A Frequent Flyers Guide To Pumping On-The-Go


When you are breastfeeding your child, being on the road without them can seem overwhelming. When I returned to work after my son was born, it wasn’t long before I was on the road again. I was terrified on my first trip, not knowing how the logistics would work out. After countless trips (and one unfortunate night stranded at the Chicago airport with a lunchbox full of milk and melted ice) I learned some tricks that helped ease the process.

  1. Bring a manual pump for backup

Most of your are probably thinking, “I don’t even own a manual pump!” Well, I’m here to encourage you to consider investing in one. I actually got mine from the lactation consultant at the hospital. It used many of the same parts as my electric pump, so it took up virtually no space in my travel bag.

The first time I had to pump in an airport, I was sobbing in the bathroom because I thought my pump was malfunctioning. I was already an emotional wreck about being away from my baby overnight, and this put me over the edge! Thankfully the culprit was a faulty flange, but I would have felt a lot better knowing I had a backup if something went wrong.

Bonus – if you have a long flight and need to pump on the plane, I found that bringing the manual pump to the bathroom worked best for me. If your pump can run off battery power, you may prefer to cover yourself with a blanket and pump at your seat. 

  1. Consider storage

My pump came with adaptors that allowed me to pump directly into storage bags, which I loved. After pumping, I’d mark the ounces and the date on the bag with my sharpie and be on my way. Most women I know travel with ice packs and an insulated lunchbox to keep their milk cold while en route. In a pinch, stop at an airport restaurant and ask for ice (this can get messy fast so proceed with caution!)

  1. Look for designated nursing rooms or portable stations

More and more airports are providing Mother’s Rooms or portable pumping stations throughout the airport (such as Mamava pods). These facilities are often removed from the endless noise of the terminal. All of them offer ample electrical outlets and some degree of privacy too. Mamava even has an app you can download to see if they have a location at your specific airport.

  1. Get over pumping in nasty places

Sadly, many airports still don’t offer facilities such as the ones mentioned above. The Detroit airport is one of them. I’ve pumped in some rather unsavory family restrooms in my day. My advice here is to get used to pumping standing up (get a good pumping bra!) and when available put paper towels on the counter before putting down any of your pumping equipment.

If you have access to your airline’s airport lounge, they will likely provide more favorable conditions if you have to pump in the restroom.

  1. Frozen is your friend with TSA

As much as possible, keep your milk and ice packs frozen. This will make going through security much easier. It’s best to pull your lunchbox (or other storage containers) out separately to go through the x-ray machine. If your milk isn’t frozen it’s not the end of the world, but it will cause a delay. A TSA agent will have to swipe and test the milk bags/bottles before you proceed. As for the pump itself, I only had one issue and it was with a newer agent who didn’t recognize what it was.

  1. Staying overnight? Ask for a fridge at the hotel

I learned this one by accident thanks to a friendly desk clerk. When possible, it’s easiest to stay at a hotel with a fridge in the room. Extended stay places such as Residence Inn are great for this! That way you can freeze your milk overnight and keep your ice packs frozen as well.

If your room doesn’t have a fridge, ask for one at the front desk. Many provide mini-fridges if someone needs them for medical purposes and will bring one to your room.

  1. Long work trip? Talk to your HR department

Some companies may provide options for shipping your milk home if you have an extended trip. Mine offered a service called Milk Stork for trips longer than two nights. The service provides an insulated cooler with dry ice, which you can ship home or bring with you on the plane.

There aren’t many resources available to make things easy for moms who have to be away from their children while breastfeeding. Nonetheless, there are ways to make it work so you can continue providing breast milk to your baby while you are on the road.



  1. Hi! I just wanted to share that the Detroit Airport does actually have Lactation Rooms. In fact, The Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act, passed in 2017, requires large and medium commercial airports in America to provide lactation rooms in each terminal for nursing moms.

    Hopefully this information helps!


    • Hi Celene,

      Thanks for sharing. I just saw on their website that they now have 9 nursing rooms available across both terminals. They look really nice! 🙂 I sure wish they had those when I was traveling. My travel ramped down at the end of 2018, around the time the rooms were added. I’m so excited to hear that this much needed resource is now available for nursing moms. Thanks again!



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