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flying and expressing | travelling whilst breastfeeding

Have you had to say no to weekends away, even days away, because you’re breastfeeding and can’t leave your baby hungry?

With my first baby, I did this a lot. I said a lot of no thanks’ to nights out, nights away, and weekends out of town. With my second baby, my confidence in my support at home increased, and my desire for a bit of independent normality at a peak, I have been a bit braver about saying yes.

So, a couple of weeks ago I went to Belfast to visit one of my best friends, for two whole nights and nearly three days. I’m breastfeeding Flinders, as regular readers will know. It’s been an easier ride than first time round, but not without its frustrations. However, I decided to relax, enjoy the visit, and travel armed with my trusty breast pump!

My intention was to pump regularly and, not without a bit of a sad face, chuck the expressed milk whilst I was away. I wasn’t organised enough to register with a milk bank or anything like that in advance. I figured that if I express every four hours or so, and keep to my son’s night feed patterns, my supply would be alright. So I packed my Medela Harmony manual breast pump, but no bags.

Just a side note on my pump. I’ve got a double electric Medela too (I’m part of the Medela Mums community) which I used a lot in the first two months of feeding. However, my manual Harmony is my absolute must-have. I’ve found it gloriously efficient, easy to use, and best of all, silent. I even expressed in the hairdressers with it, under my gown, whilst my highlights were setting. It’s awesome.

ANYWAY…back to my trip. On the way though Bristol airport, I spoke to a lovely lass on security, who was insistent that, as long as I bagged the milk in 100ml bags, she thought I could travel back to England from Belfast by plane with as much milk as I could make. I was really chuffed, because online, I’d read that most airlines say you can only travel with expressed milk if you have the baby with you, and even then it had to be only enough to feed them.

It turns out, that’s not true. Belfast International staff confirmed it, and, as I got the bus into the city, thirsty for my first cider, I ordered some milk bags to be delivered to my friend’s house via Amazon Prime the next day.

I’m not going to lie and say pumping was easy. Expressing itself wasn’t painful or difficult, but I did get a bit uncomfortable, especially in the first 24 hours, before my supply settled down. But nothing I couldn’t handle. I expressed at my friend’s house, in the back of her car, in the kitchen, the living room, pretty much everywhere. It was slightly embarrassing at first, but I was with two of my best friends and they were nothing but supportive. I was quietly proud of my shelf of 100ml bags in the fridge by the time I went to leave.

Armed with a clear plastic wash-bag full of my smaller bags, I hit the airport. Predictably, all the security staff were men who all looked about 17, but, despite having to call a supervisor to confirm, my weekend’s work went through the scanner in the tray with my Dr Martens and my phone.

When I got home, after depositing the goods in the freezer for a rainy day, I fed my son. After three days on the bottle, like a trooper, he went straight back on the breast. I think we both breathed a little sigh of happiness and relief.

I wrote this, hopefully to encourage all of you to do the same, be confident, get out and about if you can express, and, travel, travel, travel. Check with your airline and departure airport if you want to, but, in my experience, expressing and travelling with bagged up breastmilk is a go!

ps – sorry for the gratuitous pictures of Flinders…I figured you wouldn’t want to see my slightly drunken Belfast snaps!

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  1. Oh well done you! I never managed to do an extended trip away by expressing but overnighters were okay.

  2. Glad you had a good time, and that you’re getting out and not saying no to things. I have to say when I went to Copenhagen before Christmas for a weekend away, I pumped and dumped the milk as I wanted to use the weekend as a proper party weekend and not think about alcohol, or refrigerating milk. In fact, rather liberatingly for me, this time round I didn’t pump and store milk at all – for the entire 9 months I breastfed. If Buster needed a bottle, he got formula and I didn’t feel one iota of guilt 🙂

  3. This is such a good positive post to read. I’m glad you were able to have a break and that everyone was fine (especially your boobs) x

  4. Yay for not saying no to everything! Some things aren’t possible with babies, breastfeeding or other, but this sounds like a good old, successful trip!

  5. This is a joy and I really hope it is useful to others.

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