Recently, I’ve had to travel for work… via car. I’m still nursing my infant and I was worried about how the travel would impact my milk supply being away from the baby for days and driving in a car for hours on end. The only option on my long multi-hour road trips was to pump while driving.
Here are some tips I learned for how to be a Road Warrior Pumpin’-mama, particularly on a long road trip:
1. Plan ahead with your pump accessories
This seems obvious, but it’s easy to underestimate how many pumping bags you have left or how many clean bottles you’ve brought. (I learned the hard way, once having to pump into a random plastic grocery bag – that I later had to throw away, of course, since it’s not sterile – because I thought I had more pumping bags than I did.) Bring way more bags and bottles than you think necessary.
Oh, and don’t forget the car adapter for your pump and your hands-free pump bra!
2. Bring a nursing cover
Some women might not mind free-pumpin’, but I feel more comfortable wearing my nursing cover, so as not to distract the other drivers with the funny contraption strapped to my chest.
3. Set up before you start driving
This one was key for me. If I wanted to save time by not having to pull over in the middle of nowhere and change into my pumping bra, I learned that I needed to be all set up to pump before I even left my house on my road trip. That means I wore my pumping bra in the car, connected my pump parts to the bra, and had the pump all plugged in and ready to go before I even started my car. I would drive a few hours like that (not the most comfortable, but a time-saver) and when it was time to pump I would just press the button and keep on driving!
4. Utilize cup holders
Sometimes I was able to disconnect my parts after pumping while I was still driving (as opposed to pulling over and disconnecting). In this case, make sure the cup holders are free! I would be able to quickly move my pumped bottles or bags to the cup holders until I could get them into a cooler.
5. Bring a cooler
Bring a small cooler with ice and set it next to you on the seat so that you can store your milk on your road trip.
Pro-tip: They sell coolers that plug into your car cigarette lighter to keep items continuously cold!
6. Know your safe milk storage guidelines
According to the Center for Disease Control, breast milk can be at room temperature for 6-8 hours. This means, if you don’t have access to a cooler, don’t worry, just be sure to refrigerate when you reach your destination.
7. Plan to get milk back to your baby, if needed
If you are only going to be gone a few days, and you have a stash of milk at home, you don’t need to worry about transporting milk back to your baby. However, if you are going to be gone for an extended period of time or if you don’t have enough of a freezer stash to cover your absence, consider the service Milk Stork.*
With Milk Stork you can ship your milk overnight to your baby from wherever you are. Milk Stork provides the shipping materials to your hotel to keep your milk at a safe temperature. This sound amazing for mamas who travel for work and need to ship their milk back home! Many employers even cover this service as a reimbursable expense.
*Note that I have never used Milk Stork, so this tip is not an endorsement. I do intend to try Milk Stork for a long work trip I am taking in the summer and plan to do a review. Stay tuned! If any mamas have used Milk Stork, please let us know how your experience was in the comments!
8. Be safe!
Of course, the most important tip is something we all know – be safe. It’s easy to think as super-moms we can do anything (like trying to attach our pump to our chest while driving 80 miles an hour on the highway), but nothing is worth the risk. My suggestion is to always pull over to attach your pump to yourself. This allows you to get right back on the road while you are pumping, with your hands and eyes safely focused in front of you.