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Traveling as a breastfeeding mom might be getting a bit easier

I remember my days breastfeeding my son and one time having to travel solo by airplane. I had my pump and storage bottles prepped and ready to go, so I could make sure my milk supply didn’t take a dip during our brief separation. I had it all planned out: I’d pump before getting on my flight and then keep it in the mini-fridge in my hotel room. Super simple, I thought.

You’d think it’d be pretty easy to find a secluded, clean, private spot to pump in an airport. I quickly learned that was most definitely not the case.

I found that in the particular airport I was in offered no such private room or accommodations. The best I could hope for was the family bathrooms which were, yes, bathrooms. Knowing exactly what kind of bacteria lurked in those lovely places, I found myself unable to sit there for 15 minutes and express breast milk that I was then going to give to my baby to drink.

I ended up finding a corner in a terminal that was mostly unoccupied and got creative: I tried to create a little barricade with my luggage and using a scarf as a cover, discreetly hooked everything up and pumped away. I tried to avoid the stares from passers-by who were trying to figure out what I was doing and what that strange noise was (someone, please invent a silent pump!). Let’s just say that goes into my list of top 3 most uncomfortable places I’ve had to express breast milk.

Breastfeeding moms who have to travel—especially those who do so regularly for business—have to face these sorts of wacky logistics every day. Where can I pump? Do I need an electrical outlet? Is there a sink I can use? Where can I store my milk? To say it’s like another job with its own set of demands is an understatement.

Air travel can be especially tricky once you factor in lengths of flights, the lack of private accommodations on planes to express milk (who wants to be the one tying up the only bathroom on the plane for 15 minutes?!), and the inevitable delays that always seem to pop up.

So wouldn’t it be nice if airports were able to provide a clean, private space for breastfeeding moms who need to pump? I sure think so! Unfortunately, a survey conducted by the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine in 2014 showed that only 8 out of 100 surveyed had spaces that met the basic needs for a breastfeeding mom. Eight!

Thankfully, that tide is hopefully about to change. Just recently two major airports—Newark in New Jersey and Laguardia in New York—have announced that they plan to install lactation ‘pods’ that will give breastfeeding moms exactly what they need: a clean, secluded place to pump breast milk before or after they get on a flight.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if these pods became the norm and were as commonplace in airports as the place where you can get your shoes shined or can sneak in a quick pre-flight massage? Hopefully other airports will follow suit and realize that moms who breastfeed and need a space to pump when separated from their babies deserve better than the family bathroom. It’s not only a nice courtesy, but what’s also best for our littlest future travelers.

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About Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, Bundoo OB/GYN

Dr. Jennifer Lincoln is a board-certified generalist obstetrician/gynecologist and attending physician in Portland, Oregon. She primarily works on labor and delivery has recently been certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

Comments

  1. I could not agree more. I found pumping in a stall one of the most disgusting experiences of travel, and I only had to do it once! My heart bled for all of those hard working mamas who travel regularly for work. As if being apart from you baby isn’t hard enough, they don’t even have a safe clean space to pump. Nice to hear that trend may be changing. *Dallas, are you listening?

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