guide to pumping

Breast pumping on-the-go, even with baby, is life for me. Beach trip? Take the pump. Work trip? Take the pump. Road trip? Take the pump. Day trip? Take the pump. See, I’m an exclusive pumping mom, meaning I’m literally with my pump all day every day.

And I travel out and about a lot. So if you’re curious about a guide to pumping on-the-go, whether for a few hours or a full week, then let’s chat.

The Packing List

Firstly, you can’t pump without your pumping supplies. (Trust me. Been there, done that. Engorgement at a family reunion ain’t fun!) This personal packing list includes both necessities and nice-to-haves, so, take or leave what you need. If you don’t read any more of this article, at least you have a packing list.

  • Your breast pump with power cord/battery/charger (whatever powers your pump)
  • Back-up power (electrical adapter for car or foreign outlets, back-up batteries, etc.)
  • ALL pump accessories (tubing, valves, membranes, breastshields, storage bags/bottles)
  • Back-up milk storage (bottles or bags; permanent marker for labeling is a bonus)
  • Cool storage (cooler tote or ice chest for road trips)
  • Hands-free pumping bra
  • Other attire accessories (nursing cover, nursing tanks and bras, nursing pads for backup)
  • Dedicated carrying bag (I use a cute backpack that stays pretty stocked)
  • Gallon ziploc or other plastic bag/container (to separate and store your parts)
  • Cleaning supplies (soap, micro-steam bags, quick clean wipes)
  • Small towel or washcloth (for spillage or leaks)

Where, When and How Often to Pump

Think about your schedule, and plan ahead. Do you have control of the schedule? Are you flying? Do you have layovers? How long in between each leg of the trip? Can you hold off, or do you need to find a place a pump? Etc. Ask these questions, and then plan – where, when, how long. Next, identify private locations to pump ahead of time (like in an airport), and be ready when you reach that destination. Gotta be efficient while travelling, even if that means pumping in the car.

If you’ll be on a trip where you’re not sure of the schedule details in advance, be prepared to pump whenever you get a break, whether that’s for 10 minutes or 30 minutes. This is in case you have to go longer than planned in between pump sessions. My personal goal is 120 minutes total per day, no matter how many sessions that takes.

Pump Considerations

Hand pump. If you’re looking for an easy pumping solution for short periods of time away, then consider a hand pump – affordable, no power source needed, lightweight, quiet, doubles as a great everyday backup.

Electric pump. If you really travel a lot and are having to pump often, then you might want to consider making the investment in a portable, more travel-friendly double electric breast pump. This might mean paying for an upgrade when ordering through insurance or making a completely separate purchase. My basic (free through insurance) pump has zero portable features, but my Medela Freestyle? Game changer. We’re talking battery-charged, clip-on-your-pocket, do not have to sit next to a plug. For me, having a portable electric option makes life on-the-go, even on-the-go in the house, much more attainable. So, research your options. Plenty out there.

Attire Accessories

Anyone have experience sitting around half naked with a pump attached to your chest? While strip pumping may be an acceptable game at home, people in the airport might stare at you funny. And if you’re trying to hide in a bathroom stall, you know someone is going to peek through the cracks to see what that weird sound is! Here are a few attire pieces to make your life easier while breast pumping on-the-go.

  • Nursing cover. I specifically have a super soft and comfy Milk Snob cover, and it’s stretchy enough to comfortably drape over my shoulders, pump and tummy.
  • Nursing bras and tanks. These are convenient when it comes to ease of use. Wear them under your clothes, unclip and quickly set up your pumping gear without stripping all your clothes.
  • Hands-free pumping bra. I love my supportive, less-exposed-feeling Simple Wishes bra, but if you wanting to be even more efficient, consider something like the Simple Wishes Super Mom bra, which has nursing and hands-free pumping features built into an everyday bra.

Cleaning Your Pump Parts

Depending on how you’re travelling and for how long, you have some options for cleaning:

  • Basic soap and water or quick clean wipes
  • Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam Bags for easy breezy sanitation
  • Spare parts so you don’t have to clean the same set over and over
  • The fridge trick – plop pump parts into a ziploc or a micro-steam bag, store it in the cooler or fridge, and spare yourself from washing parts before your next pump

Milk Storage

If you’re planning on saving your milk, you’ll either need enough storage bottles to hold your pumped milk, or you can use milk bags for the excess. I recommend the storage bag route if you’re travelling for long enough, due to the need to freeze your milk. And if you’re in a situation where you don’t want to deal with the hassle of milk storage, by all means, dump, and forget this entire paragraph existed. You don’t even have to worry about cleaning parts.

As far as travelling with your milk, consider your means of transportation and the recommended breast milk temperature and storage guidelines. A cooler with ice packs works great to keep milk frozen or cold. If flying, here are TSA’s official guidelines for traveling with breast milk. Breast milk is not subject to the 3 oz. rule, and there is no maximum to the quantity you can carry. It is recommended, though, to separate and declare your milk (and pumping equipment, to be safe) when going through security, and that ice packs or gel packs are in frozen or solid form.

Good luck!

Kendra joined the mom club in 2016, followed by the #boymom club in Summer 2019. Kendra loves to write, and for AMB, enjoys sharing her new parent experiences, tips, and general love of Austin. For her, life is a balance of spending quality time with her family, pursuing her program management career, and still soaking up life and adventures. She also freelances through her art and design shop, Kitsy Co. Assorted loves: art, date nights, culture, road trips, Bravo, breweries, chocolate, house remodeling, sunshine, live music and patios.


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