My work requires me to travel and when I do, I try for a day trip. I just had my first overnight trip away from Ava since she was born, only a few weeks ago for a work event in Toronto. I'm really glad that I waited until Ava was old enough to understand that I was leaving. When you're a mother it's so darn hard on the kids when you're away. Aaron told me that Ava missed me so much. My day trips have forced Aaron to to creatively figure a different bedtime routine without nursing. They've developed their own routine for when I'm gone. And some nights, he'll take her to dinner out at a restaurant and send me a picture of their special bonding time. It's really sweet!

I believe that a mother and baby should be together as much as possible in these early formative years. Research also shows that a baby needs their mother present as much as possible. In fact, the trusted bond with a mother and baby, results in a more independent child and adult. Our nursing relationship has always reinforced this belief.

When I travel for long day trips or my overnight, I have to bring my breast pump and creatively find places to pump in airports, hotels, client's offices and search for places to freeze my cooler bags and store my milk. The TSA requires cooler packs to be frozen so I'm always looking for places to store my packs in a freezer. When I've been at my client's offices or hotels, people have been really accommodating to me. Airports are the worst for a nursing mother who needs a place to pump. Apart from the Indy airport, no other airports that I've been in have a dedicated lactation room that isn't in a bathroom. The Indy airport is new and they took the time to put in two mother's room (inside and outside of security) for mothers to nurse or pump. But since it's my home airport, I've only used it once.

With day trips, I spend my time on the ground in a city looking from a window of a cab or building. But I enjoy it!
The Toronto and Dallas airports call their family bathrooms "nursing rooms." I took the picture above of a sign that was outside of the room. It shows the international breastfeeding symbol on the front. I waited for over 10 minutes for the room, then a guy struts out after "doing his business." I was really disappointed to learn it was also a bathroom. I told him that I had to pump milk in there and showed him the sign. He was clueless!

A few TSA agents have tried to bully me into putting my expressed milk through the x-ray machines. Most of the times, that's a rare occasion and the agents are really nice. If you ask for alternative screening, they will open the bottle of milk and wave a paper over the opening, then place the paper in a machine or just use a paper on the outside of the bottles and bag. I've tried to find information if it's safe to put breastmilk in the x-ray machine and found very little about it. So, I go on the safer side.

I travel with a heavy pump and gear all over airports and cabs while hauling my work computer. I'm happy to do it because it protects my nursing relationship.

A month ago, I got an email to our La Leche League group from a mother traveling to Indy for work who decided it was easier to donate her milk locally, than to carry it home to her baby. I met her just before she went to the airport and picked up her milk in a cooler. That night, I met up with two families who gratefully received the donation. I was happy to see that loving act from one family to others for babies in need.

In my breastfeeding support group, we have lots of moms that ask how they can travel while maintaining their breastfeeding relationship. My suggestion is try to see if you can (1) travel with your nursling or (2) minimize your travel away. For my first trip, I traveled with my mother-in-law and she was the "Granny Nanny" while I was working. It was awesome. Then, I traveled with Ava and found childcare by asking a client or using a personal connection when we arrived. That worked  for trip home to the Bay Area, Portland, and even Chicago just last week. Here's my blog post on toddler travel tips when we went to San Francisco last summer. If you travel without your nursling, minimizing your time away is key. That means a day trip or prioritizing the days that you must attend the events. The truth is that it's really hard to be away from your baby and kids. Aaron has to leave work earlier to do daycare pick-up and then we have to prep for when I'm gone. I make sure the cloth diapers are clean and Ava's bag is packed for daycare.

Pumping on the road can be a challenge, but you can do it! I can't tell you how many times, I've had to pump in a public restroom out in the open. I use a Simple Wishes pumping bra and a Bravado nursing tank so I have very little skin exposed. The bustier covers my breasts and my tank covers my midsection. It's really uncomfortable when you're hand expressing when there are small children and people gawking at you. I know other moms have pumped using a nursing cover even on a plane or at a gate. I'm not that brave, I guess. 

Finding places to pump at hotels and offices isn't bad. You can usually ask for an empty office or if you have a colleague who has a hotel room, you can pump in there. I have pumped in server rooms at offices. That works! Hotels usually give you a refrigerator when you ask for them and they are usually free of charge for storing milk. When I was in Toronto, I had to give up my hotel room at noon. I asked my coworker if I could pump in her room since she was busy at the conference. She got a second key for me to access her room and I asked the hotel staff to bring the refrigerator from my room to hers. I really needed the freezer for my cooler packs for the TSA rules.

Bring your pump and cooler bag on your carry-on bag. I store my flanges in a Ziploc bag in the cooler. If you're gone multiple days and coming home with a lot of milk, try to store them in a larger cooler bag with large bottles to store it something sturdy. When I traveled overnight, I brought a bottle brush and dish wash liquid to clean the pump parts and bottles at the hotel.

The bottom line is that you have to be creative, use your resources, and be upfront with people to set expectations while you're traveling that you'll need to pump since you're away from your baby. It may take more planning ahead, but you can make it work! I'd love to hear other tips and advice from moms that have done it before!

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